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One Man's Position: Todd Briggs
By Tom Demerly, F.I.S.T. Certified Fitter

 

You already know fit is the single most important determining factor in triathlon bicycle comfort and performance. This is a look at how we position a customer- especially beginners, for optimal triathlon bike comfort and performance.

If you've been doing triathlons in Michigan for a few years you probably either know Todd Briggs or have heard of him. Briggs has been a triathlete for well over a decade, Has won most of the Michigan triathlons at one time or another and owns several sub 10-hour Ironman finishes including Hawaii. He is an excellent swimmer and powerful cyclist.

For the past few seasons Briggs has been on Beam bikes (Zipp and Softride) but this season he will spend some time on a new Quintana Roo Tiphoon, at least training, and then (pending his and our findings) possibly some races.


This is Todd's position from two years ago. It has remained largely unchanged this year with the exception of shortening his "reach" or "cockpit" length to provide more leverage, power and skeletal support of the upper body for greater comfort.

Here we look at Briggs posture and position on the bike. Briggs position is one of function that has evolved over many seasons. It has consistently improved and there are many practical lessons that can be taken from this evolution and applied to beginners.

First, the cornerstone of Todd Brigg's current position is comfort. Todd's success and consistency at Ironman point to the fact that his position enables him to pedal for around 5 hours comfortably at a relatively high level of exertion but still be able to digest food and then climb off the bike in T2 and have an excellent run.

Second, Brigg's position is built around power output. Todd is not a skinny little runner-type. He has the powerful build of a gifted swimmer. Todd uses this same position to advantage on flat course and hilly courses. All his training and racing is done in this position.


Click to Enlarge

Todd's position is pretty much standard triathlon positioning as conceived by triathlon bike inventor Dan Empfield. I recently returned from Dan Empfield's Fit Institute of Slow Twitch (F.I.S.T.) triathlon bike fitting school in Southern California. F.I.S.T. is graduate level bike fitting school specifically for triathlon bikes and nothing else. It is not for people who are just learning bike fitting techniques and the basics of bike fit. You have to have a firm grasp of bike fit before you go to F.I.S.T. Other attendees at F.I.S.T. included Cervelo President Gerard Vroomen, Bill and Val from Mission Bay in Elgin Illinois (great guys and a fine store) as well as Hank from Edge Cyclesport in Southern California and Fiona and Dan from Endurosport in Toronto, Canada- the largest Cervelo dealer in the world. I am excited to apply the F.I.S.T. principles (most of which we were already using) to all of our customers including Todd Briggs. What I found reviewing Todd's position was that (like most of the people we have already fit and positioned) he was largely already "F.I.S.T. compliant" in that it used many of Dan Empfield's F.I.S.T. principles.


This is Todd's current position. It is using almost all of the F.I.S.T. principles.

After positioning Todd on this new Quintana Roo Tiphoon as part of a test we are doing on the bike itself, we also sought to improve Todd's position from his beam bikes to the new QR using a few of the F.I.S.T. techniques.

We did not move Todd's "center" or pelvic orientation relative to the bottom bracket. In other words, we left it the same since he is used to it and has had success with it. This is the 'Sweet spot" for Todd. "I left his pelvis in exactly the same place as his previous bike" said Bikesport's Mike O'Donnell, who is attending F.I.S.T. in California during April '03. Mike O'Donnell "translated" Todd's position from his old bike to the new bike, then made the F.I.S.T. improvements which we used these photos to review and interpret.


F.I.S.T. certified fitter Tom Demerly (left)of Bikesport, Inc. reviews Todd Briggs' new position by measuring his angles with a goniometer. "This is the same thing we do for everyone, it is especially important for beginners." said Demerly.

Once we established Todd's position on the test bike and plotted his angles to show for this article, we then went a step further employing advanced F.I.S.T. principles to further improve Todd's position hypothetically. We didn't make these changes to Todd's position as it would likely require a completely different bike. The Quintana Roo Tiphoon's head tube is probably too high and the rear wheel probably not far enough forward to facilitate this hypothetical set of changes. It would be likely that we may have to go to a Cervelo P3 with its low head tube and advanced rear end design (including the forward placement of the rear wheel on the P3 relative to the QR Tiphoon).

If we were going to make further changes to Todd's position this graphic with the red lines shows where we would go from his current posture, the black lines.


Click to Enlarge

Making these changes may not be an improvement. But it may be. The only way to tell is to try and then monitor the effects of the change over time. Not even a Compu-Trainer or SRM analysis of power output would tell all of the story immediately.

One thing to keep in mind is that this hypothetical improvement does bring Todd lower at the front but not much farther forward while maintaining the current angle between his torso and femur at the bottom of the pedal stroke. This is a critical relationship that must be maintained.

Todd is such a gifted athlete that he could likely adapt to almost any position. However, his current position, with a few improvements using our new F.I.S.T. fitting tools, is working very well and we aren't going to adopt the red "hypothetical" position. Todd is already too far into his current posture. It is, however, a good exercise in employing another set of fit tools and insights we can use to fit everyone, including you.

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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