Bike Fit – Is It Worth Getting a Professional Fit Done?
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 annying 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.
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Why did I get a Bike Fit…
As you will know if you have followed my socials or looked at my other posts, this year is one of the biggest years I have had in sport (at 37 years old lol). I have set myself the aim of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Kona.
For an update on my progress so far, check out last weeks post – http://enduromike.com/monthly-review/january-round-up/
In the process of this, one of the decisions I took early on was to leave no stone unturned in optimising performance, hence I am working with an awesome coach, Dean, from Real Fitness in Doncaster who has qualified for Kona on multiple occasions (his Insta and website is below).
Dean Kirkham Insta – @triathlon_deano
Real Fitness Website – www.realfitness.org
Included in that was making sure every aspect of setup and preparation in all 3 disciplines was as close to perfect as it could be.
I have build a brand new (and absolutely stunning) triathlon bike with the specifics of the course – Ironman UK, Bolton – I will be racing focused throughout its setup.
With the ‘no stone unturned’ policy my first thought was getting set up in a wind tunnel, like Drag 2 Zero or Boardman Performance Centre, however, the cost of these, whilst decreasing is still exceptionally high! The next thought was a laser bike fit setup, to make sure that not only was I as aero as possible BUT also able to maintain optimal power output for an extended period of time.
In Ironman racing you will be on the bike for at least 4.5 hours so you need to make sure that not only are you aerodynamic but also able to hold power for that period of time.
So that is why I decided that, after 25 years of setting up bikes myself, I would take the plunge and get a fitting.
So how does a Bike Fit session work…
The fitter I decided on was a shop based in Billericay in Essex called Yellow Jersey Cycles – website below. This for a couple of reasons…
- They are a Retul fitter, therefore use laser fitting and provide LOTS of data on your position and how to replicate position on various bikes and trainers (I train on a different bike and have my own Wattbike so want to replicate the setup position on both of these).
- In the advent of faceless online cycle stores and e-commerce cycle companies selling direct the world of cycle retailing is pretty tough for local, independent retailers. Where you can do I think you should support local businesses.
Yellow Jersey Cycles – www.yellowjerseycycles.co.uk
I showed up there at mid day on Saturday 1st Feb with all of my kit (including the aero helmet – lol – idiot) and making sure that I wore the 2020 race kit I will be wearing all year.
The shop has a solid supporter base of local guys who had all just got back from their Saturday club ride, the coffee, tea and chat was in full flow – it is great that cycling culture has not changed since I started, one of the things I love about the sport.
My bike fit was booked with Nathan, who it turns out I had probably met at some point in the past through a shop that was local to me in Romford.
I was instructed to go and get my kit on, in the mean time Nathan set up my new shoes and Speedplay cleats (thanks for this Nathan) which I hadn’t had time to sort out.
Next step was getting a load of sticky velcro dots placed on all of the major joints from shoulder to foot – as much fun as this was, removing them was twice as fun in my winter ‘wookie’ state lol.
Then came some general movement assessment, reviewing my gait in walking, hip flexibility and shoulder/elbow mobility (as this was a TT bike setup this is important.
Once me and the shoes were all good and fully assessed we got ‘The Beast’ set up on a turbo trainer with a front wheel jack to keep everything nice and level.
It was then time to climb aboard and have a look at what was going on – not going to lie, I was a little apprehensive as I literally threw the bike together and finished it the night before the setup, I hadn’t even sat on it at this point, although, it felt like it was pretty close to my usual setup right off the bat.
Nathan then came at me with a long grey cable that had a load of plastic dots on it, these were all located on the previously applied little velcro dots and I started off with a few minutes to warm up in the aero position at about 70(ish) RPM and an easy gear.
Once the warm up was complete it was into a few higher gears and a bit more load through the legs to run the Retul scan of my pedalling dynamics, this took a few minutes and the process was then repeated on the other side to build a good picture of my pedal stroke and of the various joint angles throughout the body.
So far so good….
The Bike Fit Results…
Once all of that was complete it was then time for feedback, adjustment and reassessment – or so I thought!
All of the results are displayed on a big screen just in front of the setting area, which is handy as it means I didn’t have to get off the bike and could finish the coffee made by Dan 🙂
As we went through the report it became clear that I had the settings of this bike nearly perfect on each aspect, the only adjustment that could possibly be made was to increase seat height by a few millimetres, I decided not to bother.
One question I did have was regarding elbow pad height and headset stack height, the advice from Nathan was that I could maybe drop it a little but it would impact on my hip flexors and possibly make the transition to the run more uncomfortable than it needed to be when I was already in a decent position.
The one thing it did throw out though was that when under lower load my pedal stroke is fairly inefficient (toes pointed down and not getting leverage through the ankle), this seems to improve with more load so is something to concentrate on at lower intensities.
So there we have it, no adjustments needed, it seems that all of my mentors from the past did a sterling job of giving me the knowledge to eyeball a really good bike setup.
Some data points are detailed below (this is a small selection of the report).
All a little anti-climactic really, however, I now have the confidence that the setup I am running is the best for what I want to achieve, and the detailed report has helped me mimic this setup on my Wattbike exactly, therefore meaning come raceday I will be VERY used to pushing hard in that position.
On discussion afterwards the guys were telling me that sometimes they do fits as quickly as mine but sometimes it takes hours (the record being 4 so far) of adjusting and retesting to get things just right.
Overall I was pretty pleased, and it was great to spend some time just hanging about in a bike shop again, one of the biggest things I miss about being in Northern Ireland is being able to drop into Kaner’s for a bike chat!
Back to the title of the post – is it actually worth it?
Ultimately I would say yes 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, if you enjoyed this post and would like to see more then please enter your details in the box to the right.
If there is something you would like to ask – or something you would like me to write about please drop a comment in the box below 🙂
Thanks for reading.