Bike Fitting solves problems, increases rider confidence and passes bike/body knowledge to the rider in a feedback loop.
Let’s explore the top 7 reasons to get a bike fit in 2021:
1. Your previous positional adjustment session is now outdated. Bike fits are dynamic. This means your body both adapts to cycling positions and your range of motion progresses, or regresses over time. This is very important as we experience major physical changes in our body due to injury, surgery or the birth of a child.
2. A professional bike fitter’s eye and confirming technology, offer a non-biased observation of your cycling position. A sound bike fit philosophy, coupled with experience, will properly guide the bike fit session to a positive outcome. A bike fit is about the body first, and the bike second.
The philosophy I operate with is this: Every adjustment or intervention should serve three pillars in the order they appear: 1) Optimize your breathing efficiency; 2) Improve your postural stability; and 3) Increase the control of your movement, including the leverage on the pedals. There are many intertwined procedures in a well-developed bike fit protocol that work to achieve this.
3. Fit first, buy second. Please consider completing a proper bike sizing before buying a new bike. Bikes come in many different sizes, not only in each subset of bike style, but can from manufacturer to manufacturer as well. That said, two ‘road bikes’ may fit very differently for a single rider. Endurance road and race road are very different in the way they fit. During the pandemic, there is certainly a shortage of bikes available in local bike shops which has led to more online and used bike purchases than ever before.
A professional bike fit studio will offer a bike sizing service to generate a list of bikes that will fit you, along with the alterations to the saddle, foot/pedal interface and cockpit. This is typically done on a sizing jig like the Exit MKII. Pro tip: ‘Frame stack and reach’ is far more accurate to determine what suits you, over the frame size, be it: small, medium, 52, 54, etc.
4. Your new bike or cycling gear alters your fitting needs. Ok, so you bought first and plan to fit second. This is where the new bike, shoes, saddle or cleats need to be adjusted to optimize your position. Two bikes of the same frame size may have unique dimensions that affect your reach on the pedals and handle bars, such as Q-factor, crank length, and/or frame stack and reach. Even two of the same saddles can vary in height if the replaced saddle padding has been smashed over months of indoor training where there is little shifting of position over extended periods of time. Shoes and pedal systems are also going to be affected.
5. You experience pain or discomfort early in each ride. Consider this, we sign up for suffering not pain. Riding a bike is often the prescription of physiotherapists for rehab. If this is the case, then we need to schedule a professional bike fit to ensure the symmetrical/adjustable bike meets the needs of your asymmetrical/adaptable body.
80% of riders are on a saddle that doesn’t fit them or is the wrong size. The best way to determine this is with a Saddle Studio session. This involves a bike fit studio equipped with tools to swap out saddles rapidly so you can test the feel of the size, shape and padding to meet your pelvis and soft tissues. Think of trying bike saddles like trying on shoes or pants. You rarely do this with just your eyes. Lastly, a saddle that is too high or too low can cause knee and back discomfort within minutes. The bike fitter’s job is to position your pelvis, relative to the bottom bracket, so that the pedalling load is spread evenly between your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and to a lesser extent, your calves and hip flexors. With a stable pelvis on a proper saddle, there should be just enough weight on your hands to steer the bike.
6. You are trying a new type of cycling. Some of us start with road riding for fitness and want to add the thrill of mountain biking to our lives. Or, we are single track champs and want to add gravel rides when trails are too muddy. You can only transfer the bike fit specs from one style of bike to another so much. A road bike is a different beast than a full-suspension mountain bike. Your saddle height from a narrow road bike won’t easily transfer to the burly mountain bike for a number of reasons mentioned in reason #4. Completing a bike fit on a mountain bike involves tire pressure and suspension considerations directly related to the types of trails you ride.
7. You are seeking to add gains in power and efficiency. As mentioned in the first reason for a bike fit, a fitter’s eye and technology add a coaching element to a bike fit session through biofeedback. This means, the real-time analysis of oxygen saturation, heart rate, power output, pelvis stability and pedal stroke efficiency can generate insight into ways riders can create marginal gains without months of training. Many professional riders get bike fits throughout their careers as their adaptations to positions have shifted the compensation load, without them knowing, to inefficient places in the kinetic chain.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of either having a positive previous fit experience, having a desperate need, receiving meaningful advice or word of mouth that influences the decision to get a bike fit.
Whomever you enlist to be on your personal cycling rider/fitter team, you will need to understand and believe if their bike fit philosophy. This is no different than the success that comes from a healthy athlete/coach relationship or even cyclist/mechanic relationship. Just look at cyclist Kate Courtney and her mechanic, the meticulous and world-renowned Brad Copeland. She always credits him with her podium success.
I, your bike fitter, am only as successful as you feel and perform. Your cycling enjoyment is my greatest achievement.
Flexion Bike Fit is Edmonton’s newest independent professional bike fitting service offering a COVID-19 safe, one-on-one bike fitting and sizing service in a home-based studio. Bike Fitter Cody Osborne provides services for all levels and styles of riders.