Skip to main content

The right fit: Shaping Saxo Bank

Image 1 of 28

Although Schleck also has limited flexibility,

Although Schleck also has limited flexibility, (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 2 of 28

The bike belonging to his brother Andy Schleck

The bike belonging to his brother Andy Schleck (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 3 of 28

Bak and Bobby Julich talk during his assessment.

Bak and Bobby Julich talk during his assessment. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 4 of 28

Gustav Larson's position was raised two centimetres,

Gustav Larson's position was raised two centimetres, (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 5 of 28

World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara during his assessment. Recently retired pro Bobby Julich is watching.

World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara during his assessment. Recently retired pro Bobby Julich is watching. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 6 of 28

The riders being examined are filmed from front and the side, giving a better picture of any anomalies or position adjustments needed.

The riders being examined are filmed from front and the side, giving a better picture of any anomalies or position adjustments needed. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 7 of 28

Julich watches while Andy Pruitt and Scott Holz discuss Cancellara's position.

Julich watches while Andy Pruitt and Scott Holz discuss Cancellara's position. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 8 of 28

Pruitt takes some measurements.

Pruitt takes some measurements. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 9 of 28

He was impressed by Cancellara's flexibility and strength.

He was impressed by Cancellara's flexibility and strength. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 10 of 28

One way to determine if additional arch support is needed is to get the rider to stand on one leg...

One way to determine if additional arch support is needed is to get the rider to stand on one leg... (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 11 of 28

...and then bend it, seeing if the knee strays inwards or continues to move only in a vertical direction.

...and then bend it, seeing if the knee strays inwards or continues to move only in a vertical direction. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 12 of 28

Holz, Bjarne Riis and Cancellara view the data.

Holz, Bjarne Riis and Cancellara view the data. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 13 of 28

Andy Pruitt makes an adjustment to Lars Bak's bike. The Specialised stems contain an ingenious asimetrical shim which allows a wide range of angles.

Andy Pruitt makes an adjustment to Lars Bak's bike. The Specialised stems contain an ingenious asimetrical shim which allows a wide range of angles. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 14 of 28

Bak and Bobby Julich talk during his assessment. Julich has a keen interest in bike fit, having had his position adjusted by Pruitt many years ago.

Bak and Bobby Julich talk during his assessment. Julich has a keen interest in bike fit, having had his position adjusted by Pruitt many years ago. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 15 of 28

Bak pedals under load, allowing the cameras to monitor his movement.

Bak pedals under load, allowing the cameras to monitor his movement. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 16 of 28

He was previously sitting crooked on the bike, had a very rounded lower back and complained of groin pain.

He was previously sitting crooked on the bike, had a very rounded lower back and complained of groin pain. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 17 of 28

One very interesting consequence of raising his stem one centimetre was that his actual position became lower and more aerodynamic.

One very interesting consequence of raising his stem one centimetre was that his actual position became lower and more aerodynamic. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 18 of 28

Frank Schleck, being assessed by Pruitt.

Frank Schleck, being assessed by Pruitt. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 19 of 28

As was the case with most of the riders, number of adjustments were made.

As was the case with most of the riders, number of adjustments were made. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 20 of 28

His saddle was raised slightly, with more to follow when he becomes more flexibile. His stem was also shortened, helping his upper body to relax.

His saddle was raised slightly, with more to follow when he becomes more flexibile. His stem was also shortened, helping his upper body to relax. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 21 of 28

Although his time trial position is higher than before (as indicated by the yellow line), it is expected that he will be faster. He was previously too low to have been putting out full power.

Although his time trial position is higher than before (as indicated by the yellow line), it is expected that he will be faster. He was previously too low to have been putting out full power. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 22 of 28

The bike belonging to his brother Andy Schleck undergoes some adjustments.

The bike belonging to his brother Andy Schleck undergoes some adjustments. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 23 of 28

Schleck is regarded as a strong contender for Tour win. Could it be this year? Time will tell.

Schleck is regarded as a strong contender for Tour win. Could it be this year? Time will tell. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 24 of 28

Schleck is watched closely.

Schleck is watched closely. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 25 of 28

Riis gives his thoughts.

Riis gives his thoughts. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 26 of 28

Although Schleck also has limited flexibility, he is able to get fairly aero on the bike.

Although Schleck also has limited flexibility, he is able to get fairly aero on the bike. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 27 of 28

Gustav Larson's position was raised two centimetres, opening up his leg angle and allowing him to put out more power.

Gustav Larson's position was raised two centimetres, opening up his leg angle and allowing him to put out more power. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)
Image 28 of 28

André Steensen had been experiencing pain in his neck and lower back. By shortening his stem by one centimetre, he became more relaxed.

André Steensen had been experiencing pain in his neck and lower back. By shortening his stem by one centimetre, he became more relaxed. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)

Tech feature, February 3, 2009

Comfort, efficiency and performance all matter when it comes to joining rider to bike. The Specialized BG FIT system is being used by the entire Saxo Bank team this season, and represents a significant undertaking by the ProTour squad. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes watched several key riders undergo the sessions at the team training camp in Portugal.

Continued from Part 1 - where we look at Frank Schleck and Fabian Cancellara.

Andy Schleck - grooming a major Tour contender?

His brother Andy Schleck had some similar characteristics. He too had what Pruitt termed "a mild internal femoral rotation" and flat feet. His hamstring flexibility was even worse than Frank's, with his fingers being several inches away from the floor when leaning forward towards the ground. When lying down, this led to a thigh angle of 70 %, considerably less than Cancellara.

Furthermore, an approximate 11 mm difference in leg length was determined, with his right tibia being shorter than the left. A 5mm lift under his shoe was recommended to help compensate for this.

Schleck's glute flexibility was slightly less than that of his brother, with 126 and 128 degrees being measured for his right and left sides. The strength of that muscle was found to be weak.

In contrast to Cancellara, who is a time trial specialist, the brothers excel on other terrain. This modified Pruitt's approach, he said afterwards. "Their power is really their strength to weigh ratio on the climbs," he explained. "We want to make sure that they don't lose time in the time trial stages. So we have to make the best advantage of them on their time trial bikes. Bjarne believes - and I don't disagree - that he wants to mimic their hip and knee angles from the road bike. We just roll them forward and maintain their exact same sacral, knee and ankle angles into the most aerodynamic position we can take them into, keeping that power position.

"Although Andy is not flexible, we are going to end up dropping him lower than where he had been. We were able to roll him forward and when we dropped his elbows, that dropped his shoulders and made him more aerodynamic. We will actually lower his stem. But we had to bring Frank the other direction to maintain those angles."

Other riders also benefit

Not all of the Saxo Bank riders were assessed at the training camp in Majorca; Cancellara and the two Schlecks were dealt with there, as well as several others. Another BG FIT session will be done at the team's upcoming training camp in California.

Several changes were made in Majorca, with some of those details as follows:

Lars Bak: Perhaps the most dramatic example of how the Specialized BG FIT can work was with Bak. He had several issues, including a visible twisting of his pelvis when riding, complaints of soreness inside his legs and on the right side of his back, plus a visible hunch on his mid-lumbar spine.

Pruitt adjusted his cleat in order to move his left foot forward, and put an additional 1.5mm wedge in Bak's right shoe. This caused him to straighten up on the bike.

More significantly - at least visually - the decision to raise his stem had a dramatic result. The Dane had been riding with the stem too far down, coping by locking his arms. His new position allowed him to support himself better, straighten his lumbar region and actually saw his head and back become lower by 2.5 - 3 centimetres (see photo). This should be both more comfortable and more aerodynamic.

Gustav Larson: The Body Geometry assessment led the crew to raise both his bars and saddle on his time trial bike by two centimetres. "This gave him a better leg extension through the power stroke," said Scott Holz, who added that his frontal area remained essentially the same.

Michael Mørkøv: The Dane was one of the least flexible riders on the team and the assessment showed that he needed to have his bars raised almost 2.5 cm on his road bike. He has been given a stretching programme to lengthen his hamstrings.

Jurgen Van Goolan: Had been suffering from chronic tendonitis in his right knee. "We were able to find the cause, and fix it on his bike and pedal setup by moving his right pedal 1/8th of an inch farther outboard from the crank," said Holz.

André Steensen: The Dane had been experiencing pain in his neck and lower back. By shortening his stem by one centimetre, he became more relaxed while still maintaining the same low back profile.

Looking for percentages

As has been seen countless times in sport, the difference between winning and losing can be minute. Even small improvements can have a big effect on the final result. For riders who ride tens of thousands of kilometres per year, bike fit is of fundamental importance; not just for performance's sake, but also for comfort and avoiding injury.

The season ahead will enable the Saxo Bank riders to see if their BG FIT adjustments have made a significant change. Pruitt is confident that there will be clear benefits. "It typically does translate into higher speed," he told Cyclingnews. "They will be faster, longer, because they are comfortable. They may also be faster for short efforts."

He is aware that some of the riders may feel that being lower will be better for their performance. However, as was the case with Lance Armstrong, being too low can lead to significant losses in power. There is a balance to be found between sitting fast and being able to ride the thing, after all.

"Wind tunnel is a position, it is not bike fitting," he warned. "Rarely does a guy come out of the wind tunnel and be able to hold the position they put him in. That is incredibly rare. Most of the time, within 24 hours, it is some muted form of that."

Pruitt said that the next assessment in California would include some wind tunnel measurement, but that the overall holistic approach will be maintained.

"Full aerodynamics will mute physiology, it will suffocate you. A lot of directors just come along and slam everybody's stems right down, thinking they are aerodynamic. But the bike needs to look like the rider, not the other way round."

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

after your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1