Shopping for a new bike is a bit like shopping for clothes or shoes. While some people are happy to buy online most people prefer to visit a shop and check they are getting the right size. Most bike shops will let you sit on a bike, or even take it for a quick test ride, but not all bike shops are able to do proper bike fittings for their customers.
Cycles UK provide mechanical support for lots of cycling events. At a triathlon earlier this summer their mechanics had to do impromptu bike fits for several competitors who had turned up to race on bikes worth thousands of pounds but which did not fit them. A badly fitted bike will not only be uncomfortable to ride but will also be a lot slower – and can risk causing injuries and strains to muscles and joints. In the very worst cases a badly fitted bike can be downright dangerous.
Danny, the store manger at Cycles UK’s Greenwich branch, is a trained bike fitter. He has previously done bike fits for Paralympic medallists and is currently working with a Paralympic hopeful to improve his position on the bike. When Danny is working with a rider he starts by getting them on a bike that is roughly the right size and then takes a series of measurements. Of particular importance are the angle of the rider’s back and the length and angle of their legs at different points of the pedal rotation. From there adjustments can be made to the bike by increasing the saddle height, putting insoles and wedges into shoes, shortening or lengthening stems and adding spacers to change the height of the handlebars.
Danny explained, “If you’re training for an event, or just doing a lot of miles, getting a proper bike fit is one of the best things you can do. There is a big performance benefit but it will also make your time on the bike much more comfortable and fun.”
Mechanics for pro cycling teams will have a tape measure on standby whenever there are changes made to a race bike. They will know to the millimetres what height a particular rider needs their saddle, and the exact angle they like their handlebars at. Getting it wrong can mean the difference between winning or losing a race.
For mere mortal, non-pro, cyclists a proper bike fit can transform your riding experience. Many common issues that cyclists experience can be eliminated by a proper bike fit. These include stiff necks and shoulders, pain around the knees and even getting a sore bum. What seem like tiny adjustments of a few millimetres can make the world of difference. Whether you are planning on treating yourself to a new bike, or just want to get on better with the one that you have, getting your bike properly fitted is one of the best investments you can make.