Bicycle technology has come a long way since the early 1900’s in materials, components and manufacturing, but fundamentally the bicycle is still much same as it was at the end of this innovative age, over 100 years ago.
Selecting a bike for a rider, and getting them correctly fitted has also come a long way, more so in the past 30 years. However in the excitement of new fitting technologies, advanced size cycles, motion capture and software, pressure mapping and dynamic fitting, it is easy to overlook the fact that the basic body to bike relationship, like the bicycle itself, is relatively unchanged.
There is definitely a greater understanding of bio-mechanics and aerodynamics, with beneficial effect. However there is a risk that the techno wow factor can overwhelm reasonable minds as to what the essence of bike sizing and fitting is. How much is of genuine benefit to the retailers and their customers, and how much is marketing hype? Are the fitting technologies and costs used for Olympic level and pro tour riders appropriate for local weekend warriors and event participants? Everyone would like to benefit from a Team Sky level of support. However is it necessary for a retailer to invest in that much technology and staff training for their customers benefit?
How much does a bicycle retailer need to spend, in dollars and sacrificed retail space, to answer the bike buyers oft asked question: “what size should I be on?” A question the retailer needs to ask themselves is “what business am I in – selling bikes that will fit a rider, and / or bike fitting?” If they are offering bike fitting, who are their clients? Local recreational and enthusiasts, or national and international level competitors?
Retailers could spend on the high side of $10,000 – $20,000, and lose 400 square feet to be invested in a state of the art bike fit studio. However not everyone is in the same market, with the same customers. If they are selling custom frames, and coaching and fitting athletes for the pinnacle of performance, then the price and space of a size cycle, software and cameras may be a worthwhile investment. If they are primarily selling low to mid priced stock bikes, then there are low cost, low space, easily trainable options, like that offered by Fit Kit Systems.
With major bike brands tying up various fitting systems, and pushing them onto their dealers with a hefty price tag, what can the disenfranchised or genuinely independent dealer offer their customers? They can confidently offer them a bike of the appropriate geometry and frame size, get the basic adjustments of saddle and handlebar position set up, and send them on their way to riding enjoyment.