An Introduction to John Howard's FiTTE System for Cyclists

I was a member of the U.S. National cycling team in the mid-1970s when I staged my first bike fitting clinic. The curriculum for that clinic was a performance-based, hands-on fitting concept that evolved into a holistic solution for riders known as FiTTE.

The acronym for Fitness, Training, Technique and Equipment relies on the simple elements of functional anatomy, a contribution of our partner, Dr. Ernie Ferrel. Dr. Ferrel, an avid racer in the 1980s, used the elements of biomechanics to treat his cycling-focused chiropractic patients. FiTTE essentially addresses two critical areas of cycling: Performance tuning and injury prevention.

Kansas City-based FiTTE System practitioner Gina Poertner comments, "John and I see a lot of frustrated people who are not comfortable on their bikes. When you are looking for solutions, you need to find the most experienced practitioners. A very common problem for cyclists are knee issues, often times due to weak VMO (Vastus Medialis Obliques, a key cycling muscle in the quads), tight rotators, and issues with pronation or supination of the foot. Before this problem becomes chronic, we need to nip it in the bud quickly, and that's exactly what we do with FiTTE every day."

In addition to my work, based out of Coastal Health and Wellness Center in San Diego and Santa Barbara, California, FiTTE has now grown into a fully certified system with practitioners around the globe and is the world's longest operating bicycle positioning system, established in 1982.

FiTTE clients have captured 173 national titles, 18 world titles and two Olympic gold medals. According to Ralph Walker, CEO of John Howard Performance Sports, "We are extremely proud of our accomplishments as a cycling services-based company; we can help any cyclist improve his/her performance and comfort, we lower the risk of repetitive-use injury, and we document those results for each and every client. We optimize the cyclist then adjust the bike accordingly, not the other way around."

The PowerFiTTE Process

A two to 2.5-hour procedure, the PowerFiTTE process includes:

  1. Full mechanical performance/comfort tuning based on the elements of functional anatomy.
  2. Biomechanical analysis and soft tissue mobilization of key muscle groups for improved power.
  3. Full user-friendly written documentation of all critical performance, efficiency and set-up data, before and after.
  4. A prioritized demonstration of your key-need cycling specific stretches and/or strength exercises for improved training.
  5. Full assessment and recommendations for injury patterns. Can include adjustments to bike and rider or cleat positions to accommodate.

In upcoming articles on Active, I will explain key elements of a successful bike fit and how the FiTTE System can help you ride pain free.


John Howard is a USA Cycling Hall of Famer, 3-time USA Olympic Cyclist, 1981 Hawaii Ironman World Champion and an 18-time USA/NORBA Elite and Masters National Champion. He holds cycling world records at both ends of the sport's spectrum: Speed at 152.2 mph and 24-hour endurance at 539 miles. Howard is the author of five cycling and multisport books and is a cycling journalist. Find out more about FiTTE and his coaching opportunities at JohnHowardSports.com.

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