Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Big things for Olympic Year!

Hi All,

I hope everyone is having a good start to the New Year and is slowly getting back into the swing of work, training and life in general after a good festive season. This time of year sees loads of folk donning the lycra or dusting off a severely neglected gym membership card, and committing once again to "get fit", I hope that this year as many of you as possible are successful. I always find it slightly ironic that for us brits at least, the time when we are meant to make these commitments comes during the worst weather of the year. It's not exactly conducive to getting out there and running, riding or walking off the turkey. Still, I guess if we want to change that we need to move to Sydney!

From a Pedal Precision point of view, we have some great plans for 2012. The new lab is almost ready to be opened (stand by for an opening party invite!) and along with this there are going to be some great new changes and services that we offer. As well as the better bike fit we are already famous for, there will of course be the opportunity for athletes of all sports to come and see us for injury treatment and rehabilitation, it is after all what we are qualified for so if you are suffering in any way, drop us a line and we can sort you out.

Also in the near future we are hoping to be able to offer cyclists of all abilities the chance to feel like a pro by finding out what your "numbers" are. That is, we can provide you with a barage of fitness and performance tests which can help you mark your progress over the course of a training block or season or tell you how fit you are at the moment as well as how your body responds to increased effort and what your heart rate and lactate threshold are. This type of thing is usually reserved for the Elite racers amongst us, but we know many more people would benefit from the type of knowledge it gives. For example, if you know where your lactate threshold is, and we can equate this with a certain heart rate or power output, then you will be able to guage your efforts in events more easily, so if you are planning on taking on that Sportive in July or an Ironman later in the season we can give you the ammunition you need to be able to perform to your potential without blowing up half way through.

Another big part of this year, will be our continued work with Cyclists Fighting Cancer ( www.cyclistsfc.org ). A cunning plan is being laid to create a proper race team who's sole purpose is not to win every race they enter but to increase awareness and help raise funds for such a great charity. The working title for the team is "The Cancer Fighting Cyclists" and it will include loads of riders who are passionate about bikes but also about giving something back. The first team rider to really grab the bull by the horns is our very own Thomas Wild. Tom will be taking on the first ever off-road Ironman distance triathlon in July. That's a 2.4mile swim in the channel, a 112mile bike ride and then just a marathon offroad to finish things off. It's true, he is a mentalist, but also a great athlete and friend. You can follow his progress on his blog here: questtobecomeareallifexman.tumblr.com where he'll be telling us all about his training and of course the race itself. He has already started on the long road to success by beginning his training programme provided by our friends at www.fstacademy.com where they've got him doing all sorts of training both discipline specific and more general to improve his CV system and muscular strength and endurance. If you feel you want to get more from your sports performance this year, give the guys at FSTAcademy a call.

Tom in action at one of the 2011 X-Tri Series events

At the moment we are just finalising more details of the race team and will be designing kit etc soon so keep an eye out for that. You will also be able to help support all our efforts and donate to the charity by a team wide justgiving page which will be dedicated to the team and mean that every penny gets to the right place, more on this when it's up and running!

Well, that's it for now folks, I will update you with more when the new website is up and with more fun ride reports and other good stuff soon. All the best,


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Time: Reflection and Resolutions

Hi all!

And first things first, a Very Merry Christmas to Everyone!

My own Christmas spirit has fluctuated between 'lacking' and 'Overflowing' and most places in-between depending on whatever task I was involved in at any given moment in time. I thought this would be a good time to share with you some inspiration for the following winter months as well as reflecting on the year gone by and looking forward to what will hopefully be a big year or Pedal Precision in 2012.

I have to confess, I am not one of those people who thrives in the cold, wet, British winter. I wish I was, but when I look out the window and it is raining and the thermometer is straining to lift itself above freezing like a cyclist trying to do a chin-up, my mind casts back and dreams of days in bib-shorts and white sweat patches. That's not to say I don't enjoy a ride out in the winter, I have even been known to have a good time when it's lashing down, but I much prefer a cold, crisp day to a wet and windy one.

This in-turn means that I start to think of other ways to maintain a base level of fitness or spend time concentrating on other areas of conditioning over the winter, so I thought I'd pass on a few hints and tips in case you hadn't thought of them or are looking for something to help you come back stronger in the spring.

The first obvious avenue is to spend more time improving your flexibility. 'A cyclist doesn't need to be flexible' I hear you say. That's partly true, for the range of movement that we use we don't strictly need to be able to assume positions usually reserved for the cirque de soleil, but flexibility (or should we call it muscle elasticity?) is about much more than that and affects us greatly. Many athletes that I see demonstrate one or more areas where a tight or over-active muscle group is leading to a movement control issue and a set of painful symptoms as a result. When we use a muscle group in a constantly shortened position (in our case all of our lower limb) it has the tendency to continually shorten to fit this restricted range of motion. Clearly then it stands to reason that since all muscles have a boney attachment at either end, tight structures will affect the mechanics of how these bones move as we walk, run, drive and cycle. So, to cut a long story short and before I send folk to sleep, dedicate a couple of dark evenings a week to a stretching programme. If you're not sure how to stretch effectively find a good sports injury specialist or drop me an email and we can help guide you to get the most out of a flexibility session.

The second aspect I am going to try and concentrate on over the winter is a little additional strength and conditioning work. A good S&C programme will help improve your local muscular endurance and give you a chance to work out muscle groups which you might not work when cycling but will help you ride stronger for longer with out tiring. By this I mean small things like doing a little work on your shoulder stability will help you feel stronger on the descents (especially if you're a mountain biker) as well as helping support your torso more comfortably during long stints in the drops and even help you control any excess movement when on a really steep climb when you need to call upon your arms to pull on the bars. Even some speed work or Plyometrics might be the order of the day, because whilst we don't need to be Ussain Bolt, the ability to react to a break during a short Crit circuit or 'punch' up a rocky technical climb will be greatly improved. It also has the added by product of helping improve your proprioception and balance on the bike by also waking up a load of stabilising muscles that don't get a workout that often.

As luck would have it, a friend of ours has just set up a centre here in Manchester to help amateur athletes get the best strength training advice (think of a personal trainer but with even more knowledge and ability to tailor to your needs). Check out their website at www.fstacademy.com , I for one will be tapping into their expertise this winter.

With all the 2012 bikes now trickling their way into UK stores it is also a great time of year for geeks like myself to take a look at who has changed what geometry wise in their new line-up and what new models are out there. I can't help looking at a brochure sent to me without thinking "ooh, that would be a good geometry for someone with limited spinal flexion" or "damn, they've changed the seatpost angle on the medium, that would be perfect for that chap I saw last month. If you are thinking about a new bike for 2012 but are unsure which one, again just drop us a line and we'd be happy to talk things through with you, or arrange a proper assessment session to look at your biomechanics, movement patterns and flexibilty to ensure you get the right bike for you, not just the right bike for the shops weekly sales target!

Finally, looking back on this year, there have been a lot of lessons learnt, both from a business perspective and to help us continually improve and refine the way we do things to help cyclists get the most out of their bikes and their riding, we've worked with some really interesting people and developed links with some great teams, comapnies and charities. Next year we have lots to look forward to. Early in the New Year we will be moving into a new home at the National Cycling Centre at the Manchester Velodrome, so keep an eye out for news on that and a possible 'house warming' party! We will be working with more teams and hoping to bring you even more complimentary services, and there are also some very exciting plans for an Uber-Challenge that are beginning to come together, so watch this space. Well, actually, that's another thing, there'll be a new re-vamped, interactive website very soon, so that'll be the space to watch! (It's almost ready to launch and there'll be more information on there as well as the ability to interact with us and ask questions, and keep up with the latest news and gossip.

I said it before, but I'll say it again, have a lovely Christmas and may 2012 bring you everything you wish for.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Santa's Coming To Town (On a Raleigh Chopper!)

Well it's been a great week for the soul. Friday saw the start of an immense challenge by the boys of Cyclists Fighting Cancer to ride from Coast to Coast (from Liverpool to Grimsby). In itself, that shouldn't be too much of a challenge, but then factor in that they are doing it in full Santa outfits, visiting childrens' hospitals along the way to bring good cheer and drop of some chocolate, and above all doing it on 3 speed equiped Raleigh Choppers!

Just stop there to think about it for a second, 3 gears, one wheel bigger than the other, an uncomfortable seat, bullhorn handlebars making you sit bolt upright and catching the wind. When I caught up with them at the National Cycling Center, their riding positions made me and my biomechanical/sports rehabilitation brain have a minor meltdown!

But as I write this, they are almost there, just one more leg left to reach the east-coast. A massive effort chaps, I am very proud of you all. There was even part of me that wished I could have got a chopper of my own and joined in. It was a great to see and hear all the support the Santas were getting as they rode through Manchester too (they told me the support had been as good all the way from Liverpool too!). There was a constant wave of beeping horns and cheering pedestrians as they pounded the pedals (which incidentally are attached to ridiculously short 152mm cranks!).

I know a highlight of the ride was the ability to ride a lap of the Velodrome, so a big thank you to all the staff at the NCC, and also to the GB Sprint squad who cheered the boys on and even gave them the bell on the final lap! - They also managed to see how it was really done when Matt Crampton gave us a demo of a motor chase effort over 500m. He was truly flying.

Earlier in the week I also had the opportunity to deliver my first bicycle on behalf of the same charity (www.cyclistsfc.org.uk) to a young person fighting cancer right now. It was so rewarding to be able to provide them with a bike which allows them to start getting stronger again and feeling the wind in your face powered under your own steam. I also feel perversely lucky (and I know the charity founder Mike will agree with me on this), that I know how that feels to get back on your bike and how much of a big deal it can be to just be able to do a small thing which we all take for granted. The bike I delivered this week was adapted using a great piece of engineering. We fitted it with an adjustable crank shortener, which means that because the patient has restricted movement in their leg it allows us to tailor one crank arm to rotate in smaller circles allowing them to gradually increase the turning moment as their range of movement returns. It was a great opportunity for me to use my bike fitting and rehab skills for something really important and coming at it from a different angle rather than trying to help people get extra power or improve their time-trialling position.

Right, I had better get going, Manchester is being assaulted by a downpour of biblical proportions, but there is still much to do on a rainy Sunday. All the best everyone.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pride and Prejumping

A short rider report tonight if you will indulge me.

This morning a crack team of 2 (Aldridge P and I) set off at the bleary eyed, assos chamois creamed, butt crack of dawn, destination Llandeglla Forest in North Wales. We arrived at the centre before the carpark had even opened so parked elsewhere so we could gear up, promising that we would stop for a brew and a biscuit after a lap to substitute for our carpark fee and keep the trail karma gods happy.

We span up the road and on to the trail just as they were opening up and with a cheery wave set off on our first lap. We had a cunning plan to preserve ourselves on the first lap and get to know all the new trails that the guys at http://www.oneplanetadventure.com/ have been working on for the last 4 years, then after a brew stop go for a flying lap and hit everything that few miles an hour faster as you can on a familiar trail.

Well, what can I say. The new trails are a great addition to the old. There's a load more northshore trail with little berms and even a couple of kickers if you hit them fast enough. There's a long descent filled with doubles, step ups and jumps which you can roll over but then have to roll over big slab style rock gardens on the top, or with a bit more confidence you can clear the rocks and land on the other side, producing a smoother ride and a big grin to boot. I can safely say that I don't know of another trail centre with a higher persentage of fun singletrack. There are often posts on various forums with people who dislike Llandegla stating that it is too 'easy' or even 'boring', and others who level this accusation at trail centres in general. All I can say to this is, you are missing the point, the surface is ridable in all weather, there are not going to be any dangerous surpirses round the next corner and it's just a laugh a minute. I defy anyone not to have fun on these trails, and if you think it's boring, you should be going faster!

Today, I don't mind saying it, I was riding very strongly indeed. I just felt good. On the first lap I felt strong and comfortable and never needed to tap too deeply into the energy bank. In the name of taking the first lap easier to avoid any dodgy moments I was squashing some of the doubles, noting the ones that I knew I could clear on the next time round and pre-jumping some of the little drops. On the second lap, we really gave it the beans and I'm proud to say that we passed dozens of people on the trail and were not passed once, a perfect record.

I was also proud of my own body and how it's feeling at the moment. A friend of mine mentioned in his Blog that I am a Lymphoma survivor, and since then (over a decade) I have had a bit of a run of luck which has meant that I have never really felt like I've been able to reach my full fitness potential. First the scar-tissue in the chest that after a long period of investigations needed nerves cutting just to get them to shut up, then cluster headaches which may or may not have been linked, to the discovery of a hole-in-the-heart and a dodgy valve and subsequent insertion of an implant and course of blood thinners...you get the idea ( I sound like a wreck!), but consequently I just never felt that I was able to fire on all cylinders. I knew that the chemo would leave me with compromised lung capacity but the other stuff just seemed to add to it. Anyway, for the first time in a seriously long time today I felt like "is this what it's like to be fully finctioning again?" I don't want to get too philosophical about it, but watch out, next season I feel there might be some PB's coming on!!

Right o', see you soon, thanks again for reading and have a good ride!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Inspirational Times

Afternoon all,

A couple of things happened over the last week that have truly inspired me. Not so much fitting related but certainly tapped in to my personal ethos and mentality.

First of all we managed to progress things on Pedal Precisions links with a new charity. That Charity is Cyclists Fighting Cancer (www.cyclistsfc.org.uk). Go and have a look at their website as they can describe what they do and why a lot more eloquently than I can! To sum up though, they provide bicycles, both standard and specially adapted bikes to children fighting cancer, as well as their siblings or parents where necessary. The benefit of these bikes really can't be measured, whether helping a child feel more alive and positive whilst undergoing treatment or helping their fitness recover once treatment is over, it really is an incredibly valuable thing to be able to provide them with.

I am really pleased to be able to work with CFC going forwards, hopefully helping to provide the right bike to the children who need it and lending a hand where I can to build, setup and deliver them to the kids. A true honour to be able to help. Alongside this, I was also put in touch with the team running a 'buddy' system for the Lymphoma Society. This is where you can become a listening ear for people who are being diagnosed every day with the same disease that you (in this case me) suffered from. It is something that I have been looking to give a little back in this way for a long time, so I am really chuffed that it now seems to be possible. I know that I would have done anything to have someone to talk to whilst having Chemotherapy of my own age, who had 'been there, don that', so to have the chance to provide this for even 1 current patient would be really great.

The other thing that inspired me, was riding with some of the paralympic squad on the track last night. In what was otherwise an unremarkable qualified riders training session, these guys showed us how strong you can be despite some serious physical limitations. One rider in-particular was able to pedal solely with one leg whilst the other was clipped in to a static pedal attached to the bottom bracket. Despite this, he was still able to put the hammer down and pushed the pace on during every exercise when he hit the front. A truly awe inspiring sight and put a lot of things into perspective.

Looking at how he was riding also made me wonder about bike fitting for specific special needs. He had a number of set-up issue which had been very well addressed to allow him to get the most out of the bike, even to the extent of affecting how the bike steered to compensate for the off-centre nature of his pedalling. I'm going to do a little research into different methods of bike adapting and report back with my findings in this blog. I can already help and adapt things for a lot of conditions, and of course there are things being done already with extendable and adaptable crank arms etc., but there must be new ways to look at things to help with efficiencies and power delivery for people who need special consideration from a bike setup point of view. It may also tie-in well and help some of the children that need a specific setup when receiving their CFC bike!

As a reminder, you can also now buy a voucher for the cyclist in your life for christmas (or get someone to buy one for you). The vouchers are available for all our services at www.pedalprecision.com or even if you wish to give someone an amount towards a fitting but not the whole cost, just drop us a line and we will sort you out.

Thanks for listening,


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Owls, Mud and Lumens...

Well, I know it's been a while since my last post, but our ride out tonight simply forced me to sit down as soon as I got back in, poured a recovery shake and extracted most of the grit from my various orifices, the depths of which even the most corrupt politician wouldn't dare tread.

It all began with a plan of utmost cunning. Despite having ridden out to the edge of the peak district on mountain bikes many times in the past, we had always limited ourselves to the tedious drag out and back on the road, whilst keeping our powder dry for a couple of hours of fun and frivolous singletrack once we got to there, creating a banjo-shaped route if you will.

Well, this time was to be different, we'd all heard of a mystical canal towpath that could whisk us, traffic free, form the heart of Manchester out to Marple which is a traditional start-point of one of our routes. As it turned out it was a dream! It was a mud splattered, puddle splashing, dodge the chavs type of dream, but a dream none the less. No traffic lights, no car drivers making imaginative use of the road, just a single ribbon of trail all the way along the canal, with a few locks and spiral bridge ramps thrown in to keep us sharp.

One thing I did realise after a few low bridges, was that like Goretex, I think I am a little 'Hydrophobic', that is to say, not all water, but I was definitely slightly panicky at the brown, horrific ribbon of water that we were flashing past at 15mph. Every time we had to negotiate the small chicane that signalled the entrance to a bridge or tunnel, I would tense imperceptably and stop breathing till I was out the other side convinced that at some point my front wheel was going to wash out on a slippery cobble and ditch me straight into the canal beyond. But I made it, and we marveled at the depth of the ravine as we spun across a viaduct and made it to Marple a mere 15mins later than it would have taken us on the road.

About this time, I also had a true 'do as I say, not what I do' moment as I realised that despite having told myself after riding the 12Hr dusk till dawn race (which was hideous by the way), that I needed to make a small adjustment to level my saddle out a bit to accommodate a different saddle. But a week later I hadn't done it so I was starting to get sore less than an hour into our ride, needless to say I'll be videoing myself before the next mtb outing and making a small adjustment.

After the initial giddyness of the towpath bashing, we settled in to a more sustainable pace for the offroad route proper, switched on around 5000lumens worth of lighting between us (Exposure Lights really are a benchmark upon which all other lights should be measured!), and headed into the hills. Tom, who was on his single-speed was monstering his way up the shorter climbs, James was pacing us up the longer ones and I was somewhere in between, sometimes launching up the climbs with energy gel boosted vigour and bringing up the rear on others.

At about half way round the loop we had the accompaniment of an owl, singing to us but invisible up in a trailside oak tree, you could almost hear him saying "what are you three nutters doing so far up here?". Eventually we left him behind though and pushed on keeping the pace high and heading for the rockiest downhill of the ride, baby-head sized sandstone pummelling us and forcing us to keep as much concentration as we could muster.

After that, there were just a couple of shorter tarmac climbs and two more really fun descents and we plummeted back into Marple village with the biggest grins on our faces. At the top of the final descent, we had stopped to make our customary observations about the lights of Manchester in the distance and how all the people down there watching Corrie had no idea of the world we were seeing, albeit I am sure most of them would have hated spending 4 hours getting wet and muddy with us!

All that was left, was to get on the road and use the extra height of the edge of the peak to our advantage and Team Time Trial our way back into central Manchester. We put on an impressive show for all the drinkers and restaurant visitors as we beat the buses and most cars along the A6. I was feeling strong, at it is at times like that during some rides where I can get a little emotional. It feels so good to know that my body has been through the Big C, a hideous history of medical conundrum, heart surgery and I am still able to feel like an efficient machine whilst propelling another efficient machine (my fabulous Scott Spark MTB race bike) for 60km of dark Derbyshire evening. It re-affirms that I can still do these things and I feel strangely proud.

With that, I am back at home, press stop on the GPS tracking device, take a quick call from Mum on the way to the lift and run upstairs to disrobe and get that recovery shake down my neck as quickly as possible!

Oh, and a shower....
Can you spot the area not covered by leg warmers or socks?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

What it's all about....and the World Championships!

Hi All,

I thought I would take this opportunity to write my first proper blog post. It'll hopefully give you a little background on why Pedal Precision exists, why we do it the way we do and how it's different from other bike fit procedures.

I fell in love with the bicycle from an early age and have raced in various disciplines with wildly varying levels of success or lack of ever since. As a consequence I cannot remember a time when I wasn't the one that friends came to with bike problems or for advise about which model to buy etc.

The other side to the equation, and to cut a very long story short, following a battle with Cancer, I was forced to look at myself and attempt to regain some of the fitness I had before I was diagnosed. Coming 'back' from what I considered to be a shell of a body to be able to ride 12 and 24hr mountain bike races competitively was a tall order and one which I still consider to be a work in progress. It did however give me a foundation and a passionate interest in injury rehabilitation and sports performance.

"This story isn't being cut very short Richard" ...I hear you. Having decided I needed a new vocation I went back to University to study Sports Rehabilitation specifically. Whilst there I was also still working in the bike industry part time and trying to ride and race as much as I could. Anyway, the more I learnt, the better my advice became and more people began seeking me out at races for advice on aches, pains and riding positions. I developed a thirst for biomechanical and bike-fit related knowledge and started combining these disciplines and picking holes in the methods I saw being used.

It became more and more obvious that a person with this combination of skills and knowledge could be very valuable to all types of cyclist whether it was the cosmopolitan but eco friendly mother of two who rides her bike to the organic deli and back but is suffering with lower back pain, to the elite road-racer who has recurring knee issues and doesn't feel he gets enough power when climbing in the saddle.

Having worked at the cutting edge of sports medicine with a number of professional teams (rugby and football), I was also getting feedback from other medical professionals, many of whom were happy to admit that they could comfortably treat the injury of someone lying on their treatment bed, but when it came to cyclists there weren't many people who could actually combine that knowledge with knowledge of the technological side of the bike or look at the person when riding and truly know how to adapt a position or bike to stop the injury occurring.

In the end it was a simple decision. I wanted to help all cyclists of all abilities to get the most from their bikes and their riding.

The main problem I had with the methods of bike fitting already on display was that whilst some of them may appear very technical, they still use a lot of mathematical formulae or rules based on a "perfect position" where angle X should be Y and distance T should be U. It seemed like these rules were being used in favour of the fitter actually understanding the principles of how the body was working with the bike and what effect the adjustments would make to the rider. This is where I wanted to be different.

At Pedal Precision we still use some of these methods for bike fitting, but we don't believe that the human body ever fits a formula. We work together with the rider to give them a position which truly works for them and help them offload any joints or structures which may be causing discomfort and often give them ammunition to address any movement dysfunction or muscular imbalance for a truly long term solution.

A lot of the method that I have devised uses HD Slow-Motion video footage. This enables us to look at a rider from many different angles, and with extensive sports injury and biomechanical knowledge we can see what is happening when a rider pedals at many levels. We can then make the physical adjustments to the bike to achieve the best position for that individual or make recommendations for exercises etc that will help them overcome the root causes for any movement or control issues that are more body rather than bike based.

So there, you have it. A little dry for my first post I'm afraid, but thought it worth giving you the background.

As I've been writing this I've also been keeping an eye on the elite men's World Championship Time Trial, and what can I say. Incredible ride by Tony Martin. Hard luck to Brad, I was really hoping that he could end his season with a huge trophy to offset some of the other relative disappointment of this season, a cracking effort anyway. And he's been a great champion but it's good to see some competition for young Mr.Cancellara.

All the best, happy riding. Richard.