A question I am often asked, "is it worth having a 'Bike Fit'?"; well let's see....
I've been in the cycle industry for thirty years, during that time I've set up the cycling positions for literally thousands of riders. So if I've been doing it for so long has what we now call 'Bike Fit' changed? Well yes and no, we haven't invented a new cycling position and we haven't evolved that much physically as humans in the that time. The four key contact points of 'saddle height' and 'setback' then the 'reach' and 'drop' to bars are as similar now as they were back then. What has changed is that in the past I did it all by eye, but to get it absolutely perfect we now have the tools to finish the job. What we now get is so much more data, but it's what you do with that data that's important, it needs to be interpreted correctly then any alterations implemented as a result must be appropriate. There really no substitute to being fitted by someone with experience; after all any tool is only as effective as the person using it.
Arguably the most effective of these new tools is a modern Bike fitting jig, allowing us to fine tune the four key contact points, so you then know what you need to replicate on your current, or new bike. Regarding the latter bike manufacturers normally list the relevant 'fit' data which can be replicated on the jig, so we are able to compare the bike fit of the various bikes you maybe considering; impressive as well being extremely useful, helping ,many with their choice of new bike. At C & N we actually have a purpose built 'Bike Fitting' suite where we can interview each rider covering cycle history, future goals and aspirations, any cycling limitations we need to make allowances for, a bad back or neck for example. We take accurate physical measurements including, height, inseam, shoulder width plus detailed measurements of each foot including arches. We then obtain an assessment of flexibility, range of motion and stability, all this before the we even start to take on the bike measurements.
Either on your own bike or using our custom made jig we are able study pedaling action, ankling, tracking and unique style, as well as cleat angulation and positioning fore and aft, all play a part in the set up. We measure leg angle using a goniometer and a laser to determine the forward and aft positions over the bottom bracket (often referred to as 'KOPS'- knee over pedal spindle). Two riders with exactly the same inseam and foot size may use a different ankling technique throughout the pedal revolution, both may differ but both may still be correct and need a different saddle height to achieve the correct leg angle as a result, so we need to allow for that.
This is exactly where an experienced 'Bike Fit' specialists will be of value, as they need to find out what is influencing the rider's ankling, it may be their previous set up was wrong and they had been using that ankling style to compensate, as such this style will change with the correct set up, yet what the fitter may initially see is the rider out of habit still using this same compensatory style, so the fitter will need to factor that in when doing their analysis. A rider with developed quadriceps and slim calves versus someone of identical leg length but with large calves and less developed quadriceps will often ankle very differently to maximize their muscle groups respectively. Many take up cycling with a back ground in other sports and are as such novices to cycling, they often get on a bike and their muscle memory is such that it initially influences their pedalling action and ankling, in all the cases above an experienced fitter will make the necessary allowances that may be very specific to each rider.
'Bike Fit' naturally allows for each individuals goals and the bike used to achieve them, a road race bike will have a completely different fit to a low pro TT bike for example even though both are set up as race bikes, a Sportive bike may differ slightly from an Audax bike, potentially the set up of these two categories is close enough to be the same, although their are subtle differences which may, or may not result in a slightly different 'Bike Fit', these subtle position differences will be taken into consideration during the assessment. An Experienced fitter should make the whole process informative and educational, showing each rider how to evolve their position as they evolve as a rider. It's actually a very enjoyable and interesting process to go through, but the way we do it's also reassuringly very logical and easy to understand.
Two items that have helped with bike fitting over recent years is the variety of saddles and shoes-footbeds that are now available. Footbeds especially can help greatly with the interface between foot and pedal. Modern foot beds can literally be moulded to your foot shape, the result is a far more accurate and secure connection which greatly helps with pedaling efficiency. Think of it in simple terms, your feet are what's at the end of your levers, the more accurate the connection the more efficient it is, the more comfortable it is; two massive yet often underrated positives.
In conclusion is 'Bike Fit' worth it, in short if done properly yes, very. After all it’s folly to invest hundreds if not thousands of pounds on a bike if it then isn't set up to fit you correctly. Many will quite rightly take great care to get the correct style of bike, in the correct size, with all the correct clothing, shoes and kit, yet with all these important factors in place then not have the correct set up on the bike, so they have to try harder than they need do and often get aches and pains they don’t need to have as a result.
Bike Fitting Surrey, at C and N Cycles Redhill , we offer four different bike fit packages, from £50.00 up to £160.00, 'click for details' or to email click on the following link email@example.com
My personal Feedback from just a few of my recent bike fits;
Rob: 'Whyte Suffolk': Thanks you for fitting session Paul, it has proved very useful and I learnt a lot also. My commute time was almost immediately down by about 5 mins on average, with less fatigue. My times are steadily improving also as the legs get used to the new position! So all in all a very good return. Kind regards, Rob
Bhuvant: Giant Defy: The bike fit simply made a big difference Paul
Stewart: Trek Domane: I was just quicker, I was significantly quicker, by minutes, not seconds!
Simon: Boardman Team Road.Just as you said, I instantly noticed a difference, feeling more power and vastly improved endurance.
Crispin, www.cavespider.co.uk, Specialized Allez. The changes you made did have a direct effect best demonstrated immediately after I had seen you. The hill climb described on Strava as 'Fullers Wood Top section’ takes me normally around 4’40”. After your adjustments I did this in 4’07”, a similar result on a number of other sections on my route. So really pleased, thank you.
Steve, Cervelo TT Bike. You were right, it made a difference; PB in first two time trials!
Neil, Trek Emonda: Just to let you know the bike felt incredible and the fit is very comfortable. Overall I'm thrilled with the purchase. Think I'm going to be spending plenty of time in the saddle from now on! Massive thanks to you and the team, particularly for the fitting, which feels great.
Joanne,: First ride after my Bike Fit a not very fit me did a PB on Box Hill!
All listed below from Enigma Bicycleworks where I worked until June 2016
Neil: Bike great - 50 miles ridden, stem exactly right, higher saddle a revelation... Two Strava KoMs in the last 10 days...Neil (Click the following link for an account by Neil for Cycletechreview.com.)
Steve: I have had my first real ride yesterday evening with the CTC and the changes you made to the geometry on my Cannondale became apparent. I was noticeably much faster and even the hill climbing seemed easier. Also I think as I become more used to the different riding position there will be more performance to come. The only downside is that I may be banished to the fast group as 22 mph plus on the flat with no drafting is a bit above the moderate group pace. Edit:I have now done longer distances including a 98 mile ride with some fairly stiff gradients and the new set up worked fine for that especially as I am now getting more used to it.
Andy: You were absolutely right about the extra 30 mm of saddle height on my current bike. A great improvement and I haven't looked back since.Regards, Andy.
Mark: The bike fit was a huge help. I have less strain in my shoulders, and yet I can still get low on the drops and out of the air. You're assessment of needing to move back 20-30mm was spot on. I'm riding on the hoods now, rather than back on the top 'bends' before the hoods.
Nick: Thanks again for yesterday. I had a great ride back. Roads wet but not too bad and the bike is a treat. Comfortable but lively. Must be the combination of that lovely frame and that expert bike fit!
Grigor Wallace 'British Best All Rounder' Bronze Medalist 2013 Via Twitter: Grigor Wallace @velopeak @Smithsrcc @ bike fit he said layback post, I said straight, now changed 2 layback #bikefitterknowsbest
Martin:I went out on my usual club run on Saturday featuring 80 miles and 5500 feet of climbing. You may recall you heightened by saddle by 14mm which was obviously a significant increase. The good news is that I had less back pain than normal and the handling was not altered. If anything I felt more at one with the bike.
Derek: If you recall, when you did the finished set up you raised the saddle height by 2 cm and shortened the stem (I think) to 110cms. I now know that you were definitely right on both measures. The saddle height seems to have cleared some knee and hip problems that I was getting.