Why get a bike fit?
Whether you are an elite racer, commuter or recreational rider, a bike fit is an investment that could very well give you the best return for your money. Cycling can be as expensive as you want to make it. We cyclists tend to always be tempted to spend our hard earned money on the newest, the lightest, the most aero equipment and clothing that we can get our hands on. But what we often overlook is getting our position dialled. The newest equipment isn’t much good if we are off the bike due to injury. The lightest carbon part pails in comparison to losing 30 watts due to an inefficient position. The most aero bike in the world won’t do us much good if our bodies (the part of the system with the highest drag) sit up in the wind.
In this article I will set out the reasons why you should get a bike fit.
To improve performance
Performance is defined as ‘the action or process of performing a task or function’. What constitutes high performance in cycling depends on the type of cycling you do and your goals. For a competitive cyclist, high performance is going as fast as possible as efficiently as possible. For the commuter it’s balancing speed and efficiency with having good visibility of the traffic around them – whilst potentially carrying a backpack or messenger bag. And for the triathlete, performance is going as fast as possible on the bike without compromising the run leg to come.
A good bike fit will take into account what your specific requirements are and adjust your fit accordingly. Finding the right position can increase your power output for a given effort, increase your speed for a given power output and/or improve your confidence and ability to control your bike.
To reduce discomfort
We cyclists like to glorify suffering. We revel in stories of epic rides conducted in horrific conditions. But let me tell you a secret: if cycling hurts you are doing it wrong.
When I’m talking about hurt here I don’t mean the burn in your legs and lungs as you put in a glorious attack (or hammer to work because you are running late). That’s ok. No, what I mean is that if your backside hurts, or your hands go numb, or your neck gets sore, or your knees complain then something is not as it should be. If you are feeling this type of discomfort then don’t just assume that it is just a part of cycling that you have to endure – do something about it!!
A Winning Position bike fit will help you to find the position, saddle, handlebars etc. that help you ride pain free.
Sometimes looking to the bike alone is not enough. In the process of addressing the pain and discomfort that you are experiencing, I will analyse your biomechanics both on and off the bike to localise any sources of pain. This means not only adjusting your bike to a more comfortable position but also improving your body through soft tissue therapy and exercise physiology.
To address injuries
Sadly sometimes pain and discomfort can come from an injury. Such an injury might be caused by a crash, a bad position on the bike or by something totally unrelated to cycling. Sometimes injuries go away by themselves given enough time. More often than not though, you will heal faster and more effectively if the injury is treated.
A bike fit can remove the cause of the injury (if it is bike related) and/or make adjustments to the bike to accommodate the impacts the injury has to your form and function. My qualifications and experience in Soft Tissue Therapy and Exercise Physiology mean that a Winning Position fit can also assess and treat the injury itself. Should it be necessary I can also refer you to a range of health professionals for further diagnosis and treatment.
To try different equipment options
There are so many different equipment options available when it comes to bikes. Crank length, and handle bar and saddle shape have perhaps the largest impact on performance and comfort. Unfortunately to really discover what works for you is a time consuming (not to mention expensive) exercise. For example, trying a different crank length usually involves buying a new crank that will work with your particular bottom bracket. You then need to swap over your pedals and install the cranks on your bike. Perhaps only to find that there is another length you want to try as well. In the end most of us just use whatever happened to come stocked on our bike, never knowing if there is something out there that suits us better.
The specialised fit equipment I have here at Winning Position means that it takes only a few seconds to swap out handlebars, change saddles or alter the crank length. This means that, as part of a fit, we can try lots of different options until we find what works for you.
To inform your next bike purchase
You have done your research. You have spent hours poring over spec sheets. You have test ridden the bikes on your shortlist. You have even picked out the colour. But which size is right for you? Will the stack and reach of the bike you are about to buy let you assume your optimal riding position?
Buying a new bike is a significant investment. You are choosing a steed that you will spend hundreds of hours on. The price of a fit is a small percentage of the purchase price and it will ensure that the money you are about to spend is not wasted on something that doesn’t fit, isn’t comfortable and that could even lead to injury.
Here at Winning Position we use a Purely Custom dynamic fit bike to find your winning position. This means that we can determine your fit before you make your purchase. The fit is not constrained by the frame you are fit on, be that your current bike or the frame size you have taken a punt on. You can then choose the bike that suits your position rather than the position that suits your bike. To this end, the fit report that we provide as part of our service lists a number of fit solutions that specifies possible bikes (and stem and spacer combinations) that would match your position.
Can you just get the local bike shop to determine your fit? Sure you can – and some do a really good job too! But the vast majority of the time, the person fitting you is not an expert. They lack the equipment and experience required to find the best position for you. And it is very rare indeed for the fitter to be qualified to address any injuries or imbalances you might be suffering that affect your position on the bike. Finally, your bike shop fitter is constrained to fitting you to a bike that they sell. That’s what they are there for after all – to sell you a bike.
Here at Winning Position I don’t sell bikes which means I have no reason to push you towards something that doesn’t fit just right.
To adjust to changes
I recommend that cyclists get whenever something changes or every couple of years, whichever comes first.
Changing your saddle, shoe model, pedal type, crank length or handlebars will alter your fit. A fit will help you determine how your bike needs to be adjusted to accommodate equipment changes.
Even if there are no equipment issues, your optimal position is not static but rather changes as your fitness, weight, flexibility and range of motion change. Having a fit every two years will keep you in a winning position.