Monday, June 05, 2006

Orbiting Planet Zimich

I bit the bullet on Saturday and went to local bike-guru Larry Zimich and had a bike fitting, which is a little bit like getting a bespoke suit made, except instead of a wool pin-stripe you get properly measured for your bike. I am, in a word, a convert. Yon Zimich, who is located in North Vancouver above the Capilano Suspension Bridge, knows what he is doing.

Larry and I had exchanged e-mails during the preceding week where I had explained my momentary lapse of reason and my desire to do an Ironman in a years time, while also confessing my complete lack of cycling experience.

Hi Vince and thanks for the email.

Congrats on your decision for doing an Ironman.

With the accomplishments you have done in the past, this should be very attainable.

Starting off with a properly fit bicycle is the first step. Parameters such as wattage output, aerodynamics and biomechanical efficiency all need to be taken into account and the work that I did last summer out at the UBC wind tunnel with Len Brownlie, who is the man responsible for the road and TT (time trial) set up of Lance Armstrong among others, confirmed we have the numbers correct with these. Having no cycling experience is a good position to be in as we don't have to worry too much about old muscle memory that has to be changed.

We need about 2-2.5 hours to complete and I do them here at my place in North Van. Cost is $100 including cleat set up. Good time if you have not changed the cleats on your shoes within the past 6 months to do so at this time.

I zipped over to North Van and for a solid two and a half hours I was captivated as Larry measured me and my bike with a collection of tape measures, rulers and levels. Like the trigonometry class where I was hopelessly lost, Larry talked knowledgeably, albeit somewhat breathlessly, about the relationships between aerodynamics and power positions, drag and pedaling efficiency. There was wind-tunnel testing, lots of data crunching and mysterious talk of power wattage and GLORY BE, heart rate monitors! I had found a new nirvana.

Michael, who had taken a solid thirty minutes to originally set up my bike was not that far off, a few millimetres here and there. But after a few minutes orbiting Planet Zimich, I knew that a few millimetres was simply not good enough. Larry wanted to fit my bike within a millimetre. He regaled me of tales in the wind tunnel, where every millimetre of measurement on a bike is worth one percent pedaling performance. I found out that I have long legs, a relatively short trunk and that my magic seat height number is 98.1. That's right, within point one, .1, of a millimetre!

Larry fit my shoes, adjusted my cleats, which turned out to be the source of my mysterious propensity for crashing. My new cleats were in the maximum setting right out of the box and I could bearly get out of them without getting a hernia from the exertion required. My seat was moved back a couple of millimetres and leveled. For the first time in a week it didn't feel like someone had just kicked me in the crotch. I probably need a slightly wider seat, but this new adjustment will probably still allow me to have children.

My handle bars were actually in exactly the right position, but I'll need to get bars that are two centimetres narrower. That should make my profile about fifteen percent more aerodynamic as my shoulders and arms are moved inboard. Interestingly, my core is quite strong and I prefer a lower more aerodynamic pedaling position. As Larry adjusted the bike it became more and more comfortable with every tweak of his tuning tool. By the end, after a myriad of adjustments had been made, it was like I was on a different bike. And the biggest adjustment? Increasing the saddle height all of 11 millimeteres. My God, what a difference.

Larry had me try one-legged pedaling. What a shock! I lasted less than a minute, which he said actually wasn't that bad. He had me do both legs and I quickly saw how dominant my right leg was over my left leg. I practiced a cadence of 95-100 and although it felt unatural, Larry was quickly able to convince me of its mechanical and physical efficiency. We, or rather 'I', tried a quick 'suppleness' drill of going at 130 cadence, which I wasn't able to reach but I could see how it would boost your overall spinning technique.

I learned more in a few hours with Larry than I had in many nights online. The difference between pedaling "up and down" versus "round and round". I learned that the average person has 8-12 percent pedaling efficiency, while someone like Lance Armstrong has 97 percent. I was astonished to learn about the actual amount of technique required to ride well. There's a lot more to cycling than pushing down on the pedals! Larry poked and prodded and was able to effectively show me which muscle groups did what as you pedaled. I now fully understand and know why my ass has been sore for a week.

The best part was finding out how much more use I was going to be able to get out of my Polar S625X heart rate monitor. Next step, a Power Wattage unit!

After pedaling along for a while, Larry glimpsed my heart rate reading, as of course I had worn my trusty Polar for the fitting. I was chugging along at 95-98 beats per minute. Larry looked a little surprised and made a casual aside, "That's a pretty low reading". I could tell from a few hours in the company of Larry that this was about as good as it got. And of course his comment was magic to my ears. I might have crap technique, but I had a good motor. And given how crucial the biking component is overall in the Ironman, it bodes well for my training.

Larry was also glad to hear that I had given myself a long lead time to learn to bike. He thought that within six months, if I trained properly, I could realistically expect to start getting the hang of proper technique. That would give me a second six-eight months to really nail my Ironman training on the bike.

Next stop, the pool. Do I still remember how to float?


Blogger Scooter said...

Check point #4 from my comment of two posts ago. Without seeing you, I couldn't diagnose other stuff, but some things I could get.

I'm glad Mr. Zimich got you squared away. Now find the local club and get out there with them. Find your mentor for biking (you've earned one through your running work).

10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Wowzers! That guy really sounds like a bike guru!

> Next stop, the pool.

Come join our masters club! We just moved to a beautiful outdoor pool (Central Park Pool, beside Swangard Stadium) for the summer and we are always looking for new members. You won't be alone either...we have a few triathletes in our club. And we have people of all ability levels ranging from beginners to one former Olympian (not me...I wish).

12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As per the bike shirt....we also want a speedo shot once you start to swim!

1:08:00 PM  

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