The Benefits of Professional Bike Fitting
When it comes to how well an athlete performs on the bike, conditioning and the quality of the equipment play major roles. But a professional bike fitting—or lack thereof—also is a determining factor. “You need to position your body to transfer energy efficiently and that’s what the bike fit is all about,” says Park Alsop, a fitting specialist at Outspokin Bicycles in Clearwater, Fla. “You’re basically aligning your body with the bike.”
Many athletes assume that fitting is mostly a function of the rider’s height and the size of the frame. That’s important, but just a starting point. A professional bike fitting takes many other factors into account, including flexibility, mobility, and muscle imbalances. Recent technological developments have made the process more precise and individualized than ever before.
Here are several factors to consider when undergoing a bike fitting:
1. It's Not Just About the Bike
Two people the same height and weight with similar frames could have dramatically different bike fits. One could have longer legs or one could be more flexible. Alsop says a bike fitting could—and perhaps should—begin with a look at the rider’s movement patterns away from the bike. “We go through flexibility, gait, and different cleat positioning,” he says. “There are so many things you want to consider before we even get on the bike.”
2. Get Fit First
New bike purchasers typically choose the model and then get fitted. With newer technology, such as the Retul Frame Finder available at some bike shops, the athlete is measured on a stationary bike. Based on those results, recommendations are given for brand and size. With the Retul system, sensors are placed on the rider, producing a 3D rendering of the motion every 15 seconds. “We can tweak something a few millimeters and see immediate results,” Alsop says. Some fitting systems have power meters built into bicycle trainers. The power meter shows the amount of wattage produced by the rider from various saddle positions. This way you can find the best saddle height to produce power.
3. Be Comfortable
Many riders never realize how comfortable a bike should fit. They figure discomfort, whether from a poor fit or from pushing their endurance is part of cycling. That shouldn’t be the case. “To be 100 percent efficient, you have to be comfortable,” Alsop says. “If you’re uncomfortable, you won’t transfer energy efficiently. When people say they can’t get comfortable, I guarantee they’re not fit properly. A properly fitted bike should be the most comfortable ride you’ll ever have.”
4. Refitting May Be Necessary
If you’ve made significant flexibility gains, lost a lot of weight, or purchased a new saddle, it could be time for a refit. That’s because you’re no longer positioned the same way on the bike. “Some people get refitted once a year regardless,” Alsop says. “They just want to be more efficient. It might be a small subtle change but it can make a dramatic difference in their efficiency.”
For more cycling tips, visit www.CorePerformance.com/cycling.
About The Author
Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.