Anyone who has ever spent extended periods of time in the saddle of a poorly-adjusted bike knows the importance of proper bike fit.
What may seem like a few insignificant millimeters in saddle height or angle can actually lead to painful overuse injuries. Since there are only three places where the body comes into contact with a bike — the seat, pedals, and handlebars—the relative positioning of each of these points is crucial to properly fitting a bicycle.
And to make the process even more complicated, variables such as top tube length, crank length, stem length, saddle angle, and handlebar width can affect each of these points of contact.
This makes "dialing in" a bicycle to find the perfect fit tricky, to say the least. That's why we recently spoke with bike-fit professional Tom Ernst of Athletes Lounge in Portland, Oregon to get his tips on making sure you have the best bike fit possible.
Tip No.1: Find a Qualified Pro
Many bike shops offer fittings by trained professionals to help take the guess work out bike fit. However, according to Ernst, all bike fitters are not created equal. (Tom holds fitting certifications from Ret?l, F.I.S.T, Trek, Serotta, and Guru schools.)
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Ernst explains that it's important to find an experienced professional, not just someone who took a class on bike fits. "You want to make sure that your bike fitter has lots of experience, has lots of clients coming in for bike fitting, and is not someone who just went through a seminar last week."
Tip No.2: Find a Good Bike-Fit Environment
Certifications are great, but it takes experience to understand all of the variables that affect an individual's positioning on a bike. It's also imperative that your bike fitter isn't distracted by other things going on in the shop. "You should be in some sort of protected space. You don't want to have to worry about kids on tricycles bumping into you or all of the stores shoppers gawking at you," says Ernst.
During a fitting, the specialist should be totally focused on you. This means that the fitting should take place in a good environment, free of distractions, where you can relax and feel comfortable on the bike.
Tip No.3: Keep the Focus on You
Most importantly, you should make sure that the fit is being customized to your needs. "There's just so many questions that a good bike fitter is going to ask so that he can tailor that bike fit to you, the individual, and not just some blanket set of numbers," Ernst explains. "It needs to be individual. It needs to be tailored to you and your riding style."
Tip No.4: Get One Early
New and experienced riders alike can benefit from a professional bike fitting. Don't wait until you start noticing pain during rides.
Be proactive; get fitted in order to stop injuries before they start and keep your rides enjoyable all season long.
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