Mark Dwyre, one of Canada’s premier bike fit experts, shares his vision of bike fitting and it’s not all about the bike.
Almost right away Mark Dwyre of TI Cycle admits “some of these techniques are unconventional, not a lot of people are thinking this way.” Having previously experienced several bike fits, I was immediately curious about what would follow the typical questionnaire covering training hours, diet, injuries, season goals, experience. “It helps to have an open mind about these techniques,” he adds.
These “techniques” he refers to are the art of bike fitting. Instead of using computer generated measurements, Dwyre ultimately relies on his highly trained eye to position a cyclist for optimum performance. He modestly denies the label of “expert” but it is a title he has earned with over 15 years of experience, fitting everyone from weekend warriors to Olympians, and a title deserved after recently completing three weeks of intensive one-on-one training with Australian bike fit guru Steve Hogg.
In search of better methods of foot correction for clients at his Ganonoque based store TI Cycle, Dwyre started to follow Hogg’s blog and, to the best of his ability, began applying the foot correction techniques to himself and a few close clients. “The results of my fittings improved even though I wasn’t fully trained in Hogg’s patented methods,” he says. After two seasons, Dwyre went to Australia to train with Hogg himself. He is now one of only four others in the world certified to use Hogg’s latest methods.
It is hard to fully describe the methods but “my clients and I can see the results,” he says. Bike fitting isn’t a “measurement system or model,” I learn. “People are hung up with measurements and that’s not what this is…” Bike fitting, Dwyre says, can’t be learned online or in a video. It takes months to learn and, as his expertise demonstrates, years to master. “I’ve returned to relying on my observational skill,” Dwyre explains, a skill that simply requires time and experience to develop. “I don’t rely solely on measurements as I’ve found that they fail to provide a complete picture of the interaction between the cyclist and their bicycle.”
Making a cyclist’s asymmetrical body perform well on a symmetrical bike is all about stability. Performance isn’t just about angles and aerodynamics, he reminds me, it’s a combination of proficiency and comfort which is achieved primarily by stabilizing the rider on the bike. It’s a strange pill to swallow as a cyclist to realize that comfort doesn’t have to be sacrificed for aerodynamics, especially for time trialing, but one that actually makes sense.
Dwyre’s comprehensive fittings run over four hours and, surprisingly, the majority of the fitting is completed off the bike. The off bike assessment focuses on gauging a rider’s functional movement and improving proprioception (the brain’s awareness of the body’s spatial position and movement), the two main challenges to stability. However, the real art of bike fitting happens when the client begins to ride.
Unlike most bike fittings I have experienced, Dwyre has the rider cycle for almost an hour, easy and at intensity, to allow the rider to experience the changes. Meanwhile, Dwyre observes the rider from every angle, making notes, asking questions and translating their feedback into small tweaks and adjustments. As he adjusts the handle bars to accommodate for his client’s 30 year old rib injury, I realize Dwyre’s eye sees beyond the limits of measurement-based fit systems. His ability to adapt the position of rider and bike to accommodate a lifetime of niggles and oddities is something measurements can’t provide.
Although he guarantees he can “significantly improve” anyone’s fit, “a bike fit doesn’t fix everything,” he says, “but it helps.” Some clients, Dwyre notes, need off-bike work like stretching, massage or physical therapy to improve their functional movement and increase their stability on the bike. “You’ll only perform on the bike as well as you perform off the bike,” he says, nodding to his poster that lists proper rest, nutrition and increasing functional movement as the three priorities above saddle time.
Along with new positional information, clients walk away with a list of recommendations and instructions on how they can improve their performance. In addition, he recommends getting a fitting tune up if there is a significant change such as considerable weight loss, an increase in functional movement, or a system change, such as new pedals or shoes.
Dwyre says he was surprised at first when he went to train with Hogg. “It wasn’t about the bike so much as the other techniques to improve proprioception,” he says, and I’m quickly learning the same lesson. Conventional bike fitting forms a part of his service but Dwyre’s expert eye and holistic approach go beyond the performance possibilities of generic bike fitting. While he eschews measurement-based systems and doesn’t rely on convention, clearly, when it comes to bike fitting, he has a vision.