By Cycling Dad:
Remember the prize?
You can’t rush nature. I was reminded of this fact again as I missed the 2013 Team Alpecin kickoff event while staying with the family in the final days of Alex’ pregnancy. When Johanna finally arrived, she was six days past her expected date. This came as a big surprise to us, as Alex was already having labour pains around Christmas and last year our first child Konstantin was born five weeks earlier than expected. In the end, everything that counts is that Johanna was born in perfect health and that Alex is recovering well from the Cesarian that could not be avoided… this is first and foremost – all that matters. Johanna and her big brother Konstantin bring joy to our lives every day.
< end of disclaimer, back to the cycling folly >
I was sitting, waiting, wishing. Bittersweet agony, looking forward to the birth of our baby girl while being anxious of missing the team kickoff. In my fantasy, I saw myself being expelled from the team for not being there when the big show starts. All of this took place in my head only. The team sponsors were absolutely supportive in finding an alternative to get me on board. It turned out that I could pick up the equipment and get the bike fitting directly at Specialized’s German headquarters at Holzkirchen, which would additionally give me a chance to blog about it. Here’s a big thank you to Daniel at Roadbike Magazine and Sebastian at Specialized for setting up the workaround schedule!
So, after signing up Johanna for Team Cycling Parents and dropping off the family at home, back from the hospital, I took a detour from parking the car…
Specialized Germany Headquarters
Holzkirchen is a charming, tiny village in the South of Germany. Imagine timbered houses among farmhouses and cuckoo clock workshops. Here, Specialized’s German Headquarters and EMEA marketing-hub is located in an old farmhouse, which was converted into a state of the art facility with showrooms, offices, classrooms and a few mounting stations for fixing demo and pro bikes. Let me take you on a quick tour:
Below is the outside view of the location. Notice the big stack of firewood nicely piled behind the building? Love it!
Once you enter the building, you are taken back to the modern world. There are two workstations located near the entrance, which double as visitor reception. Check out the mountain panorama in the background. I wish I had that wallpaper also next to my workstation!
Take a left turn and you walk right into a modern showroom that can also be used as a meeting room. Here, retailers visiting Specialized in Holzkirchen for training can also check out the latest product releases and discuss upcoming marketing activities. There’s also a spacious bar area that seems as if it could serve more than just coffee .
The wall behind the bar gives an impression of what this place looked like before being converted into the Specialized office.
And here’s how it looks today: the cowshed has been transformed into the office section. There are workstations to the right and to the left of the central aisle, which effectively still is part of the showroom. The whole place feels really cozy.
Take another turn to enter a social room that leads to the training classrooms. There’s a tabletop soccer station and spacious changing rooms and showers packed with cycling gear which I think is another perk of this location.
I briefly peeked into one of the classrooms with a training session in progress.
There’s also an extensive warehouse upstairs, where demo bikes and pro team equipment is stored and prepared for action. I only quickly walked through there, as the main reason for my visit was soon to begin…
Specialized Body Geometry Bike Fitting
Meet Sebastian Maag, Technical Marketing Manager at Specialized. Sebastian usually takes care of introducing newly released products to Specialized retail partners and training store personnel in sales and customer services. Today, Seb will give me a professional Specialized “Body Geometry Fit” bike fitting. Seb promises that this will help me climb faster, descend more confidently and ride with less fatigue on my new Specialized S-Works Venge.
Sounds good! Bring it on.
Ah, let’s have a coffee first.
Here’s what my bike setup looked like up to now. The green letters gives my specifications in cm, black are Alex’. We got this note during a fitting session at a Cervelo dealer in Germany in 2012. I must admit that the sheet we used to scribble down our specs looks rather basic. So far, these specs worked quite well.
Specialized’s fitting philosophy goes much further than saddle to crank and saddle to handlebar geometry. They also take a rider’s unique physiological features and acquired pain points (e.g. through attrition) into consideration. Individually matched shoes, sole inlays, gloves, handlebar tapes, saddles and shorts create the playing field for achieving the perfect conditions for every rider. I am really curious if this will help me in my preparations for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon.
Here’s a short video about the “Bike Geometry Fit” service from the Specialized website:
Below is a photo from the bike fitting room. This is where Specialized retailers get their training for offering the “Bike Geometry Fit” service to end customers. As you can see, the bike is fixated on a static trainer. There are two cameras connected to a computer workstation. One is taking the front view, the other the right-hand side view. Also, there is a measurement chart on the left hand side of the wall that is used for measuring flexibility and a number of physiological features that are relevant to your position on the bike, for example static and dynamic knee positioning. You can also see a selection of shoe inlays in the middle of the picture that can be used to correct said foot and knee positioning.
And this is the moment when I first put my hands on my dream machine for the 2013 cycling season. As full carbon wheels and static trainers don’t get along well, the back wheel was changed to the standard Roval wheelset that comes with the S-Works Venge. I will write a detailed review about the bike soon. Today’s post is about the bike fitting.
After taking some measures from my body and asking me about my general riding experience on the bike, Seb first took care of my main pain point – the saddle. On my Cervelo S1, am currently riding a Selle Italia C2 Gel Flow, which has a width of 136mm. It worked great for me on shorter rides up to three hours, but gave me sores on longer rides beyond three hours. I already tried chamois cream to help ease the pain, but this only helped marginally.
Seb first measured the distance between my sit bones, using a gel-padded scale for me to sit on. The bones leave two indentations in the gel pads, marking the areas where the pressure on the saddle is highest. Here’s an anatomical mockup of the pelvis. You can clearly see the sit bones on the bottom.
Seb’s recommendation for me was the Specialized Romin Evo Pro Team with a width of 155mm. The picture below gives you an idea of how the sit bones ideally should rest on the saddle, to ensure an even distribution of pressure. If the saddle is too narrow, it will put pressure on the sensitive perineal area, causing discomfort and sores. Upon trying the new saddle, I must confirm that it feels really comfortable without compromising on weight or design. I am curious to see if this new saddle remains comfortable on longer rides. During the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, I will most likely spend around ten hours in the saddle. It will be the ultimate test.
Now that we solved the first problem, Seb swiftly moved on in the fitting. Next up was alignment of the knee. For this, I was asked to step on the Arch-O-Meter. As the arch of the foot flexes under pressure, it can cause the knee to rotate in movement. This costs precious energy and can lead to fatigue during cycling. As you can see from the color of the footprint (probably triggered by the distribution of pressure), I have a medium to high arch. Today I learned something about my feet – there’s a lot of flexing going on…
Seb told me not to worry and quickly came up with a pair of supportive insoles (pictured below on top). You can feel the difference once you step from the original flat insoles (pictured below on the bottom) onto the supportive insoles. They snuggle under your arch, giving your foot support when it needs it most – on long mountain climbs.
What followed next was a series of video sessions, where Seb asked me to get on the bike and pedal with a little bit of intensity. Seb first adjusted my cleat positioning, then he adjusted my seat height by a stunning 50 mm upwards, aiming to achieve the ideal 145 degree knee angle (pictured below). Before, I was cycling with a 134 degree knee angle as recommended by the Cervelo dealer in the last (basic) bike fitting. And I have to approve – the new position indeed feels better. The picture below is not the final positioning, but rather a quick snapshot that I took during one of the video playbacks. Seb pointed out that I should bend my arms slightly in order to attain a more comfortable and dynamic position on the bike. I did this instinctively when I was a younger rider, but sitting in an office chair every day clearly has taken its toll..
At this point Seb was almost happy with the results, but he still noticed my right knee slightly rotating inwards during the pedaling movement. He put me on a bench and did some more physio-therapeutic testing, diagnosing the need for a valgus-adjustment in my forefoot. This can be achieved by introducing shims under the insoles, (pictured below), which help move the foot into the ideal position.
The result of the 90 minutes Bike Geometry Fit session is simply stunning. The bike feels super comfortable under my hands, feet and bum. I could hardly wait to get out on the road and give it a test, which by the time of writing this article had been done: 2 x 100k rides on the Easter holidays – feeling perfect, with no unusual signs of sores or fatigue whatsoever. If the professional bike fitting holds up to its promise, this will make a huge difference during the upcoming cycle marathons. If you are curious about getting a Bike Geometry Fit session for yourself, head to your nearest Specialized retailer. It is amazing what these folks can do for you!
But for now, time had come to thank Sebastian for his help, load up all the 2013 Team Alpecin equipment into the car and head home to Vienna. What an amazing experience this was!
As you can see, the car was absolutely packed with all the goodies to take home…
4 hours later I unpacked everything and spread my new possessions out in the hallway. This is madness – the cream of the crop in cycling equipment and everything you could ever wish for as a cyclist! For the complete list, head back to my post introducing the call for applications to the 2013 Team Alpecin.
We already ‘unleashed’ the CyclingParents.com testing team and together, we’ll review each piece of equipment in the team kit over the next weeks and post the reviews here. The Specialized S-Works Venge will soon receive a very special place, but details will follow in another post. By the way in the background you can see Alex holding her hands in her lap, staring at my new bike in awe .
Thanks for reading and stay tuned!