What is bike fitting?
Bike Fitting is a process of refining the interaction between a bicycle and the cyclist to improve the rider’s comfort, efficiency and performance.
Why is bike fitting important? Many reasons:
- To reduce the occurrence or severity of repetitive strain aches and injury
- To reduce direct contact point (feet, butt, hands) irritation
- Improve bike handling and responsiveness
- Increase metabolic efficiency
- Decrease fatigue
- To be “at one” with the machine
How important? Opinions vary widely….
- The best “accessory” you can buy for a new bike
- More important than the bike itself
- Unquantifiable and unnecessary…. a complete waste of money.
How important it is for the rider really depends on:
- How much they ride
- How hard they ride
- How their body feels on their bike
- What their cycling intentions and expectations are
- How much they really care about optimizing their bike-body relationship
Are all bike fits the same?
No. There is a lot of variation in what a bike fit is, and in some cases a bike sizing is being misrepresented as a bike fit.
A bike fit is a process, and a good definition of the process can be found in the Medicine_of_Cycling_Bike_Fit_Consensus_Statement.
This document is a highly recommended read.
Many factors affect both the process and outcome of a bike fit, including:
- The riding experience, training load, and goals of the cyclist
- The issues (physical, comfort, performance) being experienced by the cyclist
- The skill and experience of the fitter
- The time invested in the fitting process
- The tools and technologies employed in the fitting process
- If the cyclist is a “micro adjuster” (very sensitive) or a macro-absorber (highly tolerant) of a change in bike setup
A bike fit may take place on the cyclist’s own bike, or on an adjustable size (fit) cycle. If the fitting takes place on a size cycle, the resultant fit co-ordinates still have to be transferred to the cyclists bike. In either case, the fitting is done in a controlled environment with the cyclist pedaling for a limited amount of time in a stationary situation.
The validation of a bike fit can only take place after a fit is over and when the cyclist is out riding and subjecting themselves to their normal level of riding stress (effort, duration, distance). It is normally expected that it will take multiple rides for the cyclist’s body to adapt to changes made in the bike set up, and for the full benefit of the bike fitting to be realized. It is also reasonable to expect that further refinements in the bike set up may be needed in response to the cyclist’s feedback as they accumulate more time in the adjusted position.