An interview with Andrés Angulo, owner of Athlete Forward, by Paul Swift, of Bike Fit Systems.
Can you fill us in on more of your background regarding where and how you started with cycling and some highlights?
I have been riding a road bike on and off for about 25 years. I learned to ride at the age of 6, but my passion for cycling was sparked during the 1984 Tour de France, when Luis Herrera won as an amateur rider the Alpe d'Huez stage. By 1985, I was already a huge fan of cycling. I was reading and learning everything about it, listening to every big and small race over the radio...it became my new life. I started cycling seriously in 1986, when my dad got me my first road bike, a Peugeot. Initially I was a young amateur racer in Colombia, and transitioned to the US racing scene when I moved here in the early 90s, and then again in 2000. My competitive cycling career was interrupted in 1990 due to a serious accident. I have been to the tour de France as a fan and journalist four times.
What do you spend most of your time doing with cycling today? Give us a typical day...
My day is spent among two main activities: coaching athletes and working on my coaching and training software, which I will launch soon. Most of my athletes are road racers, but I coach a couple of mountain bikers and a couple of triathletes. I ride in the mornings, and when I get to my office, I check my athlete's logs, communicate with them, and see what needs to be adjusted. I may also do a bike fit. I am doing an average of 2 or 3 bike fits every month.
And how long have you been doing bike fits?
I started doing bike fits for other people around 2001. I decided to start coaching then and complemented my services by doing bike fits to my athletes and the members of my cycling club. Then in 2008, I had the fortune to come across The Bicycle Fitting System
and tools thanks to our common friend Bilko
. Bike Fit's methodology, tools, and attention to detail, opened a whole new world to me. I had been doing fits for many years and I thought I knew it all, but in reality I was missing very key aspects of a bike fit, while focusing on others that were not nearly as important.
What was it that sparked your initial interest in bike fits?
I knew from personal experience that the position on a bike was essential to cycling comfort, performance, and ultimately success. I had been tinkering with my own position for years, since I got my first bike. I was obsessed with frame angles, saddle heights, fore-afts, bar widths, cleats, etc, you name it. If it had a bolt or if it could move, I would play with it.
Do you remember the original name of the Cleat Wedges? And how did you first come to try them?
I don't really remember the original wedges
... was it the Big Meat wedges or something like that?
You have had training with The Bicycle Fitting System--what led you to choose this instructional training?
The system impressed me by its focus on the foot-shoe-pedal interface, which is where it all begins, goes full circle, and ends.
Have you had other bike fit education? Can you give us your thoughts on training at your location, versus training at another facility? What were the benefits to having training come to you?
I had informal bike fit education by reading books like Bernard Hinault's, Greg LeMond's, a few coaching manuals, a biomechanics college course, and what you read online. I did have a lot of experience with my own position and then applying to people the methods I read about, but that wasn't always applicable across the board. Having Bike Fit education at my location allowed me to fit some of my own athletes, some of whom I know had had comfort and performance issues for years. My limited self-training and bike fit experience wasn't enough to learn how to deal with such a wide range of issues.
I charged my athletes some for the bike fit, and that allowed me to offset any costs related to my training. They were happy to pay because it was a unique opportunity, you know, having an industry leader address and help solve their issues.
In all your bike fit training, what was one relevant aspect to making you a better fitter, or to offering better bike fitting services?
For me, that's simple: the foot-shoe-pedal interface. No doubt about that. Learning how to recognize it and correct it so that it translates in comfort and performance for the athlete is the single most relevant aspect that makes me a better fitter.
My feet supinate a great deal, so I understood from personal experience the value of the wedges. Issues like this, I have noticed, tend to be more structural than functional. Some things can't be corrected by addressing muscle imbalances. Many times you just need a wedge or two, or three and even four as in my case!
What is it that drove you to be involved in bikes and then focus on helping people with bike fitting? Why do you do bike fitting?
I do bike fits for several reasons: first, as a coach and cycling fanatic, I cringe whenever I see someone riding in a position that is uncomfortable to them (often unbeknownst to them). Second, it allows me to complement my income as a coach. Third, I have a unique opportunity to educate the riders about bike fit, and to tell them more about my services.
What demographics are most of the cyclists that come to you for a fit (age, gender, type of rider and so on)?
I would say 60% of the people I fit are males. Probably 75% of my fit clients are over the age of 40. About 60% are competitive riders, and 40% recreational.
Do you see a lot of runners migrating to cycling due to injury?
I know there are many runners that transition into cycling. The ones who have come to me for coaching are young riders wanting to take on an additional challenge, or master athletes wanting to take up a new sport. Fortunately injuries aren't the biggest reason runners have sought my services.
And why do most cyclists come to you for a bike fit (due to pain/discomfort, injury, performance, etc.)?
Discomfort and performance are the two main reasons people come to see me.
Can you share with us something about a particular bike fit?
The other day, a person came to me to have three bikes fitted in one day: his road, his cyclocross and his time-trial bike.
What was interesting, however, was that he had been fitted by an ex-professional rider, who is also a high-profile coach. The fits were so poorly done, that the client thought he needed to spend the next two months just developing his flexibility off the bike, before he could get on his bike. In a way, he was afraid to ride because his bikes were very uncomfortable. He is a long distance runner and Iron Man racer, but he was fit on a velodrome for optimal performance, yet he could not ride his TT on that super-aggressive position for more than 15 minutes... He left my office not only without that fear, but eager to start his training on the bike much sooner than he had anticipated.
When did you create Athlete Forward? And why?
Athlete Forward was a way to my new career. My first profession was as an industrial engineer, but around 2001, I decided to put my knowledge and experience to the use of others as a coach and I created Advanced Cycling and then Athlete Forward. I became a USA Cycling coach in 2004 and achieved the Level 1 (elite) last year. I am also finishing a master's degree in Exercise Science, solidifying my position as a professional coach.
Your accomplishment that you are most proud of is...? ...as a fitter?
I am my own worst critic. I have very high goals and ambitions so I will say that the most proud accomplishment is yet to come.
Who is your favorite coach you worked with?
I never had a coaching mentor, either as a young cyclist or as a coach. I am yet to meet that person that will impact my life as a coach. I became self-made by reading books such as "Fundamentos Técnicos del Ciclismo" by Prof. Juan Carlos Pérez, "Técnica de la Bicicleta y del Ciclista" by Clemente Hernández, "Cyclisme Sur Route" by Bernard Hinault, all in the 1980s. I continue to read cycling and training books, and journal articles to keep up with the latest research.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I like a section of the Man in the Arena speech that President Theodore Roosevelt gave in Paris on April 23th, 1910:
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
Who is your favorite cyclist in the peloton today? And why?
I have to be honest and say that I have lost a lot of passion for the professional peloton for the reasons we all know about. I don't have anyone now that I follow. I grew up with a different idea of the sport than what it has turned out to be. Maybe as young fans of the sport, and as outsiders, we grow up naïve. We don't know what's really inside it, and when its dirty secrets have been exposed, even if it is for the better (and I truly believe so), there is disappointment that comes with it.
Interviews at the Tour de France... a favorite interview? And why?
Probably my most memorable moments came when I was there to witness and celebrate the victories of my Colombian riders and friends Félix Cárdenas in Ax-les-Thermes in 2001, Santiago Botero in Les Deux-Alpes in 2002, and Victor Hugo Peña winning the Team Time Trial with US Postal and wearing yellow in 2003. I visited with them on a personal level and interviewed them for Colombian television after their wins.
I interviewed all the cycling personalities, current riders at the time, as well as retired. Probably the highlight of those was the interview of Bernard Hinault, whom I asked to sign for me the book he wrote and I bought in 1987.
Any other interesting stories from your time on the Tour circuit?
Too many to list here. My favorite is how I got "inside" the tour in 2000, which allowed me to come back in 2001, 2002, and 2003. But it's too good a story to tell it in a few lines...
Well, I have heard this story and if you get to meet Andrés, you need to sit down and buy him a drink or dinner and hear about it. Yes, it needs more than a few lines in an interview!
Contador--How many Tours can he win?
One or two more.
Tyler Farrar--Can he win the Green Jersey some day?
I think so. I think he's still making progress as a sprinter and becoming a more solid rider.
Who is the next great US rider?
Taylor Phinney (but we all know that), and then Lawson Craddock (I think we all know that).
Who should we be watching out for from Colombia?
Rigoberto Uran: only 23 and one of the most talented riders in the pro peloton today. We will see a lot from him in the years to come.
One piece of advice you can offer to aspiring cyclists today?
(1) Get a bike fit; (2) hire the best coach you can afford, who will pay attention to YOU; and (3) be willing to train very, very hard. There are many sacrifices that come with this lifestyle. Make sure you understand what they are before you dream about being a professional cyclist.
If there was one thing you could change or improve on bikes, what would it be and why?
I would love to see the price of high-end bicycles come down. I would make them cheaper to facilitate getting people in the competitive aspect of the sport, especially in third-world countries.
I know you must be working on something...Any new projects on the horizon?
Yes. I am developing the next generation of training software. It is going to be something that will set a new standard for training and managing the training of athletes. The tool is called Athlete Forward and you can find us online at www.AthleteForward.com
. We plan to have the tool released in early October, but you can sign up now and be one of the first ones to know when we will release it.
One piece of advice you can offer to bike fitters today?
Do as many bike fits as you can to gain experience. Nothing substitutes that experience. Have plenty of wedges
and other materials in stock. Oh, and get those self-leveling lasers; they will make your life easier.
We would like to thank Andrés for his time and sharing some of his passion for cycling with us. The first time I met Andrés was like meeting an old friend. I think most people will have a similar experience. When you run into him make sure to ask him about how he talked his way into being a journalist at the Tour de France. In the meantime make sure to check out his software.
Paul Swift - BikeFit