Bike fitting can perfect your posture and improve your cycling by tweaking your bike based on your body geometry. Before setting to work on your bike, trained bike fitters use a range of techniques to assess everything from your flexibility to leg tracking.
To find out more, we chatted to Mark Lewis at Brighton Bike Fit and Andy Sexton at Bike Science.
What qualifies you to be a bike fitter?
Andy: I started fitting 11 years ago and opened Bike Science in 2010. I trained with Movistar cycling team fitter Jon Iriberri, and was one of the first UK fitters to train in Retül – a bike fit technology used by the likes of British Cycling and Team Sky.
Mark: I trained in the US with Serotta (SICI), and Dan Empfield of Slowtwitch.com, who developed the F.I.S.T. Tri Bike Fit System for triathletes. I've worked with hundreds of cyclists over the years, from novices and commuters to semi pro racers.
What are the main benefits of bike fitting?
Andy: It can help make cycling easier and more efficient, giving an overall boost in performance. Increased comfort is a big benefit, especially for endurance riders. And for anyone, at any level, bike fitting helps reduce the risk of injury.
Who needs it?
Mark: Everyone can benefit from a bike fit. Why wouldn’t you want to ride with more comfort, less fatigue and lower risk of injury? Even if it’s just for your commute to the office?
Are there any common issues that clients come to you with?
Andy: Back pain and knee pain are quite common but there isn’t really an overall stand out issue – every cyclist is unique, and every fit is different.
Mark: I see a lot of amateur cyclists with their saddle too low which impacts their cycling endurance. I also see a lot of very tight hamstrings, which manifests as lower back pain.
Do all bike fitters follow the same process?
Mark: Bike fitters use different approaches, depending on their training, experience and personal beliefs. There’s a lot of different technology out there but these tools are only as good as the person using it. A high tech system for bike fitting isn't a replacement for an experienced, well-trained bike fitter.
What’s the first step?
Mark: Everybody is unique, and has different physiology and biomechanics, so the fit has to start with seeking to understand the customers’ needs.
Andy: First, we ask lots of questions to find out about the rider’s history, and whether they experience any discomfort or have had any injuries. We also discuss their aims and aspirations to gauge what they want to get from their cycling.
What happens next?
Andy: The general process starts with me watching the cyclist riding for a few minutes to observe their posture and pedalling. Then we test their strength and flexibility off the bike, and find out if they have any major musculature imbalances. At Bike Science, we use a combination of observation, experience and the Retül motion capture system to make a full assessment. As we carry out the bike adjustments, we continue to measure and tweak to reach the final result.
Mark: I examine the customer’s physical characteristics (leg length, flexibility etc.), then we get the bike set up on the trainer to evaluate the existing setup, frame dimensions, and technique. I use a combination of video analysis and clinical measurements before I start making changes.
So what exactly do you adjust?
Andy: That depends on the assessment, and it varies with every cyclist. Adjustments are usually made to the saddle (height, tilt, and fore & aft); pedals (type, cleat type and position); handlebar (height, width and shape); stem length; and grip position.
Mark: Typically, I start with cleat position, then saddle height and horizontal position, before bar position and stem length. I document the end result and email all details to the customer. If they need to make any further tweaks, I offer a free follow-up.
How much does it cost?
Andy: Our bike fits cost between £90 and £185, depending on the level of service, and time/day of the appointment. There may be the option of buying additional kit but its not always necessary and we only suggest it if it’s appropriate.
Mark: A bike fit with me is £175 and takes around 2.5 hours. I include a free follow-up so we can make any additional tweaks if necessary. Most customers don't require any additional parts but when they do, I can provide and fit them, so they go away with the setup they need.
Want to find out more?
Bike-science.com operate in Bristol (HQ), Darlington and Derby, and Mark is based in Brighton (brightonbikefit.co.uk). You could also try CycleFit.co.uk in London (Covent Garden) and Manchester, or another of the UK’s independent fitters. A couple of gems include former national champ and Commonwealth cyclist Neil Walker at walkerscycling.co.uk in Ayrshire; and female specialist and British Cycling coach Claire Parfrey at trekcoventry.com
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