Features of the Fit Process
A comprehensive bike fit optimizes your cycling performance, comfort, stability and safety.
Here we consider all of the features that you may or may not enlist to address your needs.
A Bike Fit involves much more than adjusting your saddle position. It may include:
- Flexibility, Strength, and Range of Motion Assessment
- Initial Measurements
- Evaluation of Foot-Pedal Stabilization
- Observation and Adjustments
- Component Selection
- Final Measurements
Interview: A comprehensive fit starts with a comprehensive interview – conducted by a keen “detective”. The dynamic and harmonious relationship you seek with your bike involves far more that your leg length and saddle height. The more your fitter knows about you, the better the odds that you will end up with a finely tuned instrument that truly serves as a natural extension of your body as you pursue your specific goals.
Expect your fitter to ask about:
- General health
- Nutrition, hydration, supplements
- Medical history (prior injuries, surgeries, current issues, medications)
- Current strength, stretch and/or gym training
- Cycling/triathlon/fitness goals – seasonal and long-term
- Occupation and daily activities (sitting, standing, active, inactive, hours worked per week)
- Amount of sleep
- Overall lifestyle stress level
- Riding level (recreational, serious recreational, amateur competitor, elite competitor)
- Riding style (road, triathlon)
- Other forms of regular/seasonal aerobic training (swimming, running, skiing)
- Amount of cycling and other training (hours-days/week, seasonal fluctuations)
- Length of average long ride, average power output or speed
- Training methods, types of workouts, intensity level
- Solo, group or club riding
- Your perceived strengths and weaknesses as a cyclist
- General pain and discomfort issues
- Cycling-specific pain and discomfort issues
- Recovery techniques and therapies (massage, chiropractor, A.R.T.)
Flexibility, Strength and Range of Motion Assessment: This is where a Physical Therapist or Kinesiologist can really excel. A thorough off-the-bike assessment will identify structural weaknesses and asymmetries that may significantly affect your bike fit, comfort and performance. This assessment can help significantly with diagnosing problems once you are on your bike.
Initial Measurement and recording of your current set-up: After setting your bike on a stationary stand, the fitter will measure your current bike set-up. This record serves as a “base-line”. Even if you are in the market for a new bike, your current bike set-up (if you have one) is important.
Evaluation of Foot-Pedal Stabilization: This is a critical part of your relationship with your bike. Power transmission travels from your body to your bike via your foot-to-pedal interface. Shoes, footbeds, cleats, shims, and pedals must all work with your feet.
Observation and Adjustments: You interface with your bike is through your contact with the pedals, the saddle, and the bars. The actual fitting process involves careful observation (by you and your fitter). These observations direct the adjustment process to optimize your posture, alignment, stability, biomechanics, performance, riding positions and comfort.
Adjustments are also made in consideration of all the data previously collected through your interview and physical assessment.
The adjustment process is guided by perception – both yours and your fitters. Be prepared to rigorously exercise your perceptive capacity!
Most fitters begin the adjustment phase by focusing first on your shoes, footbeds and cleat position. It is vital to stabilize your feet on the pedals and improve your power transfer. Next, they address your saddle: Adjustments may include saddle selection, as well as saddle height, tilt and fore-aft adjustment. From there, the process “moves forward” to handlebar and stem selection and adjustments, as well as adjustments to the position of the brake levers. For triathlon and time-trial bikes, it also includes aerobar adjustments.
Some of these adjustments may be minor and quite subtle, but may provide substantial improvement.
Component Selection: The fit process often includes the selection/substitution of bars, stem, seat post and saddle, as well as components in the foot-pedal interface mentioned above.
Final Measurements: Once the adjustment process and component selection are complete, your fitter will record all of the relevant measurements. The starting point for measurements is the bottom bracket. Measurements (from either a “real” bike or a fit cycle) can include:
- seat tube angle
- seat tube length
- top tube length
- top tube rise
- stem length
- stem angle rise/drop
- crank length
- saddle height
- saddle setback
- seat tip to handlebars
- saddle angle (tilt)
- seat to handlebar drop/rise
- seat tip to brake hood
- handle bar angle (tilt)
- several aero bar measurements
Stack and Reach: The current trend in measurements for frame selection has been distilled to “stack and reach”. This is the vertical height (stack) and horizontal distance (reach) from the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube. For more info: Stack and Reach (on the Slowtwitch website).
Results: If you are purchasing an “off-the-shelf” bike, the measurements from your “tailor-made suit” will guide you and your “team” to the best frame and component package for your ideal bike. If you are purchasing a custom-built frame, the measurements will guide the frame builder and assembler to fabricate the perfect frame for you and select components that enable you to develop or improve your articulate relationship with your bike. (For more on this, see my Definition of Cycling Technique.)
To maximize the value of your fit, here's a list of the skills and knowledge you can bring to the fit studio:
- Pelvic core stability
- Good cycling posture
- Skeletal and joint alignment
- Efficient biomechanics
- Comprehensive awareness of your relationship with your bike
The Zendurance Cycling Self-Study Guide provide you with comprehensive guidance to develop these critical skills. You will maximize the value of your bike fit when you arrive with functional knowledge, skills and habits. A cyclist who has a highly articulate relationship with her/his bike will end up with a more precise and accurate bike fit.
Find out more about my approach to bike fitting and how fit relates to cycling technique and performance: Bike Fitter: My Insights
Bike Fit Beta
Zendurance Cycling Home Page