The Importance of a Bike Fit

I think I need a smaller bike...
I think I need a smaller bike…

I remember when I bought my first road bike the guy at Sports Basement adjusted my seat, tweaked the handle bars a little bit, and I was set to go. Then he told me to go for some rides, make a note of any aches/pains/discomforts, and come back in 3-4 weeks for a bike fit. “Wait… didn’t you just fit me for my bike? I have to come back again?” I definitely didn’t understand the importance of a pro bike fit at the time, but I do now!

Every single person has different dimensions, but bike manufacturers can’t possibly take all of these into account for each individual. That’s why they make all of the components adjustable; so you can make it uniquely you.

I always go see Pedro at Sports Basement Presidio for my fits because he is extremely detail-oriented, has the best reputation and he’s such an all-around helpful and great person. The way I see it, adjusting the bike (saddle position, saddle height, saddle-to-stem distance) to perfectly fit your particular body is similar to correcting poor running form. You’ll probably injure yourself, or train inefficiently, if you run without proper form. Same thing with the bike. You are less prone to injury and will have a smoother, more enjoyable and faster ride if it’s fit well.

I was having some severe knee pain when I was training for my first century ride, and with a few tweaks to my position the pain was gone. And when I wanted to get more “aero” to start doing triathlons, Pedro re-positioned my bike and added aerobars, which was very helpful.

A typical bike fit session will last an hour or more and will include slight adjustments to the saddle, stem, brakes, pedals… pretty much anything on the bike that can adjust. You’ll be on an indoor bike trainer for this. The fitter will use a protractor-looking thing to measure the angle of your body when you’re pedaling. Then will ask for your feedback — “how does this stem length feel vs. the prior length?”, for example.

So what are the benefits of getting a pro bike fit?

  • Reduce neck pain, knee pain, aches, and discomfort. If your bike doesn’t fit well, then you might be straining your muscles in ways that are unnecessary. A few simple tweaks can help fix that.
  • To get a more comfortable, or a more aggressive, position. Training for a triathlon? Probably want a more aggressive, faster position (where your torso is closer to horizontal). Cruising around the Bay? Probably OK to be more upright and comfortable.
  • Reduce or eliminate numbness in your hands or feet. This was happening to me and a new fit helped tremendously!
  • To be more efficient on the bike. We all want to transfer power more efficiently and to get faster with the same amount of effort. A proper fit will help.
  • Add accessories like aerobars. You can do this yourself of course, but you also want to make sure your aero position works with your bike fit.

The session can be costly, but Sports Basement will throw in a free fitting if you buy your bike there. Any feedback or comments? Do you get a pro bike fit? Any success stories (reduced injury, faster, more comfortable)?

Thanks everyone. Swim. Bike. Run. Eat Plants.

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