What is the Importance of Bike Fitting?
Humans have been getting around on the planet for a lot longer than bicycles have existed. We have adapted to walking and running, but not to bike 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 nor necessary. Think less about how you look on a bicycle, or how your bicycle looks, and focus more on 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 setup, 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 biomechanical 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 that’s the right size may be a poor fit. Bike 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.
In order to remedy the cost both physically and metabolically, the importance of bike fitting is clear.
Are all bike fits the same?
No. There is 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 setup, 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 bike fitters work mostly with casual cyclists and some work with pro teams. The needs and expectations of a recreational cyclist are going to be different from 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. Bikes 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 perform a bike fit myself?
Yes and no. There are do-it-yourself 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, YouTube 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.
Given that you are probably not deterred by this, you might want to check out some of the DIY product resources available in our store.
A professional bike fitter offers the following advantages over a DIY approach:
- training in mechanics, anatomy and biomechanics, 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 bikes.
- 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 rider 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.
- a passionate advocate on the importance of bike fitting–as far as we know, there are no bike fitting millionaires so the vast majority are focused on helping cyclists enjoy their best riding experience.
John is an elite level bike fitter who works with non-elite cyclists – although a few have won races! Many don’t race at all, but ride for fun, fitness, or to compete against themselves. John has worked with 18-80 year olds (and younger and older), novices, age groupers, masters racers and all levels of weekend warrior. These include road riders, mountain bikers, triathletes, tandem riders, tourers, commuters, bike packers and gravel riders and racers. All share a love of cycling and just wanted to ride more comfortably, and in many cases faster. John is the owner of Fit Kit Systems, and provides bike fitting services through BikeFitr (bikefitr.com)