Having a proper bike fit is really important not only for comfort but for power and efficiency. It can make the difference between truly loving/enjoying the ride and suffering through it. Not to mention, the more efficient you ride the faster you go and less injury prone you will be!
Recently, I had a professional bike fit and thought I would share my experience in for any relatively new riders out there who may benefit.
Who Needs a Professional Bike Fit
I’ve been riding for a while now, about a year. In the cycling world I’m still a baby but I’ve put a good many solid miles on my bike within that time frame, just under 2000. This year I am training for my first century ride which means upping my mileage and working to increase my power.
The result: I started to develop some minor aches, pains and annoyances.
Specifically, some low back pain when I rode hard for over 40 miles. My anterior knees were talking to me, my neck felt tight, sometimes my hands would go numb, plus a little saddle discomfort.
I made an appointment for a professional bike fit with Mike Cordova to hopefully solve my bike/body issues well before my century ride in April. Mike is a Fit Institute Slowtwitch (FIST) certified trainer at North Rim Adventure Sports in Chico, CA as well as an amateur racer. North Rim is the place where I purchased my current ride and my go to for all concerns bike.
I had been meaning to do this for a while but kept putting it off, you know life and all. Typically it’s advised to do several good long rides before you go back for an advanced bike fit so you know what the issues are, unless of course, there is something obvious to work out from the get-go.
There are several different types of bike fits and time/cost will depend on which you choose. Here, I’m mostly talking about the comprehensive fit, but when I first got my bike I did a basic fit so I’ll highlight that real quick.
Basic Bike Fit
What is included in a basic fit:
Your bike is put on a stationary trainer and adjustment are made to:
-Saddle fore-aft and tilt.
-Stem length and elevation.
-Handlebar angle and hood position (where your hands hit on the brakes)
Expect a basic fit to run about $50-75 and about 45-60 minutes of time.
I say pretty much everyone should have a basic fit done from the gate, and often you can get it thrown in with the cost of your bike. Then your off and riding in the best position for you and the details can be dialed in later.
Comprehensive or Advanced Dynamic Fit
A Comprehensive or Advanced Dynamic Fit is way more in depth, and more to troubleshoot issues that you may have developed after riding for a while like I did but also could be done even before purchasing a bike to pick out one that is best for your body type.
With a dynamic fit, changes are made in real time while the rider is peddling, which makes it…. Dynamic, yeah you got that right LOL.
North Rim utilizes Computrainer SpinScan Technology which analyzes the pedal stroke in real time combined with a 3-D motion analysis system using LED markers to measuring pedal stroke and other movements. All of which is to say, it allows for an in depth evaluation of posture on the bike.
Here’s North Rim’s break down of their Advanced Dynamic Bike Fit, as taken from their website.
- Interview to assess injury history and riding goals and flexibility analysis.
- Dynamic saddle height adjustment, fore-aft saddle adjustment, handlebar elevation and fore-aft adjustment.
- Fore-Aft and Medial/Lateral cleat optimization.
- Manual joint measurements.
- Computrainer SpinScan analysis and report.
- Advanced foot/pedal analysis.
- Advanced cleat placement.
- Screening for the need of shims and wedging.
- Screening for the need of insoles.
- Video motion analysis with Velogic Fit
- Recommendations for replacement components for better fit.
- Recommendations for bicycles that meet your riding needs.
- Report emailed to you detailing new bicycle measurements.
- Hard copy report with measurements from fit and detailed list of bicycles that would fit you best.
- 30 days of complimentary follow up contact to help with the new fit transition.
Here’s the rundown of mine and some of the lesson I picked up.
How to Show Up and What to Expect:
- I went prepared to cycle: bib, jersey, cycling shoes, water and a snack.
- Have an idea of what type of rider you are or want to be (Road, Cyclocross, Tri, MTB) and what your goals are.
- A list of your current issues and pertinent questions you want answered.
- Be prepared to speak up! You know your body and they need to know what’s going on to fix it.
- Understand you will be touched… well if you say it’s okay that is… The fitter needs to find your bony landmarks to measure and do your fit, not to goose you.
- Time: for a comprehensive fit allow 2-3 hours
- Cost: $250-300 (Since I purchased my bike there I got a nice discount!)
Pre-Fit Interview: Before Mike got my bike set up on the trainer, he asked me what kind of issues I was having and when they started. Then up on the trainer I went for a quick warm up and more questions. After the warm up he gave me a brief general flexibility analysis.
Cleat Position and Adjustments:
I had done a cleat adjustment while I was out in Denver for vacation last June. I rented a road bike out there and mentioned to the owner of the shop that sometimes my feet would go numb. He made some minor adjustments to my cleats which solved the problem, but when I got home I didn’t think to make any corresponding changes to my own bike.
Mike of course, checked out my cleats and made a couple changes to move the left foot out away from the bike to allow for better knee tracking to alleviate my joint issues.
Bike Fit Lesson 1: Make one adjustment to anything and it will change your entire ride picture. Usually if you make an adjustment to cleat position, corresponding saddle adjustment is likely necessary.
Saddle Analysis and Adjustments:
First, I was set up on my bike and got my measurements/angles taken using the video motion analysis. Then it was up onto the Computrainer further analysis and adjustments. It was pretty cool to be able to see the efficiency and power output of my pedal strokes in real time and where my dead spots are… It turns out I’m not too bad, as far as limb imbalance goes, I actually transfer power pretty equally leg to leg.
While on the Computrainer adjustment were made as I rode then they were transferred back to my bike where I road again for the final motivation analysis to compare before and after.
The major issue was really my saddle height; it was way too high. I had actually adjusted it myself after developing knee issues last August and had grown used to over-extending my legs. This position made me reach farther for my handlebars, hyperextend in my neck and increased the rocking of my hips. Explains the neck fatigue I was feeling and occasional numbness in my hands. Dropping my saddle down a few millimeters and adjusting it forward slightly (aft) put my knee placement directly over my pedals when pressing all the way down (correct vertical alignment).
Lastly he changed out my saddle for one that was slightly larger to further address my low back pain. It was very clear on the motion analysis how much my hips started rocking with increase in power or cadence, so my back pain was likely from that combined with being in an over-extended position.
Bike Fit Lesson 2: Saddle placement is actually all about proper knee alignment and angle. Knees should be tracking straight up and down, not side to side at the top. I had noticed I tended to try to pull my knees in closer to the top tube after riding a while.
Other Bike Adjustments:
Bar length (the reach), Stem height (the drop): nothing needed to be changed here as all my issues where coming from below the waist and with those fixed my upper body discomfort subsided.
It was a pretty cool experience in general and I learned a lot about myself as well as my bike.
Since my comprehensive bike fit I have ridden about 150 miles and I am happy to report all my discomfort has resolved! My rides feel more efficient and bonus I’ve even broken some personal records! But most of all the fit allowed me to enjoy this sport that I love so much even more!
Bike Fit Lesson 3: Millimeter adjustments, made by a friendly kind encouraging professional, make all the difference! Thank you Mike and North Rim Adventure Sports for yet another great customer experience!
Here’s to more happy pedaling my friends!