So what is the bike fit process like?
Writing a bike fit “how to” is difficult since fitting someone to a bike is a pretty complex task. We need to take an inherently unbalanced, uneven, and often messy (movement-wise) body and safely, efficiently, and powerfully attach it to a symmetric and rigid machine at five different spots (both feet, both hands, and seat).
In my experience, the best was to approach a bike fit is the same way I perform a physical therapy evaluation.
Put very simply — I collect data, I analyze that data, I develop and execute a set of corrections and then I re-test later to determine how effective those changes have been.
My method start with an interview, to get to know the rider.
- how often do they ride? what kind of bike(s)? do they race? what other sports do they do?
- what problems have they had with the bike? how does their bike handle? what areas of pain or discomfort on the bike?
- any orthopedic or other pertinent medical issues in the past four or five years?
Next is physical assessment to determine movement patterns and dysfunctions, as well as general imbalances on and off the bike.
I have a basic routine that I follow and then supplement with tests specific to that rider based on what I find. Much like a PT evaluation, I will follow up on any imbalances I find and enlist an army of special tests and assessments to get to the root of a problem. Only by knowing the root of the issue can I decide what the best corrective action.
Once we’re done assessing, it’s time for the most difficult part — data analysis to figure out what corrections will best serve this particular rider.
Any bike fitter can make some changes to a rider on their bike, but you have to have a background of knowledge in how the body moves and compensates to reference if you’re going to make smart or informed decisions.
Next, I’ll execute the changes I feel will work best for this client
- This includes bike alterations — moving handlebar, saddle, and/or cleat position.
- this is what people generally think of as bike fitting. As I just mentioned, anyone can make changes but making the right decisions (in the right area, in the correct direction, to the correct degree) take’s another skill set. As does knowing when bike changes won’t effect the change you need
- But changes to the body — prescriptive and corrective exercises for the rider — are often equally as important.
Then we re-test to see how effective our changes have been.
Re-tests occur on a short term and a long term basis. The infrared motion capture system I use allows me to see some of the effect of our changes immediately, but our bodies also need time to adapt to our new position. I tell my clients to return in about 3-6 weeks, so we can see how they’re moving once their body has adapted their motor plan to handle the new position. I also have them return when they need to (for free up to a year after their initial fitting) if something changes or doesn’t feel right.