Updated: Aug 27, 2018
A professional fitting is one of the best investments any cyclist can make and everyone from weekend warriors to experienced racers will benefit. Even riders who are new to cycling will see dramatic results with a properly fit bike.
The slightest miss alignment can lead to pain and discomfort, and every measurement will have an effect on the body. A professional fit will alleviate pains that may occur during a ride. Additionally, a properly fitted bike will help prevent cycling induced injury in the first place. Neck, back, knee, wrist, and hip pain, along with hot foot, saddle discomfort, and numbness can be eliminated with proper fit.
Besides comfort, most riders see a large performance gain with a professional fitting, some up to 5% (this may not seem like a lot, but it’s actually a drastic increase). This performance gains comes from an increase in efficiency, which leads to increases in endurance, power and speed. Plus, increased efficiency increases time to fatigue. This applies to all riders not just the road racer, charity riders, club riders, mountain bikers, everyone will see the benefits.
While my new frame seemed very close to my old in terms of size, there were subtle differences requiring some changes. First, I’d like to point out that the difference in top tube length between the two bikes was only 2mm. With that in mind, your initial thought might be, cut and paste your old fit to the new bike and you’d be all set. However, the new bike has a shorter head tube length and a different seat tube angle. These two differences, while small on paper, played a large role in the adjustments needed.
The process can start with an interview to assess goals, experience, pains, and past injuries then use this information to come up with a plan of action. Remember to be honest with yourself and needs, as a rider being fit for racing may not have the same fit for recreational riding. Most of my road riding is for training with the occasional crit or circuit race.
Flexibility and mobility test can also be administered to check the alignment and flexibility of any athlete’s hamstrings, quads, ankles, spin, neck, knees, and feet. After taking numerous body measurements including sit bone measurements you can discover like me that my left leg is shorter than my right (which can be confirmed with additional video analysis).
Good systems like Reteul or Guru riding on a trainer each athlete is reviewed from the side, front, and rear profiles for any major discrepancies. Then, using the video analysis we were able to determine changes that needed to be addressed: ie shim my left cleat, increase my saddle height, and shorten my stem. In order to get proper leg extension for the most efficiency, raising the saddle in my case was the first step. And having it at the proper height for my right leg meant adjusting the cleat on the left (now both legs have the proper extension). When your seat goes up, your reach increases and this was the next adjustment made. Proper reach was obtained by swapping for a shorter stem and adding a spacer. This effectively shortened my reach and decreased my drop, making for a much more comfortable ride.
Additionally, video analysis was used to monitor pedal stroke, pelvic rotation, and a variety of other conditions. Through the video, it was determined that I had a tendency to bring my knees in at the top of my pedal stroke when pedalling with light effort. However, as intensity increased, my form improved. This showed that I needed to work on form when riding lightly.
Each rider is different and using the information and measurements provided through a fitting, adjustments can be made to correct saddle height, set back, saddle choice, bar height, stem length, bar width, cleat position, etc. They may also recommend shoe insoles to address alignment issues and point out inefficiencies in form.
Two important factors to take into consideration after your fitting. First, this is a change from what you are used to. It may take a few rides to adjust to a new position. Keep an open mind and don’t be too quick to judge. Second, you’ll change over time. Your flexibility, strength, and goals will change every season. Minor adjustments are not uncommon each year, and typically this can be addressed with a follow up fitting.