Bike fitting is critically important to the enjoyment of our beautiful sport. Despite having become widely accepted, to a lot of cyclists, particularly new ones, bike fitting is pretty much a mystery. Costs are widely ranging, technology and tools differ from one fitter to the next and they all claim to be the best. How then does the discerning cyclist filter through the hype? Is this all smoke and mirrors?
If you do a search for bike fitters in your area, you’ll have an awful lot of choices. As you begin to do your research, you’ll find that prices range from under $100 to over $400. A large number of bike shops and fitters offer a range of prices that depend on the level of service, often with checklists describing what each service entails. The next thing you’ll see is most higher priced fit services incorporate some form of technology. For example, if you dig around and find Bespoke, we’re most often listed as a “Retul Fitter”. Other’s might be listed as something else like “BG Fit” or “Dartfish” and so on. These are all various forms of motion capture technology and they all incorporate and often require some level of certification. The question is, does any of that matter? Yes and no.
Remember this, just because you own a tool and someone showed you how to use it doesn’t mean you’re a master.
We’ve also attended and continue to seek out new methodologies and technology that help us do a better job. Our field of expertise is changing and we’re always learning. We’re certified from Retul but also several others including F.I.S.T and SICI. Another important thing to remember is this; because no two bodies share to the same proportions, range of movement and abilities, we know we can not apply a singular text book methodology to all cyclists. Physical evaluation, knowledge of human movement and observation are incredibly important.
Motion capture technology has definitely helped us perform more accurate fittings. The ability to assign numbers to things like lateral knee movement, allows us to quantify to the rider, what we’re observing as fitters. Most of us understand the value of accurate data in our modern world, this is the same thing. The more accurate the data is and the more you can collect leads to better choices and solutions.
How then do we chose between the $100 fit and the $400 fit? Most of the time you get what you pay for. Sometimes a $100 fitting leaves a lot of guessing. There are aspects of fit such as the entire relationship between the foot, shoe and pedal which are often overlooked in a cheap fitting. Crank length, weight distribution and your range of movement are often overlooked as well. In almost any case, it’s best to do it right the first time… which is why we don’t do $100 fittings.
It’s also important to understand that bike fit, with all its science and technology, is not a “set it and forget it” scenario. Speaking personally, my fit was relatively unchanged between the ages of 25 and 35 years old. Between the ages of 40 and 42 however, I’ve seen a significant change. Some is related to my own physical changes, some is level of activity and some is just because we’ve learned a few new things with regard to human movement and cycling. There’s a lesson here, work with your fitter over time.
Communications paramount, let me restate that, COMMUNICATION IS PARAMOUNT. Having done a number of fittings in the past and observed literally thousands over the years I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people neglect to mention injuries, fib about body weight or even mislead a fitter as to their goals as a cyclist. Be honest and communicate. Even with all the fancy tools, fitters are not mind readers. That goes for post-fit feedback and follow up too. Most fittings are a work in progress. Follow up with your fitter, talk about what is working and if something feels off, talk about it.
So about us, we’re here to help you enjoy cycling. That’s it. We study fitting and we’re more than confident in our abilities. We are willing to work with you over time and we are willing to learn with you. We employ tools we’re confident in and we communicate often with fitters all over the world. We don’t know it all. Any fitter who thinks they do is doing themselves and their clients a disservice. Motivation and experience will serve you better than anything else.
Smoke and mirrors, they’re out there, just not here.