Since the cross campaign kicked off, I’ve had a few discussions about the requirements of cross-specific bikefit.
So here are a few thoughts.
First, a good fit, and the edge it can give a competitive rider, is as relevant in cross as it is in road, TT, tri or track.
The truth is this: If you’re fighting against the bike rather than working with it, you’re going slower than you should be, whether you’re in a muddy field or on a stretch of road.
The core principles of a fit for cross are the same as they are for road; biomechanical efficiency, good foot stability, neutral posture and weight distribution, all built around the physiology of the individual rider.
But there are also subtle differences, resulting from the unique demands of the discipline, that probably make it a more intriguing process than a fit for tarmac.
Starting at the foot, cleat position can be a little more aggressive, maximising leverage for those stop-start accelerations, even if that means slightly compromising spinning smoothness.
Saddle and bar position can vary significantly too.
An aggressive road race fit can pin the rider in one place on the bike; for cross the ability to shift weight on the saddle to cope with the terrain, while maintaining pedalling efficiency, is crucial.
Cross is actually one discipline where you can even make a convincing case for event-specific saddle height when you compare the technical demands of an event like The Three Peaks with a flat, non-technical ‘criterium on grass’.
And where a competitive road fit may see the position optimised for a client to spend long periods of time riding on the drops, how relevant is that for cross, when hands-on-the-hoods is more like to be the default riding position when the hammer is down?
Time to finally slam that stem and get lower? Possibly.
How much difference could it all make? Combined together, over the course of a long, hard winter’s racing?
There are no absolutes, but the little things have a habit of adding up.
And when you’ve got the bikes right, the tubs glued and the training dialled, where do you look next to try and find that winning edge?