There has been a huge surge in technology and the popularity of getting a professional bike fit over recent years. But is it worth it?
The increase in popularity of cycling and triathlon coupled with the fact that more people are getting involved in both sports later in life means a growing industry within an industry has become more successful – and potentially worthwhile.
Back in my golden days of the 90’s (and since the beginning of cycling as a ‘thing’), bike fitting was done by shop owners. Usually who had been riding/racing and in the life for decades. In some ways it was passed down through the generations of cyclists. More experienced riders teaching the ‘young pups’ what to look for and them then doing the same years later.
I was super fortunate when I was coming up through the schoolboy ranks to have the advice of some legends of cycle sport from Northern Ireland helping, guiding and teaching me.
Namely Dave, Mark and Paul Kane along with Ray Brownfield – all at that time from Dave Kane Cycles, although Ray has now got his own set up – Brownfield Bike Repairs. If you are looking for anything cycling related and happen to be in Ireland I urge you to give these guys a shout, links to their info are below…
Dave Kane Cycles – Click HERE
Brownfield Bike Repairs – Click HERE
I was amazingly lucky to be part of a really successful club, Toyota North Down, where there was a wealth of experience, from ex-Commonwealth Games riders such as Alistair Irvine, to potential Games riders and international representatives like Michael Hamilton, the Blayney family as well as other shop owners like Brian Marshall who were all really generous with tips, advice and help (even though I was generally an annoying little s**t lol).
Clearly – with the majority of participants in cycling and triathlon now not getting started until their late 20’s or 30’s this experience and knowledge is not forthcoming in the same way.
Hence there are a LOT of cyclists and triathletes out there now who do not have a lot of knowledge of bikes in general and specifically how to set one up for optimum comfort and performance. This makes the bike fit industry vital for a HUGE cross section of cyclists and triathletes.
Rather than building up your experience over the years of growing up, having to reset your position repeatedly through your adolescent years and every time you changed bike. You can now pay someone who either has all of the required experience OR has been trained specifically on how to get you a great fit.
So how does a Bike Fit session work…
Well – firstly there is a lot of variation to a ‘fit’ session
From the Retul based ‘laser fit’ where you get assessed by a computer and it directs the fitter on what they need to adjust (which is great as it means that you don’t actually need that much experience to fit effectively with the Retul system).
To random guys in garages with plumb lines, plastic angle measurement devices and all sorts of other things.
It is worth remembering this saying however – ‘a fool with a tool is still a fool’ – a lot of the time, a 70 year old fella in a garage with a piece of string who has been doing it for 50 years will get you in a far superior position that a Retul fitter who has been doing it for a year.
I can only speak to how I carry out a fit session (this will look like a sales pitch but honestly I don’t mean it to be)…..
- Movement and posture assessment – I find this to be a vital start point, although I think that is because I have studied and worked with biomechanics for 16 years as a strength coach, massage therapist and personal trainer. I look at how your alignment is, any muscle imbalances you have and any compensations we need to make as a result
- Power/Heart rate assessment – this is less vital but is useful nonetheless, you ride at a specific intensity for 10 to 15 mins, we then look at your heart rate vs power output as an average over the time – more on that later………
- Video assessment – whilst you are performing the above test I take a video analysis of your cycling technique and position, we then look at how it stacks up against ‘optimal’ and discuss the adjustments needed to get you to optimal (for you – remember, everyone is different)
- Adjustments – this is the fun part, the funky, stem adjustment tools, different size/shape saddles, shoe wedges, pedal extenders and all sorts of other toys come out to play to get you in the very best position possible
- Power/Heart rate assessment – yep, this one again – so that we can see how much of a difference we have made to your efficiency
- Position comparison and aftercare – once you have completed your test we look at the video capture of ‘before and after’ so you can see the difference, we also discuss stretching and strengthening specific to you that will make you more comfortable and more powerful on the bike
And that is that – as you can see it is a fairly involved process – in general a fit session takes 2 hours (with obligatory coffee consumption factored in obviously).
Following a session it usually takes a couple of weeks to adjust to the new position so it may feel a bit weird but that feeling does go away 🙂
Anyway – back to the title of the post – is it actually worth it?
Ultimately I would say yes (obviously – lol) it is BUT there are differing reasons for this depending on who you are, what you want and how much experience you have…….
Lifetime Cyclists: (been at it since you were a teenager, know that Campag is better than Shimano and why)..…
Get it done once, if nothing else it give a great insight into your pedal stroke and how you line up on the bike, once you have had one session though I would say that you could pretty confidently carry on without help.
If, like me, you love a bit of data you will get proper excited by all of the data the session will generate.
New Era Cyclists: (started in your 20’s or 30’s, love a good Cervelo, ride Sportives like they are going out of fashion)…..
Worth investing in a good fit each time you buy a new bike, or before you change a bike.
You are unlikely to have had the benefit of a ‘schooling’ in cycling and bike setup so in terms of day long comfort and getting the most from your riding then a regular fitting session will be more than worth the investment in both time and money.
You will also get the benefit of spending time with some folks who are really knowledgeable about bikes, bike set up and general maintenance – so learn as much as you can, every time.
Triathletes: (you know who you are)…..
Let’s face it, anything that helps you to stay upright and moving forward is a great benefit for triathletes.
Having your bike set up properly will really help you to have better control and therefore help you to avoid crashing and/or being a menace on the road 😉
On a serious note, if you are looking at completing a long course event, having a bike fit will make the experience far more enjoyable – get it done.
Beginners: (before you get your first proper road bike)…..
Absolutely, 100% have a bike fit done before you purchase your first bike, one of the biggest beginner mistakes is buying the wrong sized bike – this is especially true if you are going to buy a bike online.
You can have your first fit done on a rig, then this information will help you to make a fully informed choice on which is your first bike.
So there we have it, my experience of bike fitting – if you have got this far I thank you for your commitment, also – seeing as you did get this far – if you would like to check out my bikefitting options then please click the button below for all of the details 🙂
Thanks for reading.