It was on the last few days of what was an amazing bike tour of the Puglia region in Italy where I was offered a ride in L’Eroica the following year. I must admit I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I knew A’qto (the tour company) would make it the most wonderful experience ever, so I just said yes without giving it much more thought.
As it was described to me over a couple of vinos, L’Eroica is the most amazing Gran Fondo that uses many of the roads of the Strade Bianche. To add to the challenge you are required to use a vintage bike which comes from a time before clipless pedals (pre 1987).
I have been an active amateur cyclist for most of my adult life and have raced many such bikes. I laughed aloud thinking back to how bad those steel bikes were. If you ever raced on one, you would know how much bikes have improved over the years. But what a challenge just the same I thought. Damian from A’qto helped me source a beautiful Colnago from the correct era. What a looker of a bike, but on my first ride on it I wondered if I had just not thought this all through enough.
Steel may be real but it’s also heavy, and with so few gears I wondered how even the rolling hills of Tuscany would feel like. With the Rolls saddle and those handlebars that were made pre the discovery of ergonomics, using those restrictive toe straps all had me worried. Ouch, I have to do 200 kms over gravel on this thing you say?
Well then 2020 came along and some of our plans had to change abruptly. Now we are in 2022 and I feel it is time to now do this thing. The ride is scheduled for early October this year. I confirmed it with A’qto so we are now all systems go.
When Harvey from MC Cyclery mentioned MC's bike fitting service, I thought I’d use it to explore what could be done about making the vintage bike more comfortable. I imagined we could swap out some touch points to maybe find a way to make it more comfortable, so I booked a bike fit with MC's resident Bike Fitter, Phil. I had intended of course to take my vintage bike in for the fitting but when I heard more about Phil's knowledge about bikefitting I decided I would take my daily driver in instead and use the results learned to then also adjust the Colnago later. I think that was a good decision.
I immediately felt comfortable with Phil as I could tell he was a good listener and he was also methodical in his approach. Obviously bikefitting has changed a lot over the years with the use of motion cameras and software and the like, but Phil clearly knows how to use these tools. He quickly picked up an issue with wear on my ‘much too old’ speedplay pedals and we put in a shim to sort out a small leg length difference. He adjusted the cleats with ever finer changes until he had my pedal stroke sorted. He then pushed my saddle back a touch to get my glutes working again and then suggested I drop my handlebars to reduce the pressure on my shoulders and hands. To be honest, I thought after so many years of riding I had a well sorted position but it’s amazing over time how much your body adjusts and accommodates the mistakes you make in your position.
My pedal stroke suddenly felt really smooth and my knees were tracking as they should. Phil took so much time with me to dial in the new position exactly right and it really did feel great.
When I got home I jumped on Zwift to do a race and see what the new position would feel like under load. Well I was more than happy when I checked the results in Zwift Power, to see I had topped the grade. The position indeed did feel more powerful so I decided to immediately do a ramp test on Zwift even though I wasn’t fresh. Was I just imagining things? Straight away the ramp test felt different and I was shocked to find my FTP had increased by 10%. I have done so many FTP tests over the years using my Tacx Neo and rarely had seen a change of more than a few watts at any one time.
I have since adjusted the Colnago and taken it out for a ride and all the issues I had with the touch points have gone away. Damn the Rolls isn’t such a bad saddle after all as long as it’s in the right position, and the handlebars are fine now that I am sitting back and my shoulders are relaxed.
Thanks Phil. Siena here I come.