12th November 2014
Specialized Body Geometry Fitting Certification.
Bill’s Trip To Specialized H.Q.
Morgan Hill, Ca. 1st-7th Nov 2014
The Bike Fit programme from Specialized is called BG Fit (Body Geometry Fit). It was rolled out in the UK in 2008, Body Geometry is the most comprehensive system for connecting bike and rider in perfect harmony. Body Geometry Fit is ergonomically designed and scientifically tested to maximise power, endurance and comfort through a systematic customization of your bike and equipment at all three contact points.
The Bike Shed were amongst the first stores in the UK to adopt this system as their preferred bike fitting programme. We have had several colleagues from our Exeter and Barnstaple branches undergo courses over the last 6 years allowing us to have a team of bike fitters across the company, all able to help you into the correct riding position. Around three years ago we were also early adopters of the video capture system allowing us to take and analyse video images of the client as their riding position was improved during the bike fitting process. The next step in this ongoing programme of education and technical development was offered to us by Specialized UK as the first wave of twelve UK bike fitters were offered the chance to go through the Certification Exam. This is the highest level qualification in the BG Fit programme and it’s the only pass/fail exam in the industry. We were advised that it was thorough and would test a combination of practical expertise, anatomy and biomechanical knowledge.
1st November - The longest day:
5 a.m. start to get the 6:30 coach from Devon to Heathrow. Passing last night’s Halloween partiers in a 24 hour Subway was like a scene from Shaun of the Dead. I met up with the other 11 bike fitters and our Specialized UK representatives, Murph and D.A. at Terminal 5. The flight is long; anyone who knows me will understand that sitting still for 10 hours is not in my skill set.
Excitement about the trip, 2 films and some amazing views of Greenland help to make the flight time pass. A head wind adds to the journey time and its 10 p.m. (local time) before we get to The Marroitt, San Francisco for an evening meal (5 a.m. UK again). There’s a lot of nervous talk over dinner, it’s soon clear that the written exam and practicum will not be easy to pass.
2nd November - Sightseeing in San Francisco:
Out before breakfast to book ferry tickets to Alcatraz, we get reserve places on a night trip because it’s very popular. Once booked we find a Restaurant on Pier 39, I have corned beef (freshly made) and eggs, the clichés are true, U.S. portions are huge. Open top bus next, then a walk along the waterfront park towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
We decided to hire bikes and ride the 6 miles there and back. This was a true highlight of the trip, a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean and an iconic structure. We returned to the city to climb the Coit tower and then see the famous “wobbly hill” off Lombard St. We then snatched a quick burger en route to Alcatraz. The pitch black night, enthusiastic historian guide and audio tour narrated by ex-inmates and guards really add to the atmosphere.
3rd November - Arrive at Morgan Hill:
Specialized H.Q. is impressive, a museum with a collection of actual race winning bikes, design icons and some one-off concepts show they know how to have fun too. After lunch we have a talk on the new 2FO shoes for flat pedal or SPD. Four years of development, samples, testing etc. give you an idea of the importance they place on getting it right before it goes to market. Next, we (all the bike fitters, Murph, D.A. and a couple of U.S. guys) get our riding gear on and go to the “cage”.
This is where all the SBCU demo bikes are stored, we are pre allocated bikes today and I get a SL4 Tarmac with 40mm carbon Rovals and mechanical, rim brake Ultegra. We ride a short local loop called Willow, 14 miles, 688ft peak in middle. At the end we do the “Big Ring Challenge”. A 200 yard 20% climb from standing, in the big ring. I came second, having lead the first 150, to Kieran (Cycleworks), a great ice breaker.
4th November - More riding and Product Knowledge:
A longer 20 odd mile loop today and I held my own on the climbs, my room-mate Simon (South Downs) is strong doing big turns. Aaron, one of the SBCU guys rides a Turbo bike (electric motor), he acts as durney at times for our lead group; it’s fast. I entered a long right hander with Danny on my left and hit a deer. It came from my right, neither of us able to stop or change path in time, wallop. The deer ran off (nothing broken) and I got back on to try and chase back on, full of adrenaline. I was very lucky, only suffering a few grazes and a sore shoulder.
Back at H.Q. we are introduced to Dr. Robert Menkow. He has developed Specialized saddles for years, he has devised a test that demonstrates the improved blood flow made possible by Specialized saddles, really impressive having personally suffered “numbness” on other brands. We also cover saddle shape using a pressure sensitive pad.
Next were in the helmet test room. They have all the same devices that are used by the separate authorities to approve helmets, I get to do the drop test with an Align. It has to fall a long way with a metal “head” in it on to a metal anvil, for the euro test it falls onto the edge of a kerbstone.
We get to see Contador's crashed helmet from the 2014 Tour de France, it’s badly damaged but he didn’t have any head trauma afterwards despite the crash breaking his leg. We then have short talks on new clothing made of stretchy wind stopper fabrics and new reflectives.
Specialized decided to build a wind tunnel specifically for cycling. Most wind tunnels are built for the motor or aerospace industries and are made for large objects travelling at high speed.
This leads to a lack of accuracy for small objects at low speed (bicycles). The project took two years and despite being across the road from the main H.Q. it was so secretive only 10 people knew it was being built. Specialized used to get around 160 to 200 hours tunnel time a year, renting time at approx $1000 an hour, now with their own custom, on site facility they are doing 1600 hours a year. They have been able to test everything from bikes (road and MTB), wheels, clothing, helmets, shoes, even hairstyles!
5th November - Revision:
Andy Pruitt arrives for a complete review of all procedures, techniques and documentation, it’s a heavy day. No riding, just classes, short breaks, getting serious. I feel happy that I did 6 weeks of study before I came out and I hope the 6 years of practice with customers at The Bike Shed will prepare me for my client tomorrow.
6th November - Certification:
Practical Fitting Assessment, 8:30 a.m. My client: Sophie, ex professional dancer, cyclist of 4 years, was presented with a demo Specialized Allez 52cm. The fitting went really well despite a nervous start for me under the scrutiny of an examiner as I got to grips with the Speedplay pedals. We soon established that the saddle was too narrow, the bar was too wide, stem too low and long and the frame was one size too big. We also fitted arch support, forefoot wedges, reduced the brake lever reach and reduced stance width. I completed the fitting in the required two and a half hours having taken all the relevant measurements and went for lunch.
Certification Exam, 12 p.m. This two and a half hour paper has increased from 120 questions to 200 and to our surprise, has a 90% pass threshold, 89% is a fail! I settled in using my usual tactic of answering all questions but marking ones I’m unsure of to review if I have time remaining. It covered anatomy, biomechanics, case studies etc.
We all got together, shell shocked but accepting that we had all done our best and got changed to go for a longer ride. We had a free hand in the cage to choose any bike, I found an S-Works Tarmac in 56cm Dura Ace Di2 hydraulic disc bike with Roval 40mm carbon wheels, not too shabby.
The Mount Coe climb starts about two and a half miles out of Morgan Hill and continues for about 7 miles past the reservoir that serves the town to the top at around 2600 ft above sea level. What a view.
The descent has a broken up surface (felt like home) through a succession of well cambered corners. This is the road they use to road test and develop the Tarmac bikes. Those brakes are amazing, the Di2 shifting amazing, frame amazing, wheels amazing and S-Works tyres amazing. I was in a group of about six on the descent and we had a very near miss with half a dozen deer crossing the road, seems to be a theme around here.
We went out for a celebratory dinner (maybe premature as we don’t get our results back for two weeks). The food was exceptional and as you can imagine, after the pressure cooker week we had all had, we were ready to let our hair down! Said our thanks and goodbyes to Dr. Pruitt, Sean Madsen, Aaron Post, Julie and Hugo from the SBCU team and headed back to the hotel for a beer or two.
7th November - The Journey Home:
Relaxed start, packed bags and got a packed breakfast at reception in the Hotel as we checked out. Did some last minute shopping, then, due to a “minor” hangover, needed a second breakfast with more coffee.
Sad to say goodbye to 20 plus degree heat in November but got on the transfer bus and tried to get my head around the time difference to home. Legs ached from the long climb yesterday, prayed for enough leg room to get them comfy on the return 10 hour flight (no chance!).
8th November: Heathrow
Luckily it wasn’t as cold as Britain can be in November, it was, however clear that you guys had some significant rain while I was away! Fingers crossed I’ve done enough to pass. However, I am looking forward to getting back to our fitting room at the Bike Shed Exeter, sharing everything I've learnt with the Bike Shed Fitting Team and implementing it all with my future clients to see how I can make the sport we all love even more enjoyable for them.
If you're interested in seeing how Bill and the team can help you into the correct riding position, or are unsure how your cycling posture can be improved, view our dedicated Bike Fit Page, where you will find contact details for local Bike Shed store.
Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour De France winning bike