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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 03-09-11, 09:28 AM   #1
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Pro Bike Fit?



I've always fit myself on my bikes and had good success...at least in the sense of comfortable riding for rides up to 140kms on upright bikes. I've done all my brevets on recumbents and this year [being bent-less] got a new DF rando rig [photo above].

I have been contemplating a pro bike fit because I figure as the distances increase my DIY fit may not give as good a result as a pro fit and also they may give me some extra performance by tweaking my position for better efficiency/power production, etc... Stuff I may not notice at my typical shorter distances, but at 200K+ I may be glad I did.

I found a fitter that has done work with a good local randonneur albeit one who rides very aggressively at the front of the pack on a road bike with a more race oriented position. I'm a bars at or slightly below the saddle guy who is going to be middle to back of the ride in terms of speed.

Having never done this before I'm concerned about having the fitter try and push me towards an uber aggressive position on the bike. I was wondering if folks who are similarly inclined in terms speed/bike position and have had a pro bike fit had any suggestions to communicate the needs of a randonneur vs. someone riding a century on a typical road racing rig which I would imagine is what forms the majority of their business.

The other thing I need to decide is when to arrange the fit? Before my 200K this year so I get the most benefit from it or after so I have some longer distance experience to compare the before and after results of the fit?
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Old 03-09-11, 10:51 AM   #2
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I've had a pro fit done on my tri bike and was very pleased with it. As I'm 50+ yrs old, and not what anyone would call flexible anymore, comfort is much more important then absolutely the most aero position. Like you, I'm a bars slightly lower then the saddle, middle of the pack kind of guy. Told him what I was looking for and got a fit that is extremely comfortable for me on rides up to 200 Km. I built the bike up myself, and set it up the same as my regular road bike. Before fit and after tests showed I'd picked up an extra 20 watts of power at the same speed. Not huge, but significant. While absolute power isn't what your looking for, this does speak to efficiency over the long haul. I've done 7 Ironman races, and the last one on this bike was by far the most comfortable ride . In short, if the fitter is willing to listen and work with you, I'd recommend it. As always, YMMV. Hope this helps.
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Old 03-09-11, 11:56 AM   #3
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If you don't have any glaring discomforts on the bike during long rides, you probably don't need a "Pro Fit". Yes, the fitter may be able to help you eke out a bit more wattage, but this could come at a price of discomfort, or worse, injury. I'd say, "Don't fix what ain't broke."
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Old 03-09-11, 12:09 PM   #4
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I would ride a 200k and see how it goes. If something feels wrong or hurts, you can tell the fitter that at around x km you experienced y sensation that lasted for z time, and the fitter can turn their attention toward correcting that problem for you.
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Old 03-09-11, 01:10 PM   #5
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I would ride a 200k and see how it goes. If something feels wrong or hurts, you can tell the fitter that at around x km you experienced y sensation that lasted for z time, and the fitter can turn their attention toward correcting that problem for you.
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Old 03-09-11, 01:13 PM   #6
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If you tell a pro fitter "I'm looking for comfort on 200k events, and I don't want an aggressive position," if they are good at their job they ought to be able to accomodate your conditions.

At the risk of offering contradictory advice in the same post....

You might not need a pro fit. As part of your training for the 200k, you will be doing progressively longer durations on the bike anyway; you can probably wait until you run into trouble to pony up for a fit.

If you are sure you want a fit anyway, even if you aren't running into problems yet, I'd do it as soon as possible.

I would also avoid making a major change 2-3 weeks before the 200k, if you can avoid it.
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Old 03-09-11, 01:26 PM   #7
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"If you are sure you want a fit anyway, even if you aren't running into problems yet, I'd do it as soon as possible." - Bacciagalupe

+1

(and I raise you one contradiction)
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Old 03-09-11, 01:33 PM   #8
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I used to use long distance rides to dial my fit, because it changed with my fitness level.
The adjustment always included tilt/rise of the handlebars, brake hoods and saddle tilt and for/aft position. In early spring I usually started any rides with the handlebar in the "normal" position, but later in the season I used to move it slightly down and tilt forward a bit, so I would stretch more.

I do not do this any more, because I think my fitness level does not change that drastically any more.
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Old 03-10-11, 05:48 PM   #9
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Thanks for the feedback - all good points. I have to hit the road for 2 weeks for work so I'll mull it over and decide if I want to try the pro fit now or see what happens.
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Old 03-11-11, 12:06 AM   #10
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A little story that you are already familiar with from the Tandem Forum, vik.

Machka and I picked up our tandem from an authorised Santana dealer here in Australia. That meant we had a fit. The first fit for both of us.

When we got the bike home, I got out the measuring tape and compared the various measurements against the borrowed tandem that brought us together on the one bike for the first time. The most important measurements were virtually identical. We did have some comfort issues on the original tandem, mine related to harshness and lower handlebar than the seat, and Machka with a feeling of not enough room. Both those were fixed on the Santana -- my handlebars at the same level as the seat and Machka with a much wider set of handlebars.

vik, the point is, that if you have done a lot of cycling on various bikes as you have, you get to know what feels right and what doesn't. I think you also are a tinkerer, and are prepared to make very minor adjustments as you go along.

EVen after the fit on the Santana, both Machka and I have been making various adjustments -- not wholesale ones, but incremental, tiny ones.

I think that if you had the bike fit, you would probably end up doing the same. One way or the other, a bike fit will either confirm how you have gone about self-fitting, or show you've been doing it wrong all this time. i suspect the former scenario to be the case.
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Old 03-12-11, 02:02 PM   #11
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There are folks on this site who swear by "pro fitting" as a near-miracle. I'm in the other camp, and think that most bike fitters are charlatans and thieves. I also think there's a lot of nonsense floating around about how a change of a couple of millimeters here or there will magically add five MPH to your average speed while making your bike more comfortable than a lounge chair. It's nonsense.

I believe that any reasonably competent cyclist can spend some time reading about bike fit and do a perfectly adequate job himself. The tougher job is to coach your body to sit correctly on the bicycle. This is where the real performance and comfort benefits come from, and is, sadly, an area that the bike fit "experts" ignore almost entirely. Once you've got that sorted, a few mm one way or the other on your bicycle simply isn't going to make any important difference.
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Old 03-14-11, 10:15 AM   #12
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There are folks on this site who swear by "pro fitting" as a near-miracle. I'm in the other camp, and think that most bike fitters are charlatans and thieves. I also think there's a lot of nonsense floating around about how a change of a couple of millimeters here or there will magically add five MPH to your average speed while making your bike more comfortable than a lounge chair. It's nonsense.

I believe that any reasonably competent cyclist can spend some time reading about bike fit and do a perfectly adequate job himself. The tougher job is to coach your body to sit correctly on the bicycle. This is where the real performance and comfort benefits come from, and is, sadly, an area that the bike fit "experts" ignore almost entirely. Once you've got that sorted, a few mm one way or the other on your bicycle simply isn't going to make any important difference.
I pretty-much lean toward SixJours' view on this, though I could see the possibility that a pro fitter could potentially be helpful to a relatively new cyclist who hasn't learned how to listen to their body and hasn't had time to read enough about how to interpret and respond to different pain locations. I think that over the years, I've got my bike fitting about as well as it can be fit, just on my own and by reading. But until I resolve the hand numbness that typically occurs at around mile 500, I still think the jury is out on whether getting a pro fit could potentially help me.

The one thing that has made the most difference to my ability to comfortably ride long distances is finding a comfortable saddle. On BMB in 2006, my saddle was excruciating. By the 2007 BMB, I had found a saddle that was comfortable for me (Selle Anatomica). Comparing stoppage time, I spent considerably less time stopped at controls or by the roadside on PBP than I did on BMB (I can compare this using GPS tracks). I'm sure that's party because on BMB, it was so painful to get back onto the bike.

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Old 03-14-11, 11:07 AM   #13
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I would do a pro fit at least one month before the big event. I got a pro fit a couple months ago, and it took a while for my body to adjust to it. Even small changes make a big difference and it feels different once you're on the new fit, especially if you've already gotten used to the old fit.
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Old 03-14-11, 02:50 PM   #14
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I found a fitter that has done work with a good local randonneur albeit one who rides very aggressively at the front of the pack on a road bike with a more race oriented position. I'm a bars at or slightly below the saddle guy who is going to be middle to back of the ride in terms of speed.
I think you have the right understanding as to what a bike fitter can accomplish. Checking the reputation of a bike fitter is key. Also, inquire as to how long the appointment will last and what is involved. The bike fitter should measure your build, use specialized equipment to replicate the ideal geometry, use video and a power meter to check your performance, etc. The process of fitting a bike usually starts at the feet with the correct installation of cleats, then the seat is set for both distance above the pedals and fore-aft location. Once the cleats and seat are positioned, the reach is adjusted.

I explained to my fitter that I was looking for long distance comfort, first; hill climbing power, second; and aero efficacy third.

The bike is very comfortable;



Bike fitters are not miracle workers nor are they all charlatans and thieves. It should take very little diligence to weed out the pretenders. I do not consider a good bike fit to be a DIY project, just as I would not want to tailor my own suit.

Michael
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Old 03-25-11, 06:54 PM   #15
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I got a fit about two weeks ago from my long time shop. This was my first fit and I am pretty impressed, you'd be surprised on how many things you may not notice or are setting up wrong (this isn't a knock). I'm very glad I did it and will probably go this route on all bikes from now on, the guy I use doesn't charge a arm and leg and can get me going in about two days (bike adjustments).
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Old 03-25-11, 07:35 PM   #16
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I'm still on the fence. I'll probably tackle the 200K in two weeks and see what happens. I'm open to the benefits of a fit, but I also know that I am capable of doing an okay job myself. I'll probably get one just to see if it was worth it, but I may wait until I run into a problem or after I'm done my brevets for the spring.
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Old 03-25-11, 08:24 PM   #17
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One rider to whom I often point during my "anti-fitting" rants is Sean Kelly. Probably the worst position on the bike of any rider in professional racing. Also ranked number one in the world from 1984 through 1989.

This also was a period in pro racing when only the top riders had spare bikes riding on the roofs of the team cars. All the other pros had to make do with "generic" team bikes if they needed a bike change during a race. They could count on a frame approximately the right size, and a team mechanic leaning out the car window to put the seat height more-or-less where it should be, but overall the rider could count on having a bike that just didn't fit. But when you saw a pro on a "loaner" you'd notice that he was still poetry in motion - just beautiful on the bike, even if a stem was an inch too low or a seat 3 cm. in the wrong direction.

Those observations combine to give me absolute confidence when I say that paying someone to adjust your bike by millimeters is nonsensical. You either know how to sit on your bike or you don't, and minute adjustments to the machine aren't going to affect that one way or another - and if we take Mr. Kelly as an example, might not matter regardless.

So yeah, if your seat is a couple of inches too high you've got a problem, but that sort of thing is easily fixed without the attentions of a "guru". If only we can find one of these "experts" to ignore the bike and concentrate on the rider, we'd be miles ahead of the game.

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Old 03-25-11, 09:04 PM   #18
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The difference Six Jours is that Sean Kelley wasn't a long distance cyclist. You are comparing apples and oranges. Most of us can get by on ill fitting bikes for 100+/- miles. The problem is that those nagging little issues that are annoyances on a century can become ride enders on 200+ mile rides.

You make some excellent points about many fitters but you also have to realize that many cyclists have no idea what adjustment to make if something isn't working. It isn't always intuitive. All you have to do is read through all the posts by people who have foot problems, hand problems, neck problems, back problems, rear end problems etc. etc.. There's nine of them on the first page of this forum alone! What would you have those people? Ask the faceless experts on a public forum???? At least with a fitter you have recourse to get your money back. In Vik's case he hasn't experienced any problems so if I were him I'd just start ramping up the distances until I do have a problem. You may find that you won't. If you have a clue about fitting yourself then give it a shot by all means. If that doesn't work find a professional.
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Old 03-26-11, 02:40 AM   #19
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Kelly also was likely an athlete whose body allowed him the ability to adapt to different bike dimensions. Six jours may well be the same and is talking from that perspective having come from the upper echelons of European bike racing.

But there are many people who take up cycling with inherent minor disabilities that become significant if repetitive action occurs and things aren't perfect in regards to fit.

Homey is dead right when he points out there are many, many, many questions posted on bicycle forums all over the world complaining of pain somewhere, and that usually can be traced back to one of several things, the most obvious being bike fit, followed by lack of core strength, then inappropriate style or technique, and bike short fit.

Yes, we can all jump on a bike that doesn't fit and cruise maybe 30 miles without any deliterious effect and have great fun. But put high musculo-skeletal stress into the equation, and the ordinary rider will have problems.

I've had a few injuries over the years while randonneuring, ranging from ankle and achilles tendon through to ITB and patella, and have generally been able to solve them. Significantly, they all related to fit. My worst case was adjusting my saddle according to a fit calculated by a site on the web, and I ended up with fearful achilles tendon issues that had me hobbling around for weeks. I went back to the original seat height on that bike, and never had further AT problems as a result of riding it.

Maybe I could have short-cut the whole process by having a professional bike fit, but they were non-existent in the city from which I hail. So I had to learn myself the hard way. And as I pointed out earlier, my method seems to work for me because it was confirmed during the fit for the tandem.
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Old 03-26-11, 09:18 AM   #20
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Those observations combine to give me absolute confidence when I say that paying someone to adjust your bike by millimeters is nonsensical. You either know how to sit on your bike or you don't, and minute adjustments to the machine aren't going to affect that one way or another - and if we take Mr. Kelly as an example, might not matter regardless.
How about I ride my bike fit as best I can for a while longer and then I'll get the fit done and see if there is any noticeable difference in my experience on the bike? Ultimately stuff like this gets decided in the saddle not on bikeforums.
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Old 03-26-11, 10:52 AM   #21
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The difference Six Jours is that Sean Kelley wasn't a long distance cyclist. You are comparing apples and oranges. Most of us can get by on ill fitting bikes for 100+/- miles. The problem is that those nagging little issues that are annoyances on a century can become ride enders on 200+ mile rides.

You make some excellent points about many fitters but you also have to realize that many cyclists have no idea what adjustment to make if something isn't working. It isn't always intuitive. All you have to do is read through all the posts by people who have foot problems, hand problems, neck problems, back problems, rear end problems etc. etc.. There's nine of them on the first page of this forum alone! What would you have those people? Ask the faceless experts on a public forum???? At least with a fitter you have recourse to get your money back. In Vik's case he hasn't experienced any problems so if I were him I'd just start ramping up the distances until I do have a problem. You may find that you won't. If you have a clue about fitting yourself then give it a shot by all means. If that doesn't work find a professional.
Kelly (along with other pros at the time) regularly did 200 mile rides and occasionally 200+ mile races. Granted, they spent less time on the bike doing it than most of us do, but I'd still say it qualifies as "long distance".

And I freely admit that many cyclists don't what they're doing. I suppose that's one of my gripes: there was a time when, if a cyclists didn't know what he he was doing, he set out to rectify it. Now he pays an "expert" instead. I think that's a shame.

Beyond that is just the fact that I've talked with so many cyclists who brag about how great their guru is yet still look like crap on the bike. And that's a big part of my point: it doesn't matter how the bike fits if you don't know how to sit on it properly. All the big problems I see on a regular basis - lack of hip rotation, improper pedal stroke, hunched-over shoulders, etc. - are not addressed by tinkering with the bike. And tinkering with the bike, within reason, isn't going to cause problems for the rider who does know how to sit on the bike.

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Old 03-26-11, 10:58 AM   #22
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How about I ride my bike fit as best I can for a while longer and then I'll get the fit done and see if there is any noticeable difference in my experience on the bike?
Yes, you have my permission.
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Old 03-26-11, 02:09 PM   #23
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You sure that isn't 200kms Six Jours? That's pretty typical for the pro tours. Even if it's 200 miles they were probably doing it in 10hrs or less. I'm not a pro and I've done doubles in less than 10hrs. There are people here who are on their bikes for almost twice that time for the same distance. Long distance is relative depending on who's riding but I consider 100-200miles just the beginning of long distance rides. Most people on this forum are aspiring to longer rides like 400, 600 or 1200kms+. You're talking some of these people spending the better part of three straight days in the saddle with only minimal breaks off the bike. Small adjustments can and do make a huge difference.

As far as how a person looks on the bike, I think I look at it from a slightly different perspective. As far as I'm concerned, if you are comfortable over long distances I don't think it matters how you "look" on the bike. You may not be as efficient or aero as you could be but at least your comfortable. I too have seen some people on their bikes and wondered how the heck they got in that position. I did RAAM once with a guy who's seat was so high that he very visibly rocked from side to side as he rode and had to pedal on his tippy toes. It made me cringe just to watch him but he rode fine and was actually a very fast climber (that's probably why he has prostrate problems now ). Most people can't see themselves on the bike and have no idea they are riding like that unless there is someone they trust to point that out to them. A good fitter will do that. How may people get on these forums and ask what's the best bike to buy then go buy a bike that they don't even know will fit them because someone on the internet told them it was the best bike! A good fitter will put you on the right bike for you, not someone else. I feel that fitters have a role and a purpose. Maybe I'm biased because I had such a good experience with mine. I know there are way too many out there who do not know what they are doing and I don't really know a good answer for that other than to be a smart shopper. Ask questions before you buy and make sure they have a guarantee.
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Old 03-26-11, 03:48 PM   #24
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I suppose supporting both your arguments, but I am always amused by the style of Cav when he is on a sprint... there is, to me, something unique about how he goes about sprinting.

I think also we've got to recognise that the pros are in the saddle a LOT. I mean, they will cover extraordinary distances training, racing and warming down.

I don't know if anyone has ever asked the pros these days if they had a professional bike fit done when they started out at the top league. I can only presume that the best paid riders have their bikes made specifically for them, while the support riders have to make do with production bikes.

If a pro bike fit makes the difference of 0.1% in performance, that could well be the difference between winning and losing. And these guys cannot afford to be out of the saddle for long through repetitive strain injuries induced because of bad fit.

I certainly could not imagine Robbie McEwen, for instance, riding the same bike as Fabian Cancellara (I know, different teams, but under Six jours' scenarios, that's what would have been expected).
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Old 03-26-11, 08:40 PM   #25
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When I started racing (a depressingly long time ago, at the tender age of 12) the "fitter" was whoever the top rider in the club was. You'd be riding along in the paceline and he'd slap you on the back of the head (no helmets in those days) and say "You need to drop your seat 5 mm, and relax your shoulders, dumbass". You trusted him because he was a cat. 1, and you did what he said because you didn't want him slapping you on the head any more. He didn't charge anything for the service...

I never heard of any professional getting "fitted" until the 1979/1980 Renault/Gitane work in the wind tunnel with Cyril Guimard, Wilfried Huggi, and Bernard Hinault. Prior to that you were pretty much expected to know what you were doing re. bike fit by the time you were offered a pro contract. Most people who cared about such things used the methodology outlined in the Italian C.O.N.I manual, which in turn derived from the "passed down" knowledge of the 50s and 60s: "Fausto did it this way, and he was the best, so..."

Dunno the situation these days; teams have so much invested in even the lowest-level pro that they probably all spend time in the wind tunnel under the eyes of a physiologist. At any rate, Greg LeMond popularized the Renault/Gitane formula (frame size = inseam x .67, saddle height = inseam x .887) in the U.S. around 1986 or so, and that was pretty much standard until the "Lance boom". That was kind of the end of the "blue collar racer", I think; the sport went mainstream, there weren't enough club-level cat. 1s to go around (and they would have gotten sued for slapping any of the "new breed" anyway) so the void was filled with "gurus" and other charlatans. IMO it's now mostly a "blind leading the blind" scenario. (Grump, grump.)
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