Recently we have been talking with a lot of customers about 'finding the right fit' - a combination of so so many things including gear selection and setup, rider positioning, and clothing combinations. To get the best advice we teamed up with Soomom, an Australian cycling apparel company who take pride in crafting tight and aero garments. Soomom and us went to ask a few questions to Prue Fowler, multiple national NZ champion and Olympic team contender for road and track cycling. Hear what she thinks about bike setup, staying aerodynamic, and how it matters to feel good while riding.
Hi Prue, can you introduce yourself and what got you into cycling.
Prue is an Iron man's daughter. After being to Kona twice to see her dad race and having spent countless weekends going to races, she caught the cycling bug pretty early on.
Her older sister got into it first, then she followed. Contrary to many countries, school cycling is enormous in NZ. There is a great variety of disciplines, plenty of support, so it's easy to get involved early.
Prue comes from a swimming background, but after getting hold off her sister's bike, she started riding more and more. One summer, she decided to get into rowing, and by the end of March that year, she had decided she wanted to pursue cycling. Her Dad's DNA and passion runs into the family.
What do you like most, and what was your most significant achievement?
At 18 years of age, Prue is coming up to her 8th year on the bike. She has won the Oceania games track team competition with team NZ, and is now focusing on the world championship, hoping to race internationally soon.
Being a very eclectic rider, she has touched every possible type of bike but is currently focussing on track and road. Being selected for the world championship in Egypt for 2021 was incredible; however, COVID would throw a spanner in the works.
The issue with young cyclists, especially females, is the budget allocated to them. It's minimal, and racing overseas is extremely expensive, especially coming from NZ.
What do you ride most between track / road, and what do you like best?
When it comes to riding, balance is everything. Road riding complements track and vice versa; doing only one wouldn't work. Track racing improves road riding abilities by improving top-end power and speed. Also, riding on the track is tight, very tight. And it helps with bunch racing on the road.
Auckland doesn't have a world-class velodrome, only an outdoor setting, so getting out on the road gives you different sensations.
With your ironman dad, How does aerodynamic impact your ride? With clothing / with wheels?
To Prue, the look good feels good of garments is very important. Knowing that she is wearing tight, streamlined clothing and designed to make her win milliseconds makes her more confident. While racing, confidence is vital; it gives you a competitive edge.
Aero and disc wheels are a crucial part of the equipment. When it comes to track, it's even more critical. Many races are won by a mere 0.1 of a second, so the more aerodynamic you are, the more chances you have to win.
The gap between age category and equipment is significant. From small rings and standard wheels to big ring, bull bars, and full disc, it's an enormous change young riders have to go through. But as Prue puts it : "Getting used to double-disc can be challenging; a lot of people find it intimidating because it's harder to find balance. But once you get used to it, it's a totally different ball game. You go quicker, more pace, and you find a different rhythm that you would with regular wheels on."
When was the first time you could feel the difference between riding normal gears and aero wheels.
Swapping from regular wheels to aero wheels was no easy task; the feeling is so different, even the best of young athletes need a bit of time to adapt. Prue had the chance to try them on at Cambridge, a world-class velodrome.
Prue describes the feeling as learning how to ride again; it's tough to get stable. But once passed this first impression, it's life-changing. Riding becomes incredibly smooth, like riding on a carpet, and once you get up to speed, you're in a rail; all you have to do is keep spinning.
Have you got any advice for people that want to become quicker on the bike / more aero?
What matters the most on the bike is to be comfortable; having a sore back or sore knees decreases your performance the most. It can come from many different things, such as bike fit, saddle and wheels, so it's all about finding a setup suitable for you and making you comfortable on the bike. Having the best gears and setting up your bike like the top racers won't do you any good if you're in pain.
Comfort in clothing is paramount, especially with the bibs. Prue wears Italian chamois pads and tight fits that she deems the most comfortable on long distances.