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David Bowden is a New Zealand-based bike fitter and coach, who also works as a consultant for Profile Design. David also has a background in bike fitting software, having designed the Velogicfit 3D Motion and 3D Aero performance bike fitting products that he uses in the studio. David currently coaches among others pro triathlete and cycling powerhouse Teresa Adam. In this episode we discuss bike fitting, equipment to improve performance, and bike training for triathlon.
In this Episode you'll learn about:
- How important bike fitting is, with quantitative examples
- The tools used in bike fitting and their importance
- How to find a good bike fitter (not just "ask around")
- Considerations around aerobars, saddles, cranks, helmets, tires and more
- A typical training week (cycling specifically) for age-group triathletes focusing on 70.3 and Ironman
- How to find your bike pacing strategy for Ironman 70.3 and Ironman racing
- David's top tips for age-group triathletes
- My name is David Bowden, I am from New Zealand and I am active in many different field, among others I am a coach (coaching pro triathlete Theresa Adams) as well as a bike fitter.
I also founded the bike fitting company ”Velogic Fit”, which I sold last year.
- The most important aspect of a bike is how you sit on the bike.
It’s relevant both from a comfort, aerodynamic and power production perspective.
Usually comfort and power production goes hand in hand whilst there is an opposite relationship between these two parameters and holding a very aerodynamic position.
The aerodynamic gains that can be achieved with a good bike fit are quite big, depending on level one can scale back several mins to almost 30mins by going from a poor to good aerodynamic position.
- The bike fitter itself is the most important parameter in order to achieve a good bike fit, however, given recent technological innovations, this view is not entirely correct anymore.
With the right fitting system, it’s possible to achieve a very good bike fit without having profound knowledge within the field.
How to find a good bike fitter
- The most common advice about how to find a good bike fitter is to ”ask around”, but I see a very large risk of ”selective bias” with this strategy.
Therefore it is difficult to find a good bike fitter, and my best advice would hence be to just do as much research as possible!
- I would say that there is no reason for an age grouper who finishes an Ironman in let’s say 12h to aim for a worse bike position than the professional athletes or top age groupers.
Special equipment that could help you achieve a good bike fit
- The most important equipment aspects of a bike fit is the lengths of the cranks as well as having a good aero bar and extension system.
I do have a preference for Profile Design assortment of aero bars and extensions (since I have been involved in the development of them).
In terms of crank lengths, I am a huge advocator of shortening the cranks, for instance, I am 193 cm tall and use 162.5mm crank arms.
- The saddle is also very important for achieving a good bike fit, but what works here is extremely individual.
Equipment for improving aerodynamics and rolling resistance
- Getting a good aero helmet is a really cost effective aero upgrade.
It is important to note that there is basically no helmet that is ”better than the other”, it’s all about the individual fit.
The easiest (and cheapest) way of evaluating if a helmet is a good fit for you is to look at the profile, the helmet should be in line with your back and close the gap between head and back as much as possible.
- In terms of rolling resistance, a good pair of latex tubes compared to a pair of regular tubes could mean up to 3mins of saving over an Ironman bike leg, and it will only cost you about 40€!
And in regards to tire, as long as you buy any top tire from a respectable tire manufacturer, you will be fine!
- Also pay attention to the placement of the hydration system, one should avoid having a cylindrical bottle placed anywhere on the frame.
- In my coaching, I am very focused on improving power to an as large extent as possible.
This basically means that I focus very little on power to weight ratio since most triathlon courses are relatively flat and weight has therefore a very small impact on the speed.
In order to achieve power gains in training, it is absolutely essential to make sure to fuel sufficiently at basically all times and especially before the key sessions.
Therefore, I almost always have a conversation with my athletes about food intake and encourage them to really make sure to be fueled enough for (and afterwards to enhance recovery) the workouts.
- When it comes to running, I am a strong advocate for building things up slowly in order to avoid injuries as much as possible.
Injury prevention is the single most important measure for achieving consistency in the run training!
Getting an age grouper to the next level
- Once again, I use to encourage my athletes to really make sure to pay attention to their fueling prior and after sessions and that it is vital not to hold back on both the quantity of food and the amount of carbohydrates.
- In terms of training, I do prescribe quite a bit of overall volume as well as threshold/just sub threshold work (sometimes VO2max oriented training as well if the athlete is VO2max limited).
I use to set up a progression plan that involves both an increase in volume and time spent in different intensity zones, and if the athlete can follow that plan, I usually see an increase in power production of 1-1.5 % per week.
- As we get closer to race day, much of the training is oriented towards preparation for the specific demands of the race and familiarize the athlete with what the athletes will experience on race day (so that he or she just can go out there and execute what he/she already has done on training several times).
- I have worked out a process for determining a good race power plan, which I find works really well.
First I do a rough estimate of how long time it’s going to take for the athlete to finish the bike leg (it’s more like if we are in the 5h, 5:30h or 6h range etc.), the longer you’re out there, the less of a percentage of your threshold you can ride at.
From the athlete’s threshold, I do an estimate of what kind of power he or she can ride at and after that we go out and test how this feels like and simultaneously look at the heart rate decoupling (HR drift).
In order to get correct/representative HR decoupling data, it is important that the athlete is hydrating and fueling sufficiently during this test session (otherwise the athlete will express a ”false” decoupling).
I am satisfied when my athletes can do a 4h ride at their race power (going into the session reasonably fresh) and have a decoupling in the 2 % range.
A typical training week
- Typically I use to prescribe four high quality workouts every week: two back to back sweet spot-threshold sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, one tempo ride on Saturday and one long endurance ride on Sunday.
Thursday is usually the day for the long run.
Rapid fire questions
- What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to endurance sports? Training and Racing with a Power Meter.
- What is your favorite piece of gear or equipment? My gravel bike.
- What is a personal habit that has helped you achieve success? When I try to learn something new, I construct a model of it and keep on adding components to the model until I find that it makes sense.