As researchers have long known, dogs have tremendous abilities of perception. They're used to locate the lost, detect explosives and illicit drugs and even, some say, to detect the presence of cancers and other illnesses.
Add to that the ability to perceive and identify an optimized rider position aboard a tri or time trial bike. While not specifically trained for such, a rescued lab mix named Charlee has developed an eye for bike fit. She lays quietly on the floor during a fit process, and only when the rider has achieved that magic place—that nexus of power, comfort and aerodynamics granting a perfect fit—will she arise and repeatedly bark at the subject, signaling her approval.
"It's beyond strange," said F.I.S.T. instructor Jordan Rapp. "Charlee has an eye for a good position. I hate to admit this, but she may actually be better than her master. I must say that I trust her judgment; she has a sense and an intuition that [bike fit guru] Empfield sometimes lacks."
"She's caught me out a few times," said famed bike fitter John Cobb. "When I think I'm done with a fit, and Charlee just lays there, watching, with eyes that say, 'No, John, you're not done yet,' I do start to doubt myself. I work at it a bit more and then, when Charlee rises and starts her barking, I feel like I'm back on the right track."
Charlee's unparalleled ability has not gone unnoticed. While her owner, F.I.S.T. trainer Dan Empfield, refuses to acknowledge the dog's obvious talent, bike fit expert Paul Swift has bestowed upon Charlee the title of honorary BIKEFIT systems specialist. "While Charlee cannot physically execute pedal shoe interface changes—she has no thumbs—she knows a good position when she sees one."
Accordingly, Swift has honored Charlee's unique abilities. "We call on her owner to throw off his jealousy," said Swift, "and admit that the best fitter who lives on the property is his dog. Dan, just F.I.S.T.-certify the animal, for cripesakes."