Why Getting a Fit is Important1 of 13
There are several crucial goals when getting a bike fit: to improve your comfort and improve your efficiency. This will ensure you're in the correct position on the bike and can use the right muscles to maximize your cycling performance. A bike fit specialist accomplishes this by reviewing your position with a focus on touch points—pedals, saddle, handlebars—adjusted to your specific morphology and riding style.
Pro Tip: We recommend getting a bike fit before you begin bike shopping. This will help you find a bike that is the correct size that can then be customized to your specific riding needs.
Off the Rack2 of 13
Buying a bike is similar to buying a suit off the rack, according to Max Hamalainen of Philly Bikesmith. Drawing from his years of experience in fitting riders to bikes, Max says it is extremely rare that someone can walk into a store, choose a bike and have it fit correctly without any alterations or adjustments. When clothes shopping, most men may start with a suit off the rack, but then have to get it tailored to adjust the length of the pant leg or take in the waist. Similarly, getting a bike fit and making necessary adjustments will help dial in the proper fit of your race bike. This may mean swapping stems or adjusting saddle height. But unlike having a suit tailored, getting a bike fit will do a lot more than make you look stylish; it will help you perform better on the bike and with greater comfort.
How Long Does a Bike Fit Take?3 of 13
Bike fits can take anywhere from an hour to nearly three, depending on the sophistication of the fit, the type of bike you're being fit for and the skills and experience of your bike fitter. When scheduling your fit, ask for an estimation of how long the fit is expected to take.
Pro Tip: You might want to bring a snack since you don't want to be hangry during your appointment. That's not fun for anyone.
How Much Does a Bike Fit Cost?4 of 13
Fees for getting a bike fit typically start at $100 and go upwards of $300. Some shops will provide a basic bike fit adjustments with the purchase of a new bike. This basic fit typically includes adjusting your saddle height and angle, swapping a stem, setting cleat position and other similar, simple alterations. If you are looking to maximize your performance on the bike, you should consider getting a comprehensive fit.
Bike fitting is an Iterative Process5 of 13
There is as much art as science in achieving a good bike fit. A skilled bike fitter will need your input on how you feel in a position, so speak up! If you prefer your knee a little more bent—meaning a lower saddle height—because of a past injury, say so. When you get to the fine-tuning portion of the fit, expect it to take some time, and your fitter will make many small adjustments. The goal of the fit session is to ensure that your final fit gets you in the most optimal cycling position based on multiple factors. A change in the handle bars may cause the fitter to have to adjust the saddle height multiple times or vice versa.
What to Wear When Getting a Bike Fit6 of 13
Photo/André Motta, Creative Commons
Wear the cycling apparel and shoes that you'll most often be wearing while riding. This will allow you the proper range of motion, ample on-the-bike comfort and even allow your bike fitter to make the most accurate measurements of you on your bike.
Bike Fitting is a Hands-On Experience7 of 13
Bike fitters will have to touch your feet, shoulders, torso, hands and hips often while fitting you to your bike. They are trained professionals, working in a professional environment, similar to a physical therapist. If a bike fitter is to do their job and help you fit your bike, they need to find key "landmarks" on your body to make sure they are taking their measurements and angles at the right point.
Precision Bike Fitting Systems8 of 13
Some bike fitters use engineering tools: a goniometer (looks like a big protractor), a tape measure and a plumb bob. These bike fitting tools are tried and true and when used correctly by your fitter, will yield a precise fit. If you have brought in your own bike, this is often how a fitter will check everything to make sure your angles and position are working well.
This is Not a Medieval Torture Machine9 of 13
Another kind of bike fitting tool, which you might see when getting a bike fitting, is a mechanical apparatus, sometimes called a fitbike. Instead of sitting on your own bike or a demo bike, you'll be on a machine with a crank, handlebars, bike saddle and rear wheel, all of which will dynamically adjust to your fit dimensions when prompted by you and your bike fitter. This contraption will capture your fit coordinates and also what bikes are a good match to your morphology.
Hi-Tech Bike Fitting10 of 13
If your bike fitter is using a motion capture system, expect some minimal, electronic data capture points to be affixed to your body and bike via Velcro and/or double-sided tape. A video camera will be trained on you, and your fitter may also have a laser scanning tool (like at the grocery store) to mark points on you and your bike. The data will be run through a software program which will crunch numbers and provide your fitter with a range of best-fit numbers and bikes which fit your body dimensions and riding needs.
A Bike Fit—From the Ground Up11 of 13
With any fit there are a few common alterations, and depending on the bike fitting tools used, these adjustments may occur sequentially or simultaneously. Adjusting the cleats on your cycling shoes and then checking your saddle height and setback (the distance your saddle is behind the bottom bracket) will ensure comfort and efficiency and will usually happen at the beginning of a fitting session. Your fitter will help you set your knee and hip angles to be within a biomechanically efficient range. To some extent, hip angle is also dictated by the rider's flexibility, athleticism and whether the rider will be doing triathlons and time trials or road racing. Next in a fit is finding a good stem length and handlebar height. This may be more of a trial and error process in finding a position that is most comfortable for you. Keep the conversation going with your fitter so that he or she knows what you find most comfortable.
You've Gotten a Bike Fit—Now What?12 of 13
At the conclusion of your bike fitting session you should have a lot of data that can be applied to selecting a new bike or optimizing the bike you already own.
If you're shopping for a new bike, you are looking for the fitter to give you specific bike recommendations based on your fit numbers. Since bike brands use different sizing conventions, finding your "Y" and "X" coordinates (sometimes called stack and reach) will normalize sizing across multiple brands, as well as help your fitter dial in your fit once you've chosen a new bike.
If you got a bike fit to optimize the position on the bicycle you currently own, your bike fitter should have made some adjustments to your bike during the fit. He or she may recommend you swap a stem, handlebars or possibly your bike saddle to enhance comfort and optimize your power output. If you need to swap bike parts, you should expect to pay this additional cost.
This is the most exciting part of a bike fit: No matter if you're reconfiguring your existing bike or shopping for a new one, your bike fit will help you feel awesome while riding!