Spoke Talk: What bike fitting can do for you
September 6, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Riding a bike is supposed to be a fun, exhilarating and stress-reducing experience, but for many riders, it can be a source of discomfort.
Getting a professional bike fitting can reduce discomfort in the same way as having your ski boots professionally fitted. The goal of a bike fitting is to put you into a sustainable position on your road or mountain bike, allowing you to be comfortable for long periods. If you experience discomfort anywhere in your body as you ride, a bike fitting is a good place to start in order to alleviate that discomfort. Examples of discomfort that can be addressed by a fitting are: pain in knees, ankles, neck, shoulders or spine; numbness in the hands or feet (or elsewhere); and other problems preventing long, sustained rides.
A bike fitting starts from the feet up and involves adjusting components on the bike in order to achieve the best possible alignment with the mechanics of your body. Throughout the bike fitting process, professional fitters will educate you about topics pertinent to your needs, which might include riding technique, equipment use, injury prevention, riding apparel, training ideas and more, but the goal always will be sustainable positioning and comfort.
A basic fitting, which takes about 45 minutes, takes the bike in its present configuration and makes adjustments to the existing equipment to make the fit as comfortable as possible. This includes examining shoes, cleats, pedals and saddle height as well as positioning stem height and control placement without replacing any of the existing components. For an additional cost, this process can be expanded into a comprehensive fitting.
A comprehensive fitting takes about 90 minutes. Components that might be changed include stem, bars, saddle, seat post and cleats or building custom footbeds for the bike shoes. The cost for this fitting can vary according to time involved, and it does not include the cost of any additional parts.
For most of us, the fitting process described above is all we ever will need, but for pro racers and elite amateurs, bike fitting goes beyond achieving a comfortable, sustainable riding position. In the shop, they pedal fully adjustable frames that are connected to power meters, and the amount of power they are able to generate is measured while adjustments are made to the riding position in order to find the fit that optimizes power output. Then their existing bike is set up to replicate that riding position or, if necessary, they have a custom frame built to achieve that optimum fit.
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For a pro rider, it can be a matter of millimeters to deliver a benefit measured in seconds. For the recreational rider, it's about improving your comfort and efficiency, which translates into more fun and less pain. This is measured by the width of your grin at the end of an epic ride.
Derek Hodson serves on the board of Routt County Riders. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.