Reply To: Bike Fit Recommendations

Joseph Fengler

For what it is worth, I have some observations from my bike fit at Parvilla.  I purchased two used bikes in late December – triathlon bike and road bike.  To prepare myself for the purchases, I measured myself and found two frames that were at least in the “ball park” in terms of frame size.  I went to a local bike shop for some basic adjustments (30 minutes per bike).  After riding for two months, I thought I was fine.  Ignorance is bliss.

But, I kept “hearing” how important a bike fit was…so, I considered it.  The price was a bit of a sticker shock – $450.  That is half of what I paid for my used triathlon bike.  But, I decided – in for a penny, in for a pound.  It was perhaps one of the best things I have done this year.

Here are my observations from my five-hour (yes, five hours) bike fit:

  1. Body Measurements.  A bike fit is not just the bike – it is you.  You are measured – head to toe.  I found that I had a 5mm difference between my right and left legs.  That is a lot when you think about being clipped into a position that requires both legs to be the same length.  I was able get some medical attention to correct that (pelvis adjustment and stretching).  So, that difference was greatly minimized.
  2. 3D Measurements.  A bike “machine” (the Guru fit machine is the proper name) is what I rode.  What is that?  A bike where every possible adjustment can be made while you are riding – seat, crank, handle bar.  You are fitted with sensors that capture your leg stroke, foot placement, and shoulder placement.  You can see your two-dimensional legs on the computer screen.  For me, my right leg was stroking in a slight oval.
  3. Shoes. After measuring my feet, it was determined that not only were my shoes would be too tight for long course racing.  I also learned the difference between road shoes and triathlon shoes.  I bought new shoes.  I also needed inserts to remove the small space between my feet and the bottom of the shoes.  Getting the foot locked into the shoe will help to provide an even, efficient stroke.  Then, my cleats where NOT set correctly for my stroke.  Again, I would not have even thought about that.  So, the right shoes, with the right insert and the correct cleat setting, I could easily feel the difference right away.
  4. Saddle.  One of the other interesting things on my fit was getting a pressure measurement of my…butt.  This is key for making sure your saddle is right for you. The right saddle will help you get your knees in the right position.  I ended up trying five saddles and found one that felt good.  So, I bought a new saddle.
  5. Cranks.  My cranks were too long for my stroke.  My used bike had 172.5mm cranks.  Based on my body, I ended up getting 165mm cranks.  The difference between my old cranks and new cranks – I added 10 -15 strokes per minute to my cadence with the same effort (I am sure all the adjustments helped as well).
  6. Power.  In my old position, I was only using 20% of my quad muscles in my stroke – the 20% nearest to my new.  In my new position, I can feel the entire quad muscle engage on the stroke.  Since the quad muscle is 80% of the engine on the bike, I using the entire quad versus 20% of the 80%.  Think about that…
  7. Elbow pads.  Again, not knowing.  My elbow pads were way to close and too high.  I was a flying pancake on an aero bike.  My upright position was negating a significant advantage of riding an aero bike.
  8. General Riding Knowledge.  If you get a fit, you need to ride in the right position.  While I watched some YouTube videos on how to ride in an aero position, having an expert put you in the right position is much more…rewarding.  I learned a ton about riding by just listening for five hours.  And how important it is to “reset” your position as often as you think to do so.
  9. Final Measurement.  You get a report of the “natural” fit measurement for your body.  With these precise measurements, you can use them for future bike purchases.  Which means, this investment will be good for years to come.  Here are some of the detailed measurements you receive:
    1. handlebar reach, drop and stack,
    2. arm pad reach, drop and width
    3. grip reach, drop and angle,
    4. arm pad to grip reach,
    5. saddle height, setback, angle, and
    6. frame stack height

In my opinion, the investment was worth the outcome.  I will be sitting for hours on my bike – getting the most out of my bike is key.  So, yes, I bought an eight-year-old Specialized Transition time trial / triathlon bike (I leaned during my fit, it affectionately referred to as the “red armpit” of triathlon bikes…) for $900.  I spent $450 on the fit and another $350 on a seat, cranks, shoes and inserts.  So, I am into my triathlon bike for under $2,000.  But, I have a bike that fits me.  My point is, no matter the bike, and based on my experience, getting fit made a huge difference.

In my case, I would more than likely have injured my right knee (dollars on rehab?), over-used my quad muscles and suffered on the run (another injury?), continued to use a very inefficient stroke (not maintaining cadence) and would essentially ride in a higher position (why not just stand up in the pedals?) that would negate most of the benefits of an aero bike.

My two cents.  Keep in mind, I am not an expert.  Just sharing my experience.