How Do You Know if a Bike Fit is Right?

This is the second question I usually get, the first one being, “I don’t need a bike fit or a new bike, because I fit my bike just fine.” The question of whether a bike fits or not has been asked for decades and at the end of the day, the answer does not lie completely in the field of “art” or “science.” For me, I feel that there is both a science to determining what is right for a person and an art to working with the person to get the desired results. So the answer to the question is, “You don’t know if a bike fit is right unless you find a better way to determine what “right” is.”Most bicycle fit programs and protocols revolve around an optimal set of dimensions and angles derived from a large test pool of individuals. The bike fitter then attempts to find the crucial measurements from the rider and then attempts to use the dimensions or angles provided in his or her fitting system to apply those complimentary dimensions to a bicycle. The term “fit me to a bike” is most appropriate because for most of the people in the world, they are trying to find the best compromise in comfort and efficiency to make a particular bicycle usable.In the case of a single speed commuter bike in Copenhagen Denmark, the difference of an inch or two in saddle height may make no appreciable difference. The bike will still get you to work. In the case of a 21 year old professional criterium specialist, the requirements for accuracy in fitting go up but the ability of a young body to adapt is quite high as well, so many different setups are going to be ok.When a 40 year old woman who is switching from running to cycling and wants to do a triathlon, the fit requirement is just as important for the bike racer, with two caveats.1) A 40 year old woman is not going to ride in the same position that a 21 year old full time bike racer would. The range of acceptability shrinks each year. Not only that, injuries and conditions such as scoliosis make the range even narrower.2) Many people who get serious about cycling as an adult have no idea what a good bike fit feels like because they have never experienced it.My example for this situation is as follows: Molly is 6 years old and in the first grade. She has trouble reading the letters and words on the blackboard and the other people in class don’t. What Molly doesn’t know is, she needs glasses and the others don’t. Molly thinks that some other reason exists for her difficulty because she has never considered the possibility that she can’t see as well as others. In other words, Molly thinks she sees just fine!I had written recently about the relative difficulty in professionally and properly fitting someone for a bicycle and still am amazed that after all these years, it is not an easy task to get things perfect. This explains why so many people who get “fitted” by their local bike shops think that they are getting the best there is, because that is all they know. It’s not just recreational athletes that struggle with bike fit, either. Many of the professional athletes I run into have horrible setups on their bike. They are so incredibly talented that they get by in spite of it and of course, they are trained not to complain about discomfort.So while the answer to the question of whether a bike fit is right or not is not easy, here are some things you should think about the next time you ride to help you determine what is right and what is not.1) Do you have saddle pain, particularly in the front of the saddle?2) Do you get low back, shoulder or neck pain?3) Do your hands go numb? How about your feet?4) When you take your hands off the handlebars while riding, do you tend to want to slide forward?5) Is it hard to see when you ride with your hands in the drops?6) Do you get pain in your knees, particularly in the front?7) Do you find yourself constantly pushing back in the saddle to find a comfortable place but keep sliding forward?8) Is your bike unstable in the corners or on descents?All of these things are indicators of a less than optimal bike setup. I encourage you to question whether your bike is right for you, rather than if you are right for the bike. I think you are the important part of the equation and if you ride, the time you spend is worth more than even the most expensive bicycle in the world. You can have a comfortable, safe and exciting time on a bicycle, every time.I hope you have questions after reading this and I will be thrilled to help you find good, sustainable answers.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.