Bike fit who…? You may be wondering what a bike fit is. Chances are it might be new terminology to you, so let’s chat about it because it could change your life, or heal your achy breaky knees.
What is a bike fit?
Bike fitting is the process in which a qualified bike fitter will fit the rider to their bike. They’ll optimise the rider’s position by moving parts around i.e. saddle, bars, stem and maybe change the crank length.
Although, cycling is a low impact sport, it’s a repetitive sport, especially for the legs and if you’re not riding in the correct position for your body it can cause injuries – repetitive strain injuries.
Bike fits can also optimise the position for your requirements. If you want to get more aero it can be done or if you want to be in an endurance position for an audax or sportive you’re doing, it can also be arranged.
What’s considered during a fit
There isn’t a ‘perfect’ fit for all or even a way of defining a perfect fit. Everyone wants something different and everybody is different. Some people are more flexible. Some people have previous injuries or asymmetry. Therefore, fitting is very individual and that’s why it requires a professional to figure out what’s best for you with a bike fitting jig.
Bikes come in lots of sizes, and actually, sometimes buying the size down (if you’re on the line between a 52cm and 54cm for example) is much more beneficial because it allows you to fit a stem which can lengthen the position and put you in a much more comfortable position. It also means that if for whatever reason you can’t get comfortable with a longer reach, you can shorten the stem length as you purchased the smaller frame.
Determining factors during a bike fit
Everybody’s flexibility varies, but generally speaking, the more flexible you are then the more aero you can have your bike fitted and often this is more comfortable than sitting upright. The flexibility comes from your hamstrings, hip flexors and thoracic flexibility.
Bodies tend to be asymmetrical, whether that be from injuries or birth, so it’s up to the bike fitter to fit the bike to what works for you. They can look into shims for your shoes if you have one leg longer than the other, raising the hoods if you have a dropped shoulder from a clavicle break for example and add insoles for those with flat feet.
Having the correct saddle for you helps massively – it’ll help make you comfortable and decrease the risk of saddle sores. People tend to think the thicker the saddle, the more comfortable. But this isn’t necessarily true. Most people require a saddle they can sit into rather than sit on top of. If you’re sitting on top of the saddle, you tend to roll over the top with each pedal stroke, making your hips move more. This can create saddle sores, knee problems and back problems. Bike fitters will often use a saddle sensor pad when doing a fit, which will allow them to see how much you move around on the saddle and where the key pressure points are. There are hundreds of different saddles out there so your bike fitter can recommend one to work for you.
Some people’s feet turn in, some people’s feet turn out and others are completely straight. So, why don’t we take this into consideration…? Well I guess it’s an overlooked issue by your standard human, but bike fitters will look at your feet and put your cleats at an angle that will ensure you are aligned. If you put your cleats straight but it’s not the natural position for your feet, you’ll often cause knee injuries and lack of power.
Levels of bike fit and Outcome
Bike fits come in a few different levels, allowing you to choose one to suit your budget. All of them will help, it just depends how much depth you want to go into and what your budget is.
They tend to be; basic, comprehensive and professional and can last from 30 minutes to 3-4 hours.
Who will benefit from a bike fit?
In our opinion – everyone.
In particular though, those who are:
- coming back from injury
- wanting to prevent injury
- looking to start racing
- wanting to gain aero benefits
- needing an endurance set-up due to injury or because of an old injury
- PLUS those who just aren’t comfortable on the bike.
Honestly, if you have the budget, it is well worth the money to be comfortable and stable on your bike.
Recommended bike fitters
- Precise Performance – London and Hampshire
- Velo Insight – Saffron Walden
- CycleFit – London
- Phil Burt Innovation – Manchester
- Velo Atelier – Warwick
- Soigneur Bike Fitting – London
Have a think about what you’ve read. Are you truly comfortable on your bike? Can you do a four plus hour ride without getting sore?
If not, this is your sign to get a bike fit. Being uncomfortable on the bike is not standard.