When I talk to athletes about a bike fit, I often hear, “I don’t need a bike fit, the shop guy did one when I bought my bike”, or “Why should I pay all that money when my bike feels fine and I’m not injured?”.
While these points may very well be true, they don’t always mean that you have a proper fitting bike. Some people are able to ride for quite a while on an ill fitting bike with very little adverse affects, but sooner or later, a bike that doesn’t fit properly will cause issues. Many times, the “bike fitting” that comes free with most bike purchases, is generally worth every penny you pay for it. Also, even though your current bike fit is comfortable, you may be missing out on additional power and speed because your bike fit is not optimal.
A proper bike fit is necessary for injury prevention, optimal performance, efficient energy expenditure and muscle economy, as well as comfort. This is particularly true for athletes who purchase their bikes “off the shelf” from a bike shop, sporting goods store, or off the internet. Mass produced, non-custom bikes are designed with the masses in mind, with the idea that they will be a close fit for many people.
Unfortunately, a bike from your local bike shop may be the correct size bike for many different people, but won’t come fitted to any. Some people have a long torso and short legs, others a short torso and long legs, some have long arms, and some short, etc., and the bike must be fitted to your own particular needs. To make the whole bike fit equation even more convoluted, you may be able to achieve the same body position on 2 different size bikes from the same manufacturer.
Many shops will determine your frame size by taking your inseam measurement or simply base your frame size on your height using the assumption that the taller you are, the larger the frame size you will need. While these methods sometimes result in the right frame size, they can often result in the wrong frame size because one size in a particular manufacturer’s bike could be a completely different size in another manufacturer’s bike. For example, I have a 56cm Cervelo and a 52cm Colnago, and both bikes fit me well.
To ensure that you are riding a bike that will allow you many miles of injury free riding, comfort, and maximum performance, you should talk to a reputable bike fitter. Here are my 5 tips to picking a good bike fitter.
Choose a fitter who will check and alter your foot-pedal interface as necessary. This is critical for preventing knee and hip injuries.
Choose a fitter who will do a dynamic fit using video analysis. A dynamic fit is more accurate than a static fit.
Your fitter should do a pre and post fit power analysis. This will show that your fit will make a difference in your performance and efficiency.
If a fitter says their fit will take less than 2 hours, find someone else.
- Finally, if possible, choose a fitter who can assess your body’s bio-mechanical needs such as range of motion, leg length discrepancies, knee tracking, and hip alignment.