Adam goes in search of Freespeed

I feel the need, the need for freespeed.

With a clearly stated objective of Kona Qualification in just under 2months then for once every second counts. No stone unturned, no avenue unexplored. I’ve thought for a while now that with the time, financial and physical investment I’ve made in being half-decent then I probably should invest a slice of all three in a bike fit. Several things probably held me back.  The principal one being I didn’t really think I’d done everything in my power to improve so I hadn’t really earned the right. I wasn’t really good enough and as previously discussed not committed enough to warrant it. Some people take up the sport (any sport really) and it becomes more a competition about what they can do/acquire to make them feel like the best athlete they can be (extra kudos it seems for tweeting about it) rather than doing what’s required to actually be the best athlete you can be – which in my experience doesn’t generally involve buying stuff but actually doing stuff.  Doing a lot of stuff over a long time. In my sample size of one the fitter I get  the more I feel like an athlete. Perhaps I’m just weird. Each to their own of course but “all the clobber what a knobber” is a label I go to great lengths to avoid. I’m sure many would debate my success in that regard. Right having insulted 80% of the triathlon community (and 99% of the golfing world) let’s see how we got on.

DIY Bike Fit Results
DIY Bike Fit Results

Building a bit of a niche for himself as the goto bike fitter for ironman in the UK is something Richard Melik has done very well. It was a pretty easy choice to make. Partly as he’s got the T-shirt (the Kona one) so he’s been there, done that, partly as he’s one of the original Pirates, of which we’re an offshoot (he designed the iconic kit that’s still used today) and partly through the amazing success of his Team Freespeed athletes – they’d kick our collective Buccaneer butt with consummate ease. So I decided to see for myself if the service matched the brand and if a bike fit was really a good idea for me. After speaking to Richard to arrange an appointment I soon found out the free didn’t relate to the price…so being a tight arse I decided I’d concentrate on the speed element to see if it was worth it.

Hopefully Richard is going to do an article of a slightly more scientific, practical nature which I doubt will focus on how great he is so here’s a brief review. The process is highly enjoyable for several reasons. Richard is a very knowledgeable, personable kind of guy with what appears a genuine passion for triathlon and bike fitting. Which is a pretty good fit for the kind of client he’s likely to attract – although it was clear I was being fitted for my event rather than a vanilla fit by numbers and hence the service would be useful for any serious cyclist. He took the trouble to get a bit of background and understand the goal before we got underway. It took over 3hours to work through and there was never any pressure to hurry along. It was going to take as long as necessary to do it right and there was ample chance to chew the fat predominantly on the subject sparked by his Not Normal T-shirt. Now that’s a type of freespeed you won’t find me partaking in.

In essence the process is take a load of automatic measurements of the current position whilst pedalling on a turbo trainer, discuss and explain them and what would be better, make those adjustments and repeat the measurements. Richard’s expertise meant that despite being significant the changes that were made retained all the desirable bits from the original position (see above) whilst improving on the less desirable. Success. I was going to go faster for sure with my all new Obree-esque position. After all I’d spent money for ‘free’ speed right?

Wrong! Strangely enough my numpty understanding expected me to end up in a full-on Tony Martin position so I was initially surprised that my new position was to be LESS aggressive especially when I didn’t realise it was in fact aggressive to start with. So not free and not speed then? Mmmmm….talk me through how you came up with that business name…but hang on a minute. Remember this fit is to make me faster over the 138.2 miles of bike and run not a contender for the local 10mile time trial up the bypass.  Part of my issue thus far is not having run anywhere near what I should be capable of. It’s about getting me to T2 ready to run the run I need. Getting to T2 5minutes quicker and running the same is not an option. As it happens the less aggressive position (marginally – I’m not riding like Boris) may well get me to T2 quicker on account of it being more comfortable and hence sustainable over 5hours. Having spent a bit of time in the new position since the fit it does feel like the colony of ants has been removed from my pants (and forearms) and staying ‘aero’ is hence  a lot more tolerable.  I’ve certainly found I’m more likely to crest a shortish climb or continue further than before up a longer one without coming off the aerobars – which really used to be as much for relief as necessity.

After a lengthy discussion Richard gave me various options in terms of kit in order to achieve this position and I’ve decided that rather than just swap the stem I’m going to invest in some new bars to get a neater solution to the height and reach prescribed. I also decided to back his judgement in terms of a saddle swap despite there seemingly being very little discernible difference at first. Turned out the boy was right and out on the road it was apparent I got in one position on the saddle and stayed there, rather than constantly readjusting in a vain attempt to avoid a pain in the butt.

After the Freespeed treatment

Obviously time will tell if it’s helped although that’s always going to be hard to isolate with so many other factors coming into play on both bike and run. However, after initially being sceptical I’d say it feels like a worthwhile investment. It appears that if you’re not able to hold your aero position without constant readjustment then there’s probably a reason which maybe isn’t you not being tough enough to suck up the neck, back, forearm, back, shoulder etc ache. The back half of a bike leg of an Ironman isn’t the most pleasurable experience known to man so anything to make that and/or the preparation for that experience more bearable has got to be worth something alone. I’m pretty sure that will have been achieved but to be fair to Richard, PaidForComfort doesn’t have the same ring to it as Freespeed.

To get your ” PaidForComfort ™ ” visit Richard online at Freedspeed

Have you read John Cobb’s article “In search of free speed“?

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