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Why the Pro's have Bad Bike Fit
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Tom Demerly outside of Petra
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 DNF).

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.


© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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