Bike Fitting: What to Expect
Last Friday I finally got around to getting fitted on my road bike. As I’ve been considering getting a bike fit for a while I wanted to share my thoughts and experience with you. Maybe I can help one of you who is in the same shoes as I was. As with any fitting or professional sports evaluation a bike fit initially seems to be just another expense on top of the cost of your equipment. In this post I want to explain what you can expect to happen in a basic fitting and how this has helped me.
Maybe, like me, you have previously had a running analysis done or gotten a ski boot fitting? In that case, getting a bike fit will probably just tick another box. But without further ado let's jump right into my experience:
Deciding on a Bike Fit
For me, the deciding factors were obviously price and service level but also the location and my actual needs. If you are just buying a bike you might be able to get a fitting included in your purchase price. If not, you are probably shopping around just like me.
As I am a casual rider who had a couple of fairly simple concerns, I knew that a basic fitting would be enough for now. If, on the other hand, you are planning to spend a lot of time in the saddle or you can and want to afford it then obviously go for the highest service level that you can afford.
My main concern in my current cycling was my reach. I felt wobbly on any downhill and unable to reach my brake levers properly. These kinds of adjustments should be part of any base level fitting. I also wanted somewhere close by that would offer a good follow-up service. This means that if you are unhappy with any aspect of your fit within the first few weeks or month your bike shop might offer a second adjustment as part of the initial price.
The session I booked cost £60 and was supposed to last around an hour. The shop is conveniently located around the corner from my flat.
What to Wear + First Steps
As you can imagine you will be spending some time in the saddle during your bike fit. Therefore, make sure to wear a pair of padded shorts and your usual cycling shoes - in my case clipless ones.
A basic bike fitting is likely to take place on a turbo trainer on your own bike. A more advanced fitting could be a Retül bike fitting and will generally involve a lot more technology.
Before I hopped onto Olaf (that's what I call my bike) we went through a few simple questions:
- How experienced am I?
- What are my cycling goals?
- What kind of cycling am I likely to do?
- Have I got any injuries?
- What is my fitness level?
- Have I got any other concerns I would like to address?
In my case, I am pretty fit and work out regularly. My goal is to be comfortably spending a few hours in the saddle and while I don't have any injuries I have weak hips. I also had one major concern: I found it hard to brake on my current set up.
Adjustments on the Turbo Trainer
After we covered the basics I got to start pedaling. First I warmed up for a little while, then we got started on the physical adjustments. At this stage the bike fitter will be paying close attention to your form (or alternatively recording it in some way) in order to make the first adjustments. We first adjusted my cleats as especially my left knee was leaning inwards a bit.
After every adjustment I would hop back onto the bike and pedal some more. This same process was repeated until we both felt like my form had improved and I was also feeling comfortable.
Next up, we adjusted my saddle and brought it forwards a small amount to improve my reach and drop. Then, we went on to establish the basic angles of my body when riding. This included how far my leg is outstretched at each point of a rotation as well as the angle of the knee over the pedal. In order to establish the right positioning, my bike fitter used a large angle and measuring tool as well as a plumb-line. Making these adjustment help me use my whole leg in pushing and pulling the pedal, thus riding more efficiently.
Finally, when all else was adjusted, we worked on the hood and brake levers. This is where I had the most visible adjustments. We lowered the hood by a few centimetres and brought in the brake levers a bit. When I next jumped onto the trainer I suddenly felt very, very comfortable and a lot more in control. This was exciting!
Fine Tuning + Testing
An hour later and at the end of the fitting my body was positioned in a much more comfortable way on the bike. I am now able to brake easily and confidently and I also lean down lower on the hoods without having to sit up any higher. My cleats were repositioned to allow me to pedal more effortlessly. The only thing that wasn't finalised yet is the stem of my bike.
Because we made such a large adjustment to my hoods, the stem is now a bit too long. This is not something I have to change as it is mostly cosmetic. I do have the option of going back to get it cut though if I decide that I am happy with the new fit.
What is left now is for me to spend some time in the saddle testing my new fit. I need to establish whether I am now really comfortable and if there is anything else that bothers me.
In my opinion, getting a bike fit has been a great investment and is already helping me massively with my cycling confidence. I am now in a position where I feel a lot more in control over my bike and that is obviously very important. Not a whole lot was changed in my fit which did show me that I had not gotten it entirely wrong on my own. However, the small adjustments that were made helped me tremendously and will pay off on my next cycle around Dorset.
I cannot recommend getting professional help enough in any sport. Whether that is getting fitted for boots or a bike or getting analysed for running shoes. The money you spend on this will likely reduce your risk of injury in the longer term, make you more efficient and help you with comfort and confidence.
If you have gotten a bike fit I would love to hear your thoughts and whether you think this was a useful experience. Leave a comment below sharing your story!