I’d been told by various people that a professional bike fit was a very worthwhile exercise so, with a long distance in the saddle on the horizon, I decided to book myself in for one. My hope was that the adjustments made would not only improve my comfort on the bike, but also the efficiency of my output to make sure I got every last bit of power that I was generating.
I think, as with most things, it is best for your own peace of mind that you go somewhere that you are familiar with and that you trust. I made my appointment at Pearson Cycles in Sutton as they have been in business for over 150 years, plus I used to go there a lot as a kid and I trust their knowledge and expertise. Their ‘on the bike fit’ costs £125 (£25 deposit payable in advance) and lasts for around one and a half hours, though the cost may rise if you purchase components that they recommend to improve your fit. It is worth noting that, should you buy those components at the time, they will be fitted free of workshop costs so it is worth considering.
The process itself starts a mini interview so that the fitter can understand what your goals are (endurance, racing etc) and also take your measurements. As I found out, this wasn’t just a case of the fitter measuring your inside leg, they want to understand your flexibility through measuring leg raise and hip flexion as well as the width of your seat bones for saddle purposes and other pertinent info. Foot measurements, including arch heights, were taken so that the fitter could position the cleats correctly and ascertain whether wedges or insoles were required. It was a much more detailed process than I had expected but I was intrigued by the science and eager to find out what the final result would be.
After the cleat placement it was onto the bike, hooked up to a turbo trainer. Gustavo, my fitter, got me to pedal as I would normally while he observed and stuck a few stickers on me. Upon questioning, Gustavo told me that he had to qualify to become a bike fitter by completing a 10 day course and then it took completing at least 50 fits before he was able to identify issues almost straight away with the naked eye. Gustavo took some measurements, asked me a few questions about how I felt and then got to work adjusting my bike
From my untrained eye my bike looked perfectly fine but here’s a list!
- Seat too far back
- Seat too high
- Stem too long
- Stem at the wrong angle
- Handlebars too wide (42cm bars while my shoulder blades are 39cm wide)
- Handlebars angled too far down
At least my frame size was the right one!
There were things that I could never have fixed with the original factory components, for example the setback seatpost supplied would not allow the saddle to move far enough forward for me and the 42cm bars were too wide for my shoulders. I wanted to be in the best position that I could so I agreed to making all of the changes that Gustavo had recommended except for the crank size change which he said wasn’t necessary. It is worth mentioning again that it is likely that you will have to buy parts because factory made bikes are made with a one size fits all approach and it is incredibly unlikely you’ll match that spec, so take extra cash or a credit card with you. I sat and watched as Gustavo changed my seatpost, stem and handlebars, pausing at several points to get me on the trainer to check his measurements and the positioning.
The final result was amazing and that is not an exaggeration, it felt completely different to sit on let alone ride. My considerable mass was now over the bottom bracket and the shorter stem and narrower bars made my cycling position more compact. I noticed that my arms were no longer prone to locking at the elbow, something that Gustavo told me had been changed by the correct positioning of the seat, stem and bars. I was extremely happy with the result so I paid up, bid Gustavo farewell and set off on my ride home. It was during that ride that I could really sense the difference as my effort seemed to be rewarded with more response from the bike, I hate to think how much energy I wasted with the old bike fit.
This morning I went out and completed a 30 mile route around Surrey. I noticed a benefit in climbing (probably through the power transfer improving) but mostly that the ache I used to get through my shoulders was completely gone, all through handlebars that were 2cm narrower.
If you have bought a decent bike off the peg online and are planning to do a lot of cycling it is a very worthwhile exercise to get a proper fit done. I enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot about myself as well as the setup of a bike. Everyone should get a Cycle Fit report (as per the picture) as part of the process so any future bike purchased can be set up exactly to your specification without the need for another fitting.