It’s been several years since I worked with Tim Van Berkel on his bike position. But we reunited this year when he was to receive the new Giant Trinity Advanced Pro 0. Giant did an overhaul on the bike, and Tim wanted to do the same to his bike position.
Tim wasn’t experiencing any pain or discomfort, but he wanted to see if there were any additional performance gains to be made from his bike position. Professional and age-group athletes can put themselves at a competitive disadvantage if they don’t pay attention to their bike position. Obviously you need to train, but it’s important to get the most speed out of your fitness.
The first thing I did was look up pictures of him racing in his current position. I wanted to make sure I found enough of them where I wasn’t just reviewing an outlier. His position was ok, not bad, but not great.
You can see in the picture below that Sam (left) is riding with a lower yet more relaxed looking position when compared to Tim (right).
Below is Tim’s old position. It passes the eyeball test, but there are a few problems with it. These problems haven’t necessarily held Tim back in a big way, but they still needed to be addressed.
The first adjustment I wanted to make was to his overall posture, but I couldn’t just lower the front end to accomplish this. Although Tim was comfortable on his current saddle, it limited his ability to rotate his hips and come forward. In certain situations, lowering a rider’s position will naturally force the athlete to rotate their hips, but in Tim’s case we needed to look at other saddle options.
The idea is that the hips and shoulders should move as one. For example, when compared to a TT position, a road position with higher shoulders will have your hip more posteriorly rotated in reference to the horizon. Some athletes, although the shoulders are low, will maintain a hip position similar to someone on a road bike. This was the case with Tim, and his slight posterior pelvic tilt was closing off his hip angle, which can also create additional stress on the low back and hamstrings.
Because the saddle drives so much of the fit, we needed to try different saddles until we found something that he liked and that I felt allowed him to posture properly. Tim ended up liking the Fizik Tritone. This saddle worked well for Tim as it allowed him to posture on the saddle in a manner that worked with the front end adjustments I wanted to make.
Once the saddle was no longer limiting the position, I was able to lower his position by increasing his reach. This elongated his torso and stretched his arms out, allowing room for him to drop his head down. When I go with this longer position, it’s important that the athlete has their elbows on the pad for the best support. This allows the athlete to really relax out on the bike.
I like to focus on creating a relaxed yet supported front end posture. A longer reach, upward arm angle, and relaxed hands will allow you to do things like comfortably narrow the elbows or drop your head for improved aerodynamics.
Next up was pedal stroke modification. Since Tim was almost riding a steep road position, we worked a bit on his pedal stroke in the new forward position. Initially, he was getting out of the peak power phase too early by driving his heel down. I wanted him to keep this angle a bit more open so that he’d get another several degrees out of this phase.
In the end, Tim was lower, more comfortable, and in a bio-mechanically superior position.
Mat Steinmetz is the founder of 51-SPEEDSHOP.com, where he and his team of experts help athletes of all abilities in the areas of bike fit, equipment optimization, health analysis, and coaching. Also on Twitter at @51speedshop