Why You Should Invest in a Bike Fit this Season – Bike Magazine Australia

Getting a bike fit can feel like an expensive indulgence reserved for pro cyclists. But it isn’t really—good bike fit is just as important an investment as the bike itself, and can not only increase your comfort on the bike, but make you faster and stronger without a single interval or endurance ride.

If your bike isn’t fit properly, you’re sacrificing watts, increasing your chance of saddle sores, and just not having as much fun on the bike as you could be having.

But how do you know who to go to for a good bike fit, what to ask the fitter, and how a fit should go? 

“Fits are for everyone, especially new riders,” says Kyle Russ, the Biomechanical Engineer at Trek Bikes and one of the men behind their uber-advanced Precision Fit system. The two primary advantages of a properly fitting bike are an increase in comfort and an increase in power. If your bike isn’t fit properly, for example, Russ says that your glutes may not be firing, so you’re missing out on a ton of power that’s already there.

Consider this: you could spend thousands buying a bike that’s a pound lighter than what you’re riding now in order to shave seconds off of your time up a hill. But a bike fit – typically not much more than a few hundred dollars – can gain you huge wattage increases without any extra work on your part. From a performance standpoint, the investment of a bike fit versus any other investment in bike gear is the wisest choice you could make.

As far as an increase in comfort is concerned, Russ laments the amount of riders he meets who struggle with saddle sores, numbness in their hands or feet, or back problems. “A lot of people stop riding because they’re uncomfortable,” he says, “And when you’re more novice and aren’t immersed in cycling, you wouldn’t even consider a fit. People think it’s for an elite athlete, but it’s a comfort and enjoyment thing.” Most of these issues are fixable with some minor changes to fit, he says, and cyclists shouldn’t need to struggle to ride comfortably.

When we talk about bike fit, we’re not talking about that five minutes a shop spends with you once you’ve bought a bike, setting your seat height and maybe adjusting the saddle forward or backward. A bike fit should be an in-depth experience that starts with an interview process, involves some off-bike flexibility, and ends with pedaling to perfection.

And a good bike fitter will always be willing to tweak the fit if, a few rides later, it’s not feeling right.  Russ says that despite the high-tech gear he has access to—Trek’s Precision Fit system that involves computer analysis of things like pressure points on the saddle—if a bike fit doesn’t start sitting down and just talking, that’s a red flag.

To find a fitter, search around online in your area and ask other riders for opinions, Russ suggests. And before committing to a fit, do a quick “interview” with the fitter to decide if he or she is a good fit for you, and if you feel comfortable chatting with them about pretty much anything. “You don’t want to feel like the person is a stranger when you go in for a fit,” he says.

That comfort with your fitter is key, because absolute honesty is going to let you get the most out of your fit. Are your nether regions going numb after 30 minutes of pedaling? Are your knees sore after every ride? Do your glutes cramp during intervals? All of this can be hugely helpful to a fitter when it comes to making adjustments and tweaks, so you should feel open talking about it. Let your fitter know your concerns and past experiences. Then, he or she should do some basic flexibility assessments: the angles that work best will change depending on your mobility. 

A bad bike fitter sticks to the saddle: usually, that’s what you get when going in for a complimentary fit session at a shop: just a quick assessment of saddle height, and perhaps a slight tweak to the handlebars. But Russ says the saddle is just one of the three main contact points with the bike, and all three—nether regions, hands and feet—are important to a good fit. Your numbness in the groin area might be caused by your cleats being too far forward, for example: it’s all part of a moving, ever-changing system. 

Feel free to ask questions, too, Russ says. Too often, people getting fitted will defer to the fitter’s opinions and they’ll hold back if something doesn’t right, for fear of being “wrong.” But that’s how riders end up with bike fits that simply aren’t right for them. If a fitter doesn’t know that your calf is cramping, they can’t make adjustments to fix it. Bear in mind that your fitter might nudge you towards a different type of fit, because in a lot of cases, he or she does know best—but if they refuse to listen to your concerns, that’s problematic. 

Lastly: if you ride different bikes – even a cyclocross and road bike, or a road and touring bike – each bike will have a slightly different fit, so don’t expect the measurements to perfectly transfer from bike to bike. Even a new road bike compared to your old one may require a totally different fit. Furthermore, as we grow and develop as cyclists and people, our fit needs can change.

Pregnancy, or even starting a yoga practice, can drastically change how we ride, so don’t expect a bike fit from 10 years ago to be perfect today. Once you find a great bike fitter you’re comfortable with, don’t be afraid to go in for an adjustment every so often: a lot of fitters will offer deals or discounts for repeat customers or for quick check-in sessions.  

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