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April 29, 2011

Car packed, quick cup of tea and then we were off. An early start at 5:30am, on our way to London for my brother’s 40th birthday surprise.

My parents and myself had been planning this surprise trip for months and now it was coming to fruition. So in Trowell services on the M1 over a coffee, I duly handed over two birthday cards to my brother Karl. One of them, from my parents, explained about his free bike fitting with Velo Solutions at Le Beau Velo (hence the long trip to London). Now this ‘surprise’ didn’t come as much of a surprise to Karl. A couple of months earlier he said he was thinking of getting a bike fitting done, so panicking I told him that I would organise one for him. Even so a free session with Italian bike fitting master, Giuseppe Giannecchini, meant Karl was sporting a big grin. When I handed over the next birthday card, his grin turned to shock, and nearly tears. The card explained that he would also be getting a made-to-measure Viner Perfecta. His face said it all. All the months of planning were worth it! Excited, he now wanted me to drive faster, to get to Shoreditch and Le Beau Velo even quicker. Even the M1 being shut due to a fire didn’t faze us – we carried on round the M25 and arrived in Shoreditch just before 10:15.

Mal Pires, the owner of Le Beau Velo, and Peter Cole of Viner UK, knew of the birthday plan, and both made the day really special for us both. Despite having had a major break-in at his premises a couple of days before, Mal was friendly and welcoming. Unfortunately there weren’t many Viner’s to admire, but he did have one stunning Maxima RS being built up for a lucky owner to pick up later in the day. Le Beau Velo is an amazing place, so much so I’m going to be writing a more in depth post about Mal Pires and his business. I’m going to concentrate on the bike fitting with Velo Solutions and Giuseppe for now.

So after getting changed in a smart changing room (complete with shower), we were led into the fitting room, where Giuseppe was already taking measurement’s from Karl’s existing bike. His current steed is a Ribble Scuoro, and has been an able ally, helping Karl to some road race wins, top six placings and his 2nd cat licence. Now he’s stepped up a league, and is planning some bigger events (including Premier Calendars) so I thought he needed a better bike!

First things first – Karl’s body measurements were taken and tapped into the guy’s laptop. These numbers would be needed later.

Karl was then asked to ride his bike, all the while Giuseppe walked around him, his eyes darting around, looking, analysing, thinking. He then started talking, in italian, which did add a certain ‘pro’ glamour to the day. Peter Cole translated. Basically Karl’s existing set-up was pretty good, an 8 out of 10, but most cause for concern was his cleat position. Unbeknown to Giuseppe, Karl had been having slight knee pain in his left leg. As Peter translated, Giuseppe explained that his cleats were too far back, causing his ankle to drop too far on the down stroke and as a result he would get knee pain! The solution was to move the cleats forward. He also suggested that Karl’s saddle position was moved slightly and that he would benefit from some compact handlebars.

So it was back off the bike whilst Giuseppe took an allen key to Karl’s cleats. It was then we found out that his choice of shoes was going to be a problem. Specialized shoes don’t allow as much movement for cleat positioning, which meant Giuseppe couldn’t get Karl’s cleat as far forward as he liked. We’d travelled a long way not to get the fit right, and seeing as his Specialized shoes were over 3 years old and seen some action, Peter rang round some London bike shops to find some Sidi shoes (which have the biggest scope for cleat positioning of all the cycle shoe brands) in Karl’s size. Giuseppe even suggested Karl go a half size down as well! A pair were tracked down at Condor Cycles, which is fairly close to Shoreditch. So whilst Karl hopped on a tube train, it was my turn to get fitted. I’d brought down both my Maxima and my Kronus TT bike to see what magic Giuseppe could work on me. I wasn’t disappointed.

First up was the Maxima. To cut a long story short, my saddle was too high, explaining my liberal use of Sudocrem to keep saddle sores at bay, and why my sports masseur always had to work hard on my hamstrings. The saddle also need pushing back as well. The angle on my handlebars was also wrong, which, as Giuseppe explained, is the reason why I don’t ride on the drops a lot. He also suggested compact bars would be a better fit for me as well. But seeing as he was going to be making a lot of adjustments, that’s something I could look at changing 6 months down the line. Ah well, at least my cleat’s were in the right position.

So as I stood out of the saddle, still pedalling, my saddle was adjusted, and my knee angles constantly checked. My saddle eventually dropped 1cm, and because of this, the saddle was pushed back. Once Giuseppe was happy with this, he then got to work on my handlebars, changing the angle, so that my wrists weren’t on an extreme angle when on the drops. Altering this meant my ergo’s needed moving as well. Finally Giuseppe was happy. I was told to pedal again. The new position was weird – I know it felt different but somehow it felt ‘right’. My arms and shoulders were more relaxed, and I could feel my quads being used more in the downstroke. I had a feeling this new position was going to make me faster.

So onto the Kronus. And even before I’d got on it Giuseppe knew the saddle was too far forward. My first pedal strokes confirmed this. But before he got to work on my saddle, he stood in front of me whilst I was on the aero extensions. Immediately he got his allen keys out and moved the pads inwards. This would make me cut through the air more he said. Then it was onto the saddle. It was so far forward my knee angles were off the scales! Peter videod me to show how far out it was. So it was pushed back, all the while the height being moved as well, whilst I pedalled. Finally it was finished. Looking across into the mirror as I pedalled, I knew this new position was more aero and more powerful. Giuseppe was pretty chuffed with his work too. I got changed just in time for lunch. Karl’s final adjustments would have to wait until after some fine pizza’s at Pizza East.

So an hour later, resplendent in his new dazzling white Sidi’s, Karl got back astride his Ribble, and Giuseppe got to work. His leg and foot position finally adjusted, Mal then swapped Karl’s handlebars. Giuseppe worked his magic again. Karl pedalled – and looked happy. The changes to his position had been more subtle than mine, but you could still see a difference, and Karl echoed my words – it felt weird but ‘right’. Everything felt natural. As he got changed, Peter and Giuseppe started tapping on their laptops and using his previous body measurements, Karl was handed his ‘plan’. This was Velo Solutions blueprint for his new Perfecta, including all measurements for stem length, saddle height etc. A final chat with Peter about colour scheme’s, seat post choice etc and his new frame was finalised. All he has to do now is wait 5 weeks. Hopefully it will arrive in time for another 40th birthday treat. A trip to Annecy and the Alps in July, and this time Karl has done all the organising!

24 hours later and Karl came back from his first ride in his new position. He was grinning from ear to ear. It had been a recovery ride (as told by his coach) yet he’d been spinning on the flat at over 25mph. And no sign of knee pain. No wonder he was happy.

Birthday boy Karl pictured above with Giuseppe Giannecchini and Peter Cole of Viner UK.

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