Seriously, I struggle with this because I’ve been to various fitting and coaching schools, I see no value to their certifications. I also keep an eye on what other coaches claim, it seems they’re all former pros and national champions (they’re not). What I value in a coach seems to be different than most, people flock to the big names in racing. Being a big name in racing means they started by picking the right parents – I doubt they can help you with that.
I have one certification which I’m proud of. I learned from John Allis. John was the coach of the Harvard cycling team for 30 years, constantly producing outstanding results. He had a secret to his success which he passed along to me – you have to ride with them to teach them. John was out on his bike with his riders every morning in cold New England winters, teaching what he had learned over his racing career to new riders. The only certification I value is John Allis asking me to continue coaching the team.
Fitting/coaching classes & certifications
- FitKit & R.A.D certification
- Serotta elements fitting school
- Serotta advanced fitting school
- Specialized BG+ certification (before the Retul buyout)
- Retul certification
- USCF coaching certification
- Yes, I raced my bike…
What all of that really means
- FitKit: An attempt at a fitting system from back in the 70’s based on the position of pro cyclists of the time. The certification means I could look up suggested top tube and stem lengths on charts…
- R.A.D. pedal certification: The one thing the FitKit system got right and something I still use today. It’s nothing more than a pair of free floating pedals with metal rods sticking out the side, but they tell me the riders natural foot orientation as they pedal the bike. Few bike fitters use them, insisting that the static and dynamic positions are the same. Oddly, when one of the other fitter’s cleat fitting causes knee pain they come to me…
- Serotta elements fitting school: The purpose in going to this 4 day fitting school was to learn a sequence of steps in doing fittings. What I really learned was the basis for injury prevention in fitting.
- Serotta advanced fitting school: I learned that fitting school instructors don’t work with their clients on a long term basis. At the time I took this class I had far more actual fitting experience than the instructors. The purpose of this class was to teach me how to increase the time and cost of a fitting.
- Specialized BG+ (body geometry with motion capture): This was my shop’s first attempt to use video as a fitting tool. My issue with this was that it wasn’t a useful tool for the client – they got no long term value out of seeing how they pedal during the fitting. It’s a sales tool at best.
- Retul: The Retul motion capture device and the data it produces is a powerful long term fitting and training device. The Retul fitting method is total crap. It’s really the same thing as the FitKit, only the measuring device has gone high tech and the charts have been replaced with files on a computer. I lost all respect for Retul when I watched the instructors do a fitting on a paying customer. The woman walked in with specific problems, they did their standard fit (there is no requirement for knowing how to ride to be a Retul fitter – that became apparent to me) and she left with the same problems she started with.
- USCF coaching certification: At one point the Harvard cycling team was required to have a certified coach. John Allis found it insulting for people with no experience in racing to teach him how to coach riders, so I wound up taking the class. The class content was written by lawyers, the coach who was running the national program was the same person who had tried to get me on their “blood boosting” program when I was 17.
- Yes, I raced my bike: I was actually pretty good. I made it as far as Junior National Team selection. The head coach at the time was Eddie B. He felt that all the other teams were cheating somehow and insisted that his riders did everything they could to improve performance. Even at 17 I knew that was a really bad idea.
Real experience in fitting & coaching
I am a student of the learning process, which seems to get ignored by most. Most coaching programs make the assumption that riders already have the basic skills. I have spent decades riding with new riders, teaching them how to draft and corner. It’s a time consuming process but my novice riders from years past are some of the best and most skilled riders today. I coached the Harvard cycling team for 15 years (Covid19 put a halt to that), I have been coaching members of a local cycling club for the past 5 years.
I now spend my winters teaching pedal stroke classes which are the basis for my coaching program. People don’t learn how to efficiently pedal a bike by accident, more often they borrow a skill set from walking which prevents them from being efficient. I have not yet branded my method with a name (my students call it the Sassler method), but it is my way of producing significant performance gains for my riders, many of whom are in their 50’s and 60’s.
I have been fitting riders for over 20 years. Bike fitting is a learning process, my understanding of the human body and how it interfaces with a machine (the bike) is always expanding. I keep an eye on what other fitters are doing and I build test devices to better understand how the body reacts to forces. A bike fitting is only as good as the information I can get from a rider, much of that is hidden.
I still coach on the bike. This is a point that few of the local coaches can say. I have decades of riding experience to share with my riders, which can’t be done by sending workouts and testing FTP. At 57 years old I’m still fast enough to gain respect from 17 year olds. Each year I have to learn how to pedal a little better than the year before just to maintain the same speed – that’s what I have to teach.