The importance of a professional bike fit


Five years ago I had the privilege of team teaching a class with a fabulous young woman who just happened to race mountain bikes professionally. We had our own classrooms that were just barely separated by a retractable wall, we both car pooled 40 miles each day to work everyday, and so we had a lot of time to talk bikes. At the time I was just getting back into mountain biking and I can credit her for being such a strong influence and inspiration in my world of cycling and more importantly racing. I still think back to her often and the many gems of wisdom that she instilled in my in regards to the bike.

One of those gems that sticks with me the most came when I was building up the bike that I currently have today, my Ellsworth Truth. She said, “Pay the $100 and get yourself a bike fit, it is very much worth the money.”

Well, I didn’t listen to that advice at the time. In fact, it took me until the building process of my new bike to finally get one this past Friday.

True to her words-it is worth your money and something I should have done years ago.

It felt like I was in a psychology office for cyclists. I was first guided through many questions about my fitness level, strengths weaknesses, aches, pains, flexibility, ect. Then I rode a fully adjustable bike-just spinning the wheels like a hamster. He made certain calculations with protractors and weights on a string. Then he watched my ride. He noticed that I kept sliding back on the seat and straightening my arms. Then he made more adjustments. I spun some more. I commented with what was comfortable and what was not. I did some fitness tests. More adjusting and more spinning. Until finally, I was comfortable and dialed into the fit bike. The hope is that these measurements will put me within mm of a perfect sizing on a new bike.

Here’s what I learned:

Looks like a torture device-but I promise it is anything but

1. We aren’t getting any younger and the small aches and pains we feel on the bike shouldn’t be something that we brush off as “oh, that’s just the bike” or “I’m just getting old.” Small tweaks can make those minor or major aches and pains go away. Case in point-my right hip gets a dull ache after a few hours on the bike. Turns out it is my seat. I was able to try varying seats until I found one that worked.

2. Just because you can reach the pedals and the handlebars does not meant that the bike fits you. Bikes are built for average people. Your height might coincide with the bike size, but that doesn’t mean that you have average arms or legs. Again, a professional bike fit will allow you to tweak those small components to better match your size.

3. Not everyone rides the same. You can adjust small parts of your bike to accommodate your riding style. Whether that’s leisurely rides or racing. Whatever it takes to make your pedal power more efficient to match your style of riding.

Here’s the fam showing off our different bikes for different needs and different sizes.

4. Core strength matters big time. I didn’t realize this, but I was put through some core exercises to determine where my handlebars and seat should be. Apparently your arms are merely a vessel to connect you to the bike. It is actually your core that holds you up.

5. A one time fit can last a while. You will be given measurements that you can take anywhere and each time you buy a new bike, have the mechanic at the shop adjust it to those specifications. It will make it all the more worth while. But of course, if you have surgery, new injuries, or are just getting older, you may want to invest in a new fit.

Once my measurements were recorded from the fit bike, the bike mechanic was able to tweak and adjust my own bike. Then I took it outside for a spin. As promised by the mechanic it was a bit awkward, but given that I have been riding in the wrong positioning for 4 years, of course it is going to feel weird. By the end of 2hrs and 2 minutes that the fitting took, every weakness of mine on the bike had been exposed and every strength minimized.

Riding a bike is a dynamic endeavor. We try many bikes before we pick “the perfect one,” however even then our bodies are all so different and certainly one bike does not fit all. I realize that now is something that I surely should have done years ago.  I am now passing on the advice once given to me by a wise English teacher, professional mountain biker-go out and get yourself a professional bike fit.

Anyone have a professional bike fit before?

Anyone feel like they need one?

Favorite core exercises?Apparently I need them.



5 responses to “The importance of a professional bike fit

  1. This is something I’ve thought of doing but have just put it off because there are no bike shops nearby that can perform something like this in the detail you describe. Maybe I need to look into it a little harder. Thanks for all the info. Never realized what went into really matching a bike to the rider.

    • The whole time I kept thinking, “why I have waited this long?” But, you are right, the key is to schedule it with a person certified in bike fitting, not just a bike mechanic. It was far more detailed than just adjusting the seat or handlebars. I definitely recommend it.

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