Why is bike fit important?
Humans have been getting around on the planet for a lot longer than bicycles have existed. We are adapted to walking and running, but not to riding.
The sport of cycling constrains your body to an apparatus, and asks you to perform repetitive movements on that apparatus. This “unnatural” activity creates stress on the body, which can lead to aches, pains and possibly injury.
Suffering because of a poor bike fit position may have been a part of cycling culture in the past, but it is neither required not necessary. Think less about how you look on a bicycle, or how your bicycle looks, and focus more about how you feel on a bicycle.
There is a big difference between suffering from the exertion or riding long and hard, and suffering due to poor equipment choice, equipment set up, or body position. The first is optional. The others are unnecessary.
Discomfort issues can be minimized and prevented if you are positioned on the bicycle in a way that takes into account how your body best functions on a bicycle for bio-mechanical safety and metabolic efficiency.
The more you ride, in terms of frequency, duration or intensity, the more likely a poor bike – body relationship, or bike fit position is going to give you problems.
You may have a high tolerance and adaptability to a wide range of bike fit positions, and may never feel the need for a bike fit. Or you may be attuned to a poor position, and your body will “speak up” and let you know your bike-body relationship needs some counseling.
Buying a bicycle that is the correct size for your body and riding intentions is the first step in enjoying your riding. However a bike the right size may be a poor fit. Fitting is the process of fine tuning your bike to suit your body, riding experience and riding intentions.
Just because nothing hurts when you ride, doesn’t mean your bike fit position is optimized. Many riders are in a poor position on their bike, but are not aware of it. This has a metabolic cost, and potentially a long term wear and tear cost on your body.
Are all bike fits the same?
No. There are a wide range of bike fit services available. Although the process may be similar, the duration, analysis, data collection, problem solving, recommendations and adjustments vary, as will the tools and technology applied to the process.
A bike fit may take from 20 minutes to 4 hours. 1 hour to 3 hours is common.
A post purchase fit taking 20 – 40 minutes is going to get your saddle and handlebars in a generally suitable position for you. And that may be all your ever need.
However a cyclist who experiences persistent issues is going to need a more thorough investigative fit. It is probable that an issue may not be just about the bike set up, but about a body movement pattern or asymmetry that is contributing to the problem.
Bike Fitters have different levels of training, experience and expertise. Some fitters work mostly with casual cyclists, some work with pro teams. The needs and expectations of a recreational cyclist are going to be different to those of an elite level cyclist. However the desired objective is the same.
Should I consider a bike fit?
Yes. Every cyclist should consider a bike fit, and most should have at least a basic bike fit. Also, if you are fit once, you are not fit forever. Bike and bodies change. Here are some reasons to get a bike fit:
- you purchase a new (to you) bike
- you experience any pain or discomfort riding, that is not simply exercise induced fatigue, but results from holding a position and turning the pedals
- you want the peace of mind of a “general checkup” to see that your position is optimized
- you take on an ambitious cycling goal that will result in considerably more riding than you are used to
- it’s been 5 or more years since you last had a bike fit
- you have experienced an accident, injury or surgery or change of physical condition that has negatively impacted your cycling
Can I do a bike fit myself?
Yes and no. There are do-it-your self guidelines, recommendations and apps available online that can help you work on your own bike fit, and many experienced riders like to dial in their own position over time. Be forewarned that internet forums and social media posts on this topic are plagued with misinformation, and what works for one rider may be inappropriate for another rider. DIY fitters also tend to focus on just one aspect of fit, and in solving one problem, may create another as they are not taking into account the whole bike-body relationship.
A professional bike fitter offers the following advantages over a DIY approach:
- training in mechanics, anatomy and bio mechanics, fitting procedures and processes, problem solving, analysis and corrections.
- the experience of working with many cyclists and their bikes, and being attuned to the many and varied cause and effect relationships that exist between a cyclist and their bike
- following a process that recognizes the inter-relationships of a fit position
- investment in, and access to tools and technology that the cyclist does not have
- an objective third party perspective for assessing the rider through questioning, observation and measurement, often gaining valuable insights that the riders hasn’t considered themselves, or is blind to.
- A friendly bike-body relationship counselor who enjoys cycling themselves, and wants you to have a great riding experience.