Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tad Hughes Custom. From Skeptic to Superfan!

The fit is an elusive piece of equipment that is not tangible, is not a shiny bit, and will never be coveted by your peers.  But it can make a night or day difference in performance, especially late in events.   There has been a fair amount of research as well as anecdotal evidence that shows that a fit is a valuable tool that can improve performance, yet many can rationalize why we have not been properly fit, yet.   I spent a weekend in Houston a short time ago and stopped by Tad Hughes Custom to see, hear and experience the service from a specialist. 

First some background about Tad:  Tad has been involved in the industry since he was 14 years old; performing many duties including: rider, high end mechanic, and the Colonago Technical Director for the USA.  In time, all this led him towards the art of the bike fit back when it was voodoo being performed by those with some obscure and unknown knowledge.  He has worked with pioneers of the craft such as Andy Pruitt, Michael Sylvester, Scott Holtz, and Paul Swift to develop his own program over the course of thousands of clients that encompasses everyone at every level.  As a specialist, Tad has taken the fit process to a new paramount, encompassing biomechanics and the influence they have on injury prevention and performance.  From my time with Tad, I deduced this logic that drives Tad’s theory: Pain free riders are injury free riders. Injury free riders are faster and have more fun than riders with nagging or acute injuries.  The bike must always adapt (sometimes via custom hardware) to fit the rider instead of the rider conforming to the bike. 

Tad works with clients of all skill level but his most intriguing challenges are those with limitations outside the norm.  Tad takes a thorough biomechanical evaluation of flexibility and structural limitations of every client, recording his findings and keeping them filed in similar fashion as a medical record.  This would be especially useful for clients as time progresses to make adaptations for weakness that develop.  And it is the best possible way to eductate Junior riders to be aware of his/her limitations and biomechanical parameters.
As a client, I expect that the bike will be made to fit my body including my flat feet (which effect the way pedal forces go through your knees).  I expect that adaptations will be made to account for my background and history including injuries and disciplines.  Basically, I expect a specialist to so good at what he/ she does, I will not be able to suggest how to improve the service.  Those are very high expectations which hard to meet and Tad Hughes Custom invested the time and energy to actively listen to all of my issues, then went on to exceed every expectation. 

Immediately, I noticed the difference.  To begin with my feet felt… great.   The arches were properly supported; a remarkable upgrade from before.  Second, my back was straighter and thus more flat, allowing for better aerodynamics.  Tad made some other adjustments that enabled me to enter my pedal stroke a few degrees earlier and which made the pedaling motion feel much more complete, improving efficiency.  However the most surprising and enexpected sensation was that my bike still felt like my bike.  Surprising right?!  No awkwardness.  My bike.   The next day was a 2.5 hour road ride with lots of starting and stopping followed by an 85 mile road race.  To my surprise, absolutely zero soreness.  I wasn’t even tight.  You know the fit is perfect when there are no physical repercussions.    In a follow-up meeting a few weeks later, there is still no residual pain or “awkward” feelings.

As a professional in the industry and a formally educated and trained coach, I have an intimate knowledge of athletics, performance and biomechanics.  Tad’s knowledge of biomechanics and how they relate to cycling, and the implications they have towards performance are unrivaled. Everything feels superb and I must say, I am impressed.