How do you know when a bike fits you properly?
The easy answer is when a professional bike-fit specialist tells you it does. If you're serious about improving the efficiency of your cycling, dropping a few hundred dollars for a thorough professional bike fitting—by someone certified with an extensive resume—will do wonders.
What are some tips for making sure your bike fits? Here is the advice from several experts who help cyclists find the perfect fit. This is what good bike-fit specialist will look for when they go to work:
Dr. Andrew Pruitt, the clinical director of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, gives a handy tip to Competitor Magazine about where a bike fit starts—at your inseam.
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Dr. Pruitt says of saddle height, "90 percent of your barefoot inseam is an appropriate starting point."
How do you reach that number? Competitor explains: "Stand in bare feet and have someone measure your inseam from the floor to your crotch. The idea of someone measuring you not sit well? Then do it alone by standing with your back to a wall, put a yardstick between your legs, parallel to the ground, in slight contact with your crotch and then mark the wall behind you with a pencil."
Use 90 percent of that number, "and that's your height from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the saddle."
A good bike-fit specialist looks well beyond dimensions like inseam and wingspan. It's possible that you and your identically-sized buddy could have remarkably different results in a fitting, due to a number of factors.
Annie Sirotniak of Integrated Cycle Fit in Boulder, Colorado, explains: "Strength and flexibility tests help me to determine what issues to address in terms of their bike dimensions. I take into account their individuality."
In short, the more information a bike fitter has on you, the more likely he or she will get the bike fit exactly right.
Matt Russ is a cycling and triathlon coach who does bike fitting for clients. While he says that comfort comes first, there are several clues that can be obtained by just watching a cyclist ride.
"Carefully observing how a cyclists looks on the bike is the best way to determine what needs to be changed. I use a stationary trainer and a video camera for this. I shoot the cyclist from a variety of angles and then play it back in slow motion for both of us to observe. I also use a power meter to help determine if a new position resulted in a loss of power. This type of feedback is invaluable.
"Often the cause of discomfort or power loss isn't the fit, but a correctable bad habit. It's important to make this distinction."