Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cold Case...solved (with forensic analysis)!

Over the past couple of months, people have been offering lots of opinions on my riding style and form on the bike. Now for those of you who know me, know I don't take criticism well, but I've been trying to suck it up and learn from those who have oodles more experience than I do! I've learned so much from my friends about riding and racing, and I really do appreciate it. I really have fun with my cycling buddies, and they keep me on my toes. However, it is not always easy. It has been frustrating over the past couple of months when my form came into question. After watching me race at Mothballs last month (and again in Arizona), the consensus from the gallery was that I was bouncing too much on the seat...speculation was that my seat was too low...and that I was spinning too easy a gear. I also offered that maybe my pedal stroke wasn't good...although I had been working on my pedal stroke, so I wasn't sure about that. I asked a few people about my seat height, and people gave all sorts of opinions, including this classic "it's ok to look funny on the bike if it works for you." Anyway, while all this has been going on, I have been slowly losing confidence in my riding. I did feel myself bouncing more, and just feeling inefficient. When gaps formed on the fastest rides, I couldn't always hang on. People would say "you're stronger than that, you need to ride tougher." (however, when I look at my data from those rides and see those surges into the high 190's...I was just not sure how much tougher I could ride!).

So yesterday morning, preparing for the Saturday AM group ride...I finally decided to play with my seat height. I was kneeling down by the bike, oiling the chain and loosening the seat tube clamp. I go to stand up, and I happened to put my hand on the nose of the seat to boost myself up. Low and behold, the seat flexed a lot more than I expected. I pushed on the middle of it, and it flexed a LOT. I decided that this needed more investigation. So I took the seat off, and then i could clearly feel that there was at least one crack in the plastic was flexing in a VERY bad way. So I am intrigued now, so I cut apart the plastic fake-leather coating, and sure enough, there is a huge crack right across the middle, and the seat is in 3 pieces, held together only by fake leather and the Ti rails (it is a specialized top of the line women's saddle)! Hmmmm.

Anyway, I swapped seats with my TT bike, and went off on my bike ride. This weekend's rides were the strongest I've had in awhile. No more bouncing, no more feeling squishy when I need to put power into the pedals. No getting dropped or even feeling close to it....well, except if you count the flat I got while rolling back into Santa Barbara today.

The embarassing part of this is that I think I've been riding with a broken saddle since I crashed in late November! I am guessing that would be the only impact hard enough to break this saddle the way it cracked. I guess this explains why my masseuse has been complaining about me being asymmetric....and why my bike shorts are all rubbed on the left side but not the right, an issue I never had before. The princess and the pea I most certainly am not!

I'm sure hoping my next set of races finds me in better form! (speaking of which, my race report from Az can be found on my team's blog)

Photos of the seat autopsy forthcoming when I download them...



CyclistRick said...

Yikes! Broken saddles are not a good thing. Hope this gets you back into your usual form.

Are you going to be at Madera?

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

I don't think I'm going to Madera--this year it is the same weekend as Garrett Lemire (Ojai) and Island View in my own backyard, so I'll probably stay close to home. I might head north for some others, though, and definitely Sea Otter.

CyclistRick said...

Ouch. The photos make it look like sitting on that thing would hurt.

As for Madera, it is a tough venue - two days, out far away from most everyone. The only reason we are going is Ms C. wants a practice stage race before Kern.

chatterbox said...

Wow, amazing how the sit bones really do need to be properly supported for your efficiency to be at its best. I could see how you'd be having weird rubbing, etc. But, it's amazing to think that it had such an impact on your performance. Crazy.

Well, I'm glad you figured it out and are going to start feeling more confident again.

Greg Knowles said...

that was a good bit of detective work.