What is Bike Fitting about? A bike fitter assesses the interaction between you and your bicycle, and adjusts your bicycle to best suit your physical condition and riding intentions.
The objective is to minimize how much your body needs to adapt in order to be comfortable and efficient on your bike. A cyclist's body can adapt to a bike that is not well adjusted for the rider. However, a poorly adjusted bike places greater demands and stresses on a rider's body, forcing greater adaptation. This can cause strain, discomfort, and the early onset of fatigue. Where is the cycling fun if you're dealing with this?
However sometimes the issue is with the cyclist's body more so than the bike, requiring what we call an "accommodated fit", rather than an "optimal fit". Recommendations may be made to see a physical therapist, sports massage specialist or trainer/coach for additional support.
When Should I Consider a Bike Fit?
Buying a New Bike
Confirm which bike size to buy before making a purchase, and then get your new bike adjusted to best suit you once you have acquired your new dream machine.
A wise rider once said that the best accessory you can buy for a new bike is a bike fitting session. No other gizmo is going to improve your riding experience and enjoyment as much as having your new bike properly adjusted to best suit you.
If you want to make doubly sure you are going to purchase not only the correct frame size, but also a suitable frame geometry, consult with a bike fitter first.
This is especially important if you are buying a bike online, despite the online sizing formulas and systems available.
Your Physical Condition has Changed
Strength, flexibility, injuries and aging all affect your optimal position on a bike.
Significant changes to any of these can result in a sub-optimal fit. A bike set up that works for your 25 year old body is not going to be the same for your 48 year old body. A stronger core and greater flexibility allows for a more aerodynamic position. A broken neck or spinal degeneration is going to require a radically different position.
You Experience Discomfort or Pain
Persistent and recurring discomfort or pain should not be a part of your everyday riding experience. If it is, your body is shouting out for a bike fit.
If you enjoy riding but cannot ride as far or for as long you would like without a distracting protest from some part of your anatomy, a bike fit can often make a significant and positive change to your riding experience. A cyclist may experience discomfort in one or more of the following areas:
•hands / wrists
•shoulders / upper back
•crotch / butt
There are many possible reasons for these symptoms, including:
•a correctly sized bike frame that is incorrectly set up for you with regard to seat and handlebar position
•attempting to launch from the couch to a century ride in too short of a time frame
•general physical conditioning, core strength, mobility, or lack thereof
•a history of accident / trauma / surgery reducing your comfortable and effective range of motion
•a bike frame that is fundamentally too large or too small for your proportions
Early Onset of Fatigue
Is often a symptom that your body is working too hard just to hold you in place on your bike.
You may not experience any acute symptoms of pain, but may just tire out sooner than expected or desired, given your level of physical conditioning. If your riding position is not optimal, energy is expended simply supporting and stabilizing you on your bike. This compensation takes its toll on the duration you can sustain or the effort you can expend. Likewise, poor pedaling mechanics (technique) can detract from your overall forward motion. You are expending energy and literally spinning the wheels without going as far or as fast as is reasonably achievable. A bike fit can increase your cycling efficiency.
Enhance Your Cycling Performance
Enhanced performance results from a combination of optimal position, pedaling mechanics and fitness.
A bike fit is an excellent drug-free way to gain an edge on your competitors. If your emphasis is on athletic achievement, efficiency and effectiveness take precedence over comfort. A bike fit can emphasize power transfer to the pedals and reduce wind resistance. However, for a fit to be optimal, a powerful and aerodynamic position must be sustainable for the duration of an event.
Your Riding Goals Change
A bike fit that is adequate for one goal may not be optimal for another, especially if the intensity and duration increase.
Maybe you are going from 30 mile rides to doing your first century, or from Gran Fondos or casual mountain bike rides to competitive racing.
A significant change in the sort of riding you are doing which asks your body to go further, faster or harder is going to create additional stress.
Bike Fit issues that are snoozing on a casual ride may suddenly spring awake and inhibit your ambitions.