Tag Archives: Bike saddle fitting

Myth Busting & Tips from Team Sky’s Head Physio

Custom Saddles, Bike Fitting, Training, Coaching Tips
Phil Burt – Head Physio at Team Sky and British Cycling

Phil Burt, Head Physio at British Cycling (BC) and Team Sky, has been working with the world’s top cyclists for nearly a decade, and he has committed his learning and experience to paper in his new book, Bike Fit. There is a great deal of cause & effect analysis in the book, and his perspective and experience have led to a number of cycling’s “facts” being turned up as myths.

I went to his presentation in London last night.   In to discussing the book, he presented highlights from recent academic research into cycling physiology, which further busted some long held “truths” and introduced some great new training tips. Finally, he shared a few stories from working with folks like Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish over the years. Here are highlights from Phil’s presentation.

  • Marginal gains are irrelevant until you get your own weight and fitness where they need to be.  In 2010 Bradley Wiggins had every benefit BC and Sky sports science could provide at the Tour de France, but he wasn’t fit enough.  After that, Team Sky made a rule – no salary payment for any rider until all their month’s power meter data had been uploaded.
  • 70% of the R&D budget for Sky/BC goes into aerodynamics.  Above 18mph, 80% plus of energy expended goes into pushing you through air, so that’s where they’re finding the best return on investment.
  • BC has designed their own women’s saddles, as standard models were creating major soft tissue damage on many of the women riders.  (If you’re having an issue, we can help )
  • Proper resistance (weight) training also increases endurance, but you have to commit to it throughout the year, not just during a two month “off season”.  The focus is on functional strength for cyclists, by the way, not building biceps.
  • There is no “correct” crank length, as there is no appreciable difference in power output between 150 – 180mm cranks
  • There is NO difference in muscle group recruitment between 80 – 120 rpm with your cadence
  • There is NO benefit, and even a loss of efficiency, in pulling up with your hamstrings during your pedal stroke.
  • Speedplay are the most “knee friendly” pedals
  • There was an epidemic of knee problems at Sky/BC when another pedal manufacturer made a small (and un-announced) increase in the spring tension in their cleats
  • Bradley Wiggins suffers for his success.  He may look smooth on his time trial bike, but that position is NOT comfortable.
  • Saddle Fit is the single most important element of a Time Trial fit.  If you cannot hold the aero position for the full race, what’s the point?  Discomfort on the saddle is the primary reason people get out of their tuck.
  • The most common cycling injuries he works with are knees, back and neck, in that order
  • It is NOT true that knees should track directly up and down viewed from the front.  If they do, fine.  But as long as you’re not having any pain, don’t try to fix it.  Every knee has its own bio mechanics, so only alter the knee movement if there is knee pain.
  • Wiggins’ recent advice to neo-pros going to high altitude training camp, “Bring your own porn boys, there’s no internet at the hotel”