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The Holy Grail of Bike Position
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 10/27/2002
The Holy Grail of Bike Position
 

Ask any rider or coach about position and they will tell you that proper position on your bike is important. For years, riders I knew went to have their position done by a retired pro or someone who was reputed to have "special knowledge" on proper fit. It became like a mythic holy grail to find the perfect position to be comfortable training and racing.

After all, if you aren't comfortable riding your bike, you will be miserable while you train. Some of the symptoms of a "bad fit" are: low back pain, stiff neck, numb hands, numb feet, pain or numbness in the upper back between the shoulder blades, numbness in the crotch, and the dreaded knee pain. A poor position will not only cause these, but in the long run may create or aggravate joint and muscle problems. (More info is available at promechanics in their bicycle fit trouble shooting guide: http://www.promechanics.com/service/fit.htm)

If you do get the right position you will ride comfortably and be able to produce the maximum power, train longer and attain better results from your training and racing.

A few months ago Suze Woods (NZ National Cycling team) mentioned having her position reset by Tom Coleman of Wobble-naught of Boise, Idaho, while she was racing in the USA. I asked Suze to write me and let me know what she thought of the Wobble-naught system. This is what Susie wrote:

"I seem to have had lots of problems with bike setup and help/expertise is hard to find especially in NZ. Toms system was great...I must admit I was a little worried as I made some fairly major changes the week before starting Altoona..my seat height was lowered 1.5cm, seat moved forward 1cm, 1cm longer stem and also my stem lowered about 2cm...I also put on a new saddle...but straight away when I got on the bike it felt great and I knew I was going to like it.

"During Altoona I had no problems at all, which was amazing considering the length of the stages. I feel more powerful and aero on the flat. I seem to be flying on the downhills and still climbing strong. I have one of those new polar S710 heart rate monitors that measures power/left/right efficiency etc...before Toms bike fit I found I was more right leg biased on the flat and then left on the climbs...I talked to Tom about this and he suggested my seat height was probably too high - this is what his measurement also showed...unfortunately my cadence magnet came off during Altoona as I was hoping to have some before/after graphs....should be fixed soon so it will be interesting to compare...can do a ride that I did before changing my setup and look at the graphs I reckon that bike setup is overlooked by so many people especially in NZ...so much money is spent on your bike, but people seem reluctant to spend money on setup... So Wobble-naught gets the big thumbs up from me."

Tom Coleman, the founder of Wobble-naught, developed the system with a team that included two engineers, a physicians assistant, two software developers, and a business manager.

Wobble-naught comes from the engineering definitions of the two words - "wobble" and "naught." Wobble meaning wasted movement, and naught an empty set, or zero. The goal was to develop a system that would match the physical measurements and flexiblility of a rider to the bike. The basic result desired would be the position on the bike that is correct for the rider so that motion and energy are not wasted, the rider is comfortable and can produce maximum power.

At first a system was developed for mtn bike and tested extensively. When the mtn bike fit was finished and tested, Tom added Rene Wenzel of Wenzel Coaching to develop and test the system for road riders. The road sytem was tested and released recently. Both systems were exhaustively tested over a period of sixteen months.

The system considers the rider as the motor and measures the hinge points (joints) of the rider. These measurements are then run through the computer program with the geometry of your bike frame and the solution or fit is computed. The goal is to fit the rider (motor) to the bike (machine) with the optimum position for comfort and power production. Helpful graphics and photos on the site demonstrate how to take measurements accurately. The website makes it possible for a rider anywhere in the world to follow instructions on measuring his body with the help of his coach or friend, send in the measurements with his bike's geometry. Detailed instructions are returned with graphics to show how to set up your bike, including cleat adjustment, seat height, and neck length, etc. Retal bike stores, club members and coaches can be trained in the system and then do fittings.

Currently, all of the Wenzel coaches are available for a fitting using the Wobblenaught system. If done from the website, the fit is reasonably priced at $25 (US), which would certainly make it an affordable system.

Tom Coleman: " I also would like for you to know that the limits of human performance are the foundation of our systems. To place the human machine into stress will rob it of its process of performing work.

"As Rene Wenzel said, welcome to the 21st century way of finding the position that could take many years to find the most beneficial fit for the rider. Using scientific laws and addressing the body as a machine we can adjust to the tiny margins that can be built in a bike. In many ways the exercising human can be compared to a machine such as an automobile. The machine coverts one form of energy into another in performing work. The human converts chemical energy to mechanical energy in the process of riding a bike. An athlete, for example, goes faster by increasing metabolic rate and speeding the breakdown of fuels, in which provides more energy for muscular work. Motor activities are based on the principles of bioenergetics, which control and limit the performance of physical activities. At the roots when exercise starts, the mechanisms of performance are determined by physical and chemical factors.

"Understanding how to select and prepare the biological apparatus for exercise, and how the exercise affects the machine over both the short and long term is important. Despite the vast number of events occurring within the body simultaneously, usually only a few control and limit the overall performance of the activity. Like a motor, if we don't address the total engine and only install some special part, it will do us little good! If we want to increase engine production, we have to include the total motor.

"We also have to remove some impediments from the motor so it can perform more rapidly. Wobble-naught understands the rate-limiting factors, known to most as "weakness," and improves the individual's capacity to perform work! The ability to supply energy for activities lasting more than 30 seconds depends on the consumption and use of oxygen. Any energy spent in any muscles adjusting for your fit on your bike places a cost on the consumption of oxygen. The perfect fit is key to allow adequate and good capacity to consume and utilize oxygen which is essential for recovery from a sprint activity, as well as recovery from any major aerobic process.

"Many of the reflexes of the simplest type of movement involves at least four components:
First, a receptor (as in muscle stretch);
Next an afferent neuron - a wire to the gray matter of the spinal cord;
Third, a cell body in the spinal cord;
And last a muscle fiber w/in the muscle to be used.

"Many of the movements that we perform don't synapse in your brain. They don't make it there! In correct terminology, a muscle that contracts and performs is the agonist and is primarily responsible for movement, the antagonist is the muscle that retards movement. We find the best balance of the muscle, to reduce one working against another. We blueprint the motor and a better performance can be the result. In the end, science and technology may have bridged to a new paradigm for fit."

Coming soon: An interview with Thomas Coleman, founder of Wobble-naught.

What some riders say about the result:

Dr.Mark Parent:

"I started to seriously ride road bikes four years ago to keep in shape for heli-skiing in Canada during the winters. I was starting to herniate a disc in my lower back and my neck and shoulders were beginning to bother me on longer rides. Also my left calf would always cramp if I really pushed it.

"After getting a Wobble-naught fit I took of to France in June to ride the great climbs of France in preview of the tour de France in July. I climbed Mt. Ventoux, the route of stages 14, and 15 including the Col de Galibier and the Col de Telegraphie. I had no problems in riding hard and long. When I came home I was stronger than ever and decided to race for the first time in my life. I finished 8th in the cat-4/5 in the Twilight Criterium even after a late race crash. I believe in your fitting solutions and hope the word gets out to racers as well as recreationalists."

Robert Gaggioli:

"For twenty years I rode the same position which was set up by the top coaches in Italy. Recently I changed to the Wobble-naught position and I have noticed a big difference in my speed and power. I wish I rode this position my whole career. It's great!"

Shane Sigle, Team Montrail Adventure Racing:

"Just wanted to send some feedback on the fitting you performed for me this summer. Before the fitting, I experienced groin and hamstring cramping during most every ride over three hours. I thought it was a function of the ride and not my positioning on the bike. After your fitting, I felt an immediate decrease in my speed and performance but a much more even workout and no cramping. I felt the workload being transferred to the larger muscle groups (the quads). It took a solid month of riding to make the transition to the new fitting but it was worth every moment. My cycling has improved and I am regularly doing 5-6 hour rides with no cramps. I climb better because the quads and hamstrings are evenly pulling me up the hills. I'm about to change bikes and plan to make a trip to Wobble-naught to make sure I start out with the correct fit!!"


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