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Sunday, 14 March 2010

A wonderful outcome

Don't get me wrong,I love building 6kg wonderbikes. But sometimes there is much more at stake than that....

On Saturday I had one of those moments which makes my job so very special

Noel picked up his custom Parlee Z3 and we did a final fitting on the bike. We had both invested alot into this project and we were both really nervous when he jumped on the bike for the first time. After he started pedaling and broke into a big grin I felt this massive sense of accomplishment. This was without doubt one of the most enjoyable bike builds I have ever been privileged to be involved in.

To set the scene, Noel was refered to me in December 2009 and arrived on his Look 386.
There were an awful lot of issues to address:

In 2007 Noel broke his right leg very badly (again)
As such he has a 5cm leg length discrepancy on right leg (all this distance was from the femur)
This is being addressed by a stack under the cleats on the right leg
A bigger issue is his range of motion is also very limited - measured at 95-100 degrees. Simply put he cannot bend his right leg - a severe issue with cycling, and this manifests itself at the top of the pedal stroke, so is pushing through with his left leg, and so his hip rises dramatically on his right side.
As a consequence Noel is massively left leg dominant as the right leg does not contribute greatly to the pedal stroke. The power of the left leg also pushed the right hip up and over the top so it hardly made any contact with the saddle. This got worse the harder the intensity was - a disaster as Noel loves to climb in the Alps. This rubbing on the right was so bad tat Noel told me he had all sorts of issues with rubbing, saddle sores and worn cycling shorts !

After analyzing Noel on his current bike we put him on the adjustable Size cycle. What I wanted to do was reduce the need for right leg flexion. Best way to do this is to ride the saddle much higher than normal, and also dramatically increase layback. This could not be achieved by his current bike - by raising the saddle the bars were now too low, and by increasing layback the bars were now too far away

So we put on 150mm cranks and increased the saddle height by 3.25cms. This brought a big improvement, which was further improved when we started to dramatically slacken the seat tube Angle to 71 degrees. The top tube now needed to be reduced to get the bars where we wanted them to be
After a couple of hours of playing around with the position we were confident we had it dialed. Noel could now pedal much more freely than before, and the right leg was significantly contributing to the stroke

I then sent the 4 contact points to Tom at Parlee and asked him to work his magic. I was determined that this was going to work. I have so much respect for Noel riding in the Alps in such a bad position, and the pain and effort that must have taken to keep going as his mates went past him.
Tom had a tireless task - its easy to create a position on a size cycle but far harder to recreate it on a bike than can be built and ride well (hence why I normally prefer to do bike fits on the clients bike).

By having a bike so slack we had a real issue with the bike's 'Front Center' - and important issue to face with all this Alpine descending. We did not want a twitchy bike so slackened the head tube as well. As the saddle was now higher than before we raised the frames head tube height and also increased its seat tube angle. I also managed to get some 150mm cranks fabricated in the US, and we sourced a short stem shallow compact bars and a 45mm layback post.

Bringing us back to the present, all the parts finally arrived this week and JC built the bike Friday for Noel's collection Saturday. The bike looked great and Noel was really pleased with its appearance, but he was almost reluctant to jump on it. He had so much emotionally invested in this bike. It was not merely an upgrade from his previous bike but much more than that. This was a bike that could finally bring him pain free and enjoyable cycling again. Were it not to work we would be back to the drawing board.
Within 30 seconds we both knew we had it nailed, and Noel could not believe how a bike could fit him and his requirements so well. It was enormously satisfying to see a grown man have this child like wonder at the simple act of pedaling.....

As I cycled home on Saturday evening I was really pleased and Noel promised to email me the next day after the inaugural ride:

Hi Barry
I had a great bike ride smiling to myself as I went such is the improvement- it was as I remember it before my accident, feeling once more that my right leg was working the pedal and delivering a decent amount of power The set up is perfect , much more relaxing than the Look I and I can have a conversation as I ride as opposed to the keen focus i needed previously to turn the pedals. I feel unusually tall in the saddle but I am fixed to it compared to previously when I was in constant up and down motion with the right hip ;all in all excellent
I will try later in the week to test myself on a few steep hills to see what the difference is but I can only surmise it will be good. I will keep you posted -I have no excuses now and just need to get fit for the mountains--
Best Wishes

This new position is such a dramatic change for Noel that we are going to keep a very close eye on the position and see if what further tweaks are required as his body adapts more fully to the new position. But I am really excited by what awaits, and cannot wait to hear from Noel when he returns from his trips to the high alps.

Chapeau Noel, climbing for hours in pain is more than I could have done, and I think we all too often take for granted the simple pleasures of riding a bike. I hope this new bike brings you many, many hours of joy.

1 comment:

Mrfish said...

Great stuff, this is what it's all about.

Would be great to see a picture of the new bike, and maybe some of the before / after Retul illustrations, with Noel's permission of course