Getting the most out of you bike requires a lot of work and effort. Part of that work is performing regular maintenance of your bike like lubing the chain, checking and pumping the tires, washing the bike and having your favorite mechanic check the bike once or twice a year.
Beyond your regular tuning, the best thing you can do to get the most out of your bike and to help prevent injury due to bad form is to get your bike properly fit. A bike fitting is more than just setting your seatpost at the right height, it’s about putting your bike in the correct place for you to get the most efficiency out of each peddle stroke, alleviate any muscle soreness you are experiencing and help to prevent future injury. While bike fittings are important for all types of riders, road bikers benefit the most from a professional fitting.
Riders for top teams like HTC-Highroad, Saxo-Bank and Garmin-Cervelo have their bikes professionally fit by the manufacturers (Specialized using BG Fit for the first two, Cervelo for the latter) for not only power, efficiency and injury prevention, but also for aerodynamics on the time trial bikes.
For those of us not-so-professional riders, the best person to fit your bike is someone trained in the science of bike fitting and skilled in the art.
The many aspects of a true bike fitting include: type of bike (pure racer, endurance, touring or aero), frame size (including top tube length, seat tube height and stand over height), bar width, drop length, stem length, stem angle, bar angle, gear lever placement, type of seat, seat post height, seat position (fore and aft), foot position at mid-stroke and knee angle at the bottom of the peddle stroke. A skilled bike fitter can make all of these angles and interactions not only work for you, but make each peddle stroke more efficient, more powerful and more comfortable for the rider.
When you get your first road bike, you may be uncomfortable with the typical 45 degree angle position, especially if you just transitioned from a hybrid or mountain bike. So the fit of your bike can change depending on your comfort level with a road bike and your skill level. You will notice changes in the seat post height or stem length immediately after they are changed. But as you progress in your riding you will appreciate the subtle changes like fore and aft positioning of the seat and handle bar angle just as much.
Both of us have had our bikes since we began road biking just over a year ago. Miko’s initial bike fitting was designed to make her comfortable in her transition from a hybrid to a road bike. Her seat post was a bit lower, her stem was angled up and the seat was closer to the stem. The design of her endurance road bike allowed it to take on the hybridesq fitting, while still giving her the road bike experience. This was the right fit for her at the time.
After over a year of riding and minor adjustments to her seat height, Miko was ready for an updated fitting. We took Ruby into A Bicycle Odyssey to have Tony perform an updated fitting. He took her measurements on the bike and checked the handlebar width. He started with adjustments to the seat post height, flipped the stem changing it from an upward angle to almost flat, ensured her handle bars and hoods were positioned such that her back made a 45 degree angle with her bike in the hoods and her elbows slightly bent, while ensuring he back was almost flat in the drops.
The positioning change made the saddle uncomfortable, so after trying a few different saddles, a new one that matched her positioned was installed. The seat position from the stem was adjusted to reduce chafing in this new position. Finally, all of the angles were one again checked to ensure maximum efficiency. During the first ride she commented she felt she owned a new bicycle.
Jon purchased his first road bike from A Bicycle Odyssey. Part of the purchase price includes a fit by Tony. Transitioning directly from a hybrid bike is a huge change in position, control and speed. On his test ride, the bike felt like a great fit, except for the reach, which was a bit long. During Jon’s fit, Tony swapped the stem with one 10mm shorter. He then continued with a full fitting of the bike as described above. The Result: an amazing and efficient ride that allows Jon to ride long distances without pain, or go for short, hard rides without his back and knees paying the price the next day. When Jon got his second road bike, he made sure to also have a fit done.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced cyclist, a good fitting can help you improve your cycling, help reduce pain you experience while cycling and make riding a more enjoyable experience.