How do you customise a cycling short? The concept has been occupying some of the finest minds at Scottish clothing brand, Endura, which last September announced that it would supply WorldTour giants, Movistar for three years.
Endura seized the opportunity presented by the Belfast Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia to arrange a fitting session for their Spanish clients of the new FS260-Pro SL short, which is offered with a choice of three different inserts and two different leg lengths in a bid to bring an element of the bespoke, so popular in other aspects of cycling from frame design to shoes, to clothing.
The brand conducted the fitting in Belfast with the assistance of cycling analyst, James Hewitt, from the highly-respected London shop, Cyclefit, and a system called GebioMized. The tool – which uses a sensor-laden saddle cover to relay pressure-mapping data to a sophisticated software application – is used to improve comfort and performance by revealing so-called ‘hot spots’. Analysts like Hewitt use the software to adjust a rider’s position.
Colombian climbing sensation, Nairo Quintana, Movistar’s leader at the Giro and the pre-race favourite, was among those who pedaled on a turbo trainer in a Belfast hotel while Hewitt recorded a series of measurements. Perhaps significantly, Quintana was the most interested of any of his team-mates in the data. The Colombian, speaking through an interpreter provided by Endura, asked a series of questions and took photographs of screenshots containing a graphical representation of his position on the saddle and the attendant pressure points.
“As bike fitters and cycling analysts, it’s fun to work with the athletes who ask the questions,” Hewitt told RCUK. Cyclefit is bike fitter to Trek Factory Racing, and the session with Movistar he said had been a similar experience. “Some of the guys just want to do their job, which they see as riding their bike. They’re very adaptable. They’ll ride whatever they’re given. They’re very professional, but they don’t feel they need to know all the details.”
Quintana, however, was typical of a separate group of riders. “Other athletes are very interested,” Hewitt continued. “They’re always looking for opportunities to engage in product development, and technical aspects of the sport. They ask questions. They’re looking for opportunities to improve their performance.”
So which aspects of the session had Quintana been most interested by? “He wanted us to interpret the data on the screen: the graphics, which he took some photos of,” Hewitt revealed. “[He wanted to see] where the pressure was, whether he was symmetrical, how that compared to the others. But also he was interested in what that would mean specifically in terms of the pad he was selecting from the Endura range; what that meant in terms of its width, and what that looked like; he wanted to go and see it.”
Quintana and his team-mates wore an unpadded waist short for the fittings. This ‘measurement short’ will be supplied by Endura to shops who decide to stock the FS260-Pro SL short. Endura can also sell the GeboMized software and saddle cover to dealers, but this is likely to appeal only to shops already offering a fit service, according to Endura’s Katrin Engel. So far Cyclefit is the only UK dealer.
The shorts will also be sold by Endura stockists without the GeboMized package, but any fit recommendation will be limited to what Engel described as a “very rough” fitting guide on the back of the box. That said, the results of the sophisticated measurements taken by Hewitt would perhaps not have been too far removed from the size and pad width options that Quintana and co. would have chosen for themselves had they bought ‘off-the-shelf’.
Unsurprisingly, analysis of Quintana’s data has led to a recommendation for shorts in size extra small and with the narrowest of the three pads. Similar results were recorded for all of the Movistar riders analysed. “This sport has a brutal natural selection process, which ends up with a particular somatotype,” Hewitt said. “They’re compact guys, even the powerful riders – on TV they look quite big, but they’re generally quite compact. You’re looking for a good power to wait ratio and low wind resistance.”
A choice of pad width may be of greater value to the cycling public, among whom a wider range of body types exists. Colombian climbing specialists bear little resemblance to the typical European sportive rider. Significantly, perhaps, Quintana appeared to find value in the exercise and in the GeboMized data, but perhaps this is what separates champions even from their successful team-mates. The pursuit of marginal gains is not limited to Team Sky, it would seem, and Endura would hope to offer some to their most high-profile clients, as well as to their customers.