Why the Pro's have Bad
Editorial by Tom Demerly.
Now you'd think if a person
were a professional triathlete, a World Champion, an Olympic
Triathlete or otherwise sponsored by a bike company they
would have uncompromising equipment prepared meticulously
and precisely for them.
You'd think that, but it's
not always true.
Some of the most hopeless bike
fits and positions to come through our doors have been
underneath some of the best athletes.
Here's an example: A talented elite competitor, World
Champion and Ironman age group winner came into our store
for a bike fit on a bike they acquired from their new
bike sponsor. The bike no more fit this person than I
have wings. Not even close. But one thing I've learned
about elite athletes- If what they are doing is working
you don't change it until they realize they need to. I've
fit several thousand people, done a couple hundred triathlons
and a few Ironmans myself, but I am no where near the
caliber of athlete this person is. I understand my place
and it is to do what they ask of me.
Out of curiosity I did phone the athlete's bike
sponsor to ask how this happened. The guy told me "Triathlons
are changing, there are more turns on the course, the events
are coming into downtown areas where spectators are so the bikes
need to be more like road bikes." Hmmm. Last time I checked
Ironman Hawaii had not gone to a draft legal, criterium format.
As a matter of fact, the only races that had done what this
guy said were ITU and a few other draft-legal races. This athlete
never competed in draft legal racing. Even if they did, the
bike didn't fit anyway. The wheelbase was too long, the top
tube too long, the angles were not appropriate and the weight
distribution was wrong.
One of our regular customers and good friend of
mine has done the Tour de France nine times. He is an incredible
athlete. But oddly, he doesn't know all that much about the
nuts and bolts of bikes. He doesn't have to, he was paid to
ride them, not build, fit, or fix them. He had people to take
care of that. His people did know their stuff and his gear was
always well prepared and fit very well. He was lucky his team
was so good. Most pros aren't. Truthfully, my Tour de France
buddy doesn't care to know that much about bikes. He is a rider,
not a fitter. And that is the way it should be.
It is a shame for bike companies that they sometimes
put pros on ill fitting equipment, but it isn't always the company's
fault. Sometimes the pros are their own worst enemy. But sometimes
they don't know better, or are influenced by a paycheck.
Some years ago there was an ongoing duel between
two top-level female pros at Ironman Hawaii. For a couple years
they seemed to torment each other on the bike, but the result
was always the same: The woman with the bike that had wheels
that were too big for her, a seat tube too slack and a top tube
too long usually lost. She lost even though a huge bike company
sponsored her. The woman who had the bike that was meticulously
and precisely fitted to her always won. Last time I checked
she'd won 21 Ironmans. Funny thing, the woman's brother is a
bike fitter at one of the best triathlon bike stores in the
world, and her old boyfriend owns a bike company that specializes
in triathlon bikes. Both of these women were amazing athletes,
but bike fit was one of the things that gave the winner that
little edge that separates first from second or, for you and
I- the mortal athletes- a good race from an awful one (or a
This is at once a rewarding notion and a disappointing
one. It is rewarding because it reinforces the fact that no
one, no matter how good an athlete, is immune to the necessity
of good bike fit. It is disappointing because you would (at
least I did when I started this sport) hope you could look to
the top pros and use them as an example for darn near everything.
As it turns out, you can't even trust them.