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Bike fitting: Science or Feng Shui?

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Bike fitting: Science or Feng Shui?

Old 07-29-11, 02:40 AM
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Bike fitting: Science or Feng Shui?

I'm thinking of getting a bike fitting done, and I'm not sure where to go. There are a variety of options and systems offered at my various LBS, which range from PB to independent general bike stores to Trek Superstores to specialty racing shops.

The point is, I don't have any real confidence that if I go to the $50 non-instrumented watch-you-ride-around-the-parking-lot setup, I'll get different results than the $120/hour multi-trip get-down-in-the-drops-and-give-me-twenty volumetric efficiency measuring setup. Worse, I don't know if I were to go to shop A offering the same type of fitting as shop B, that I'd get the same recommendation. Or even going to shop 'A' twice.

So, what's the collective experience? Is a fitting something objective, that should be reproducible if using the same setup approach; or is it more of a holistic "how does this feel?" experience that leaves you chasing settings ad infinitum?

KeS
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Old 07-29-11, 02:42 AM
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Both.

But mostly Fred Shui.
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Old 07-29-11, 03:45 AM
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roll your own:

https://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm

I don't like to pay for this stuff. There's value in having a pro give you experienced advice and wisdom. But it's more valuable to me to figure something out, maybe make a mistake or two along the way, do some tweaks, find out how to measure and adjust my own rig, and then call it done and get back to riding.
Also, get opinions for free from other guys who have paid for this stuff near your area and see what they say about your fit, and about the experts who gave them fitting tips.
Keep in mind that the changes you make this time are probably not final anyway, so you shouldn't submit yourself to a lifetime of expert fitting costs.
There are surely some expert fitting coaches on these boards so for their benefit, it's not bad to get their service, once you find out which expert to go to. But take good notes and think about how you can apply it yourself in the future.
Don't move too fast either: whether you do the fit yourself or the expert provides it, make small changes and then gradually build up the mileage on the new fit. Start out with too much mileage on a new fit and if it's not right for you, you'll be injured and sitting out for a while writing about it on these forums.
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Old 07-29-11, 04:49 AM
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where abouts do you live?
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Old 07-29-11, 04:56 AM
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for me the professional bike fitting was worth it. Kinda like messing with cars.... you can do it if you want to or you can get help from others. If someone does it better then you, go to them. For me it worked and I am thankful for their services.
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Old 07-29-11, 06:16 AM
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+1 for DIY.

The issue is that all these "systems" have their biases...some are more biased towards comfort, some more towards performance....some are more "traditional" and others are more "evolutionary."

Beware of any fitter or system that states it's the "best."

They are all probably "reasonable" as a starting point, but you are probably going to need to "tweak" your fit periodically due to your riding style and body's idiosyncrasies.

I think it's best to play around with the various calculators/systems and come up with what works best for you.

That said, if you have some extra money lying around I am sure you can find a fitter who will be happy to work with you.
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Old 07-29-11, 06:58 AM
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Both of my knees will tell you it was worth it. I think alot of it depends on how much you have ridden in the past and how well you know your comfort level. I recently got back into riding and although most of my body felt good, both legs felt like they were coming apart at the knees. After my fitting I found I was sitting about an inch too high and my body position was pretty much junk. I had it done at Bicycle Garage in Indy (with my discount for buying a new bike), and Frank was more than willing to make sure everything felt right, but he also shared lots of useful information for a new rider such as myself.

I thought I understood how to get the bike in the right position, but clearly I was way off.
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Old 07-29-11, 07:26 AM
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Go to 5 different shops and you will get 5 wildly different fits. All will tell you that you were way off and all will say they have improved your efficiency, all will make you uncomfortable and then you will end up going with what feels right and be happy ever after.

That is my experience of "pro" bike fits - MY ACTUAL experience - no exageration.

A large part of the reason for this was that my knees were poorly aligned and needed longer pedal spindles to get comfortable - try asking a bike fitter if you need longer spindles and they will look absolutely blank before looking at your pedal style (which of course wont be natural becasue you on a trainer, your fresh, and your on level ground) and teling you no - or "some people do but see how you feel and if you feel too narrow then we can try some" - GREAT I can "try some" without your say so thanks.

Bike fits are hugely hugely over rated - IME (before you argue with me)

Edit: I suppose one thing in favour of going through the process is that I learned about the issues along the way and sometimes it just helps to discuss things to get thinking about what might help. For me sadly, the results dint come until I got the tools out myself

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Old 07-29-11, 07:27 AM
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I had a Retul done through my job (lucky), and I was really impressed. I've been riding about 20 years, and pretty much have my fit dialed in, but since I was offered the Retul, I gave it a shot. It did show that my saddle position was spot on (thank you very much), but my left knee was 'kicking out' a bit when got low on the bike. The guy doing the fit called it before I even got on the bike... I hunch too low when in the drops or low on the hoods. When I get low my pelvis interferes with the upstroke of my leg. So the solution was to come up just a bit with the brake hoods, and roll the bars down a bit (so the effective reach in the drops and the hoods was shortened). Also a bit of a bad habit on my part was to hunch my back. So, with the correction in the bars, and a bit of working on keeping my back straight, the knee is tracking straight and I'm actually making more power. So, the super high tech stuff is definitely effective. But all of the "low tech" fits I've done have also been effective regarding saddle position.
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Old 07-29-11, 07:31 AM
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My knees and hips also agree that it's worth it.

It's a bit of both. There's some science involved, but there's a lot of good 'juju' too.

There are good fitters, bad fitters, mediocre fitters, and extraordinarily good fitters. Experience and eagerness to learn play a large role in how good your fitter is. Ask around. Go on group rides and check with riders. Go to a local crit and ask questions. Go to the guy that is most highly recommended.
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Old 07-29-11, 08:20 AM
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A couple of years ago, I was at Helen's Cycle in Santa Monica and it just happened that Nate Royal was doing a fitting for Sarah Hammer. For those who don't know them, Royal is a pro fitter and Sarah Hammer is a pro rider. Even pro riders occasionally need to tweak their fit to get results.

Here's what Sarah is up to lately:

Sarah once again raced into the record books in March at the 2011 track cycling world championships in Holland . After earning a gold in the individual pursuit, a silver in the team pursuit and a silver medal in the omnium, Sarah became the first American woman to earn three medals at a cycling world championship!

"Yesterday was a little bit of a rough day for me, but the nature of the omnium is to be able to kind of reset after a bad event," explained Sarah. "My goal coming into it was to be able to get top three and that was achieved after a hard fought battle. I'm super pumped to have been able to win the individual pursuit, to have taken silver with my teammates and be able to win another silver today."

Sarah’s track racing year comes to an end with an impressive collection of accomplishments over the last twelve months including her fourth world pursuit title, two world records and two world cup gold medals. Next stop, London 2012!
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Old 07-29-11, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Garfield Cat
A couple of years ago, I was at Helen's Cycle in Santa Monica and it just happened that Nate Royal was doing a fitting for Sarah Hammer. For those who don't know them, Royal is a pro fitter and Sarah Hammer is a pro rider. Even pro riders occasionally need to tweak their fit to get results.

Here's what Sarah is up to lately:

Sarah once again raced into the record books in March at the 2011 track cycling world championships in Holland . After earning a gold in the individual pursuit, a silver in the team pursuit and a silver medal in the omnium, Sarah became the first American woman to earn three medals at a cycling world championship!

"Yesterday was a little bit of a rough day for me, but the nature of the omnium is to be able to kind of reset after a bad event," explained Sarah. "My goal coming into it was to be able to get top three and that was achieved after a hard fought battle. I'm super pumped to have been able to win the individual pursuit, to have taken silver with my teammates and be able to win another silver today."

Sarah’s track racing year comes to an end with an impressive collection of accomplishments over the last twelve months including her fourth world pursuit title, two world records and two world cup gold medals. Next stop, London 2012!
Gotta love a bike rider whose name is "Hammer". She rides for Felt also
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Old 07-29-11, 09:24 AM
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Fitting is a bit like drilling for water. Some call out the whacks with the divining rods and others call out guys with radar. In the end all you care about is if you have a well that produces water, and both methods have worked and failed int he past.

There is no pure science to fit. Sorry. 25 years of seeing fitting systems and services, techniques, schools of thought, gurus, etc come and go has taught me that there is never and never will be a science to it. There will never be enough different saddles to make everyone comfortable, just like there will never be enough frame geometries to make standards. ....just like there will never be a perfect fit.

Fit's change too. Over time you gain or lose weight and flexibility. You ride differently, you injure yourself.

What I personally have found over the years - study enough about fitting systems to know the basics. Fit yourself and don't be afraid to try something new. Take good notes so that you can go backwards if you find something new that doesn't work.

After years of doing this I was just frustrated and knew it was time to have someone else take a look. I had a shop owner and Specialized fitter on my team. She offered up a fit (having been in their system for something like 15 years). She tweaked my fit. Move the saddle a tad and moved the cleats a tad. Small movements but suddenly I was immensely more comfortable.

Now - I don't get a lot of time to ride and being comfortable is key to me being able to train instead of worrying about stuff....so to me that fitting was priceless. I have since brought in 3 other bikes for the same treatment. Every time there are small changes that make a big difference.

Moral of the story? It's not an exact science. Can you do a good fitting on your own with a little bit of reading and education and willingness to try new things? Yes. Can you get more comfortable more quickly by going to a fitter? Probably. I find though that self ftting will provide you enough background, knowledge and experience to speak the correct language to a fitter when the time comes.
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Old 07-29-11, 09:25 AM
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Voo Doo. Find some one who has been riding a while, say fives years, and have ride beside you and and behind you for a minimum of 15 minutes each.
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Old 07-29-11, 11:21 AM
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"A couple of years ago, I was at Helen's Cycle in Santa Monica and it just happened that Nate Royal was doing a fitting for Sarah Hammer. For those who don't know them, Royal is a pro fitter and Sarah Hammer is a pro rider. Even pro riders occasionally need to tweak their fit to get results. "

BTW, that is Nate Loyal..

I've had several fits by Nate. First one...spot on. Made a big difference for me. Couple of years later, saddle change and returned to him. But after a few visits, still not quite right.

Now I think Nate is an excellent fitter. He is experienced, patient and good to work with. However he is not a magician. So even with someone I've been successful with, results are not guaranteed.

As mentioned above, it's a hit and miss. And it does help to understand what, and why, the fitter is making changes.
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Old 07-29-11, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by lazerzxr
Go to 5 different shops and you will get 5 wildly different fits. All will tell you that you were way off and all will say they have improved your efficiency, all will make you uncomfortable and then you will end up going with what feels right and be happy ever after.
That's exactly what I was concerned about, that it'd be a matter of chasing my own tail. I think I'll wait until I have a better idea of a specific issue that I want resolved (weight on hands, tightness in hamstrings, etc.) and at least it will be more targeted and I'll have an idea of whether I've fixed something or not.

Is it uncommon to take two bikes to a fitting and get set up for both? Is that usually charged as two independent fits, or an incremental increase off the first, or it varies?

I'm in San Diego - hence the number of alternatives. I didn't post that because I wanted to focus on the general process, not turn this into a "must go here, those guys suck" "no, those guys suck, must go HERE" thread. Just wanted to make it clear that just about the whole spread of alternatives is available.

KeS
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Old 07-29-11, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by kevin_stevens
I'm thinking of getting a bike fitting done, and I'm not sure where to go. There are a variety of options and systems offered at my various LBS, which range from PB to independent general bike stores to Trek Superstores to specialty racing shops.

The point is, I don't have any real confidence that if I go to the $50 non-instrumented watch-you-ride-around-the-parking-lot setup, I'll get different results than the $120/hour multi-trip get-down-in-the-drops-and-give-me-twenty volumetric efficiency measuring setup. Worse, I don't know if I were to go to shop A offering the same type of fitting as shop B, that I'd get the same recommendation. Or even going to shop 'A' twice.

So, what's the collective experience? Is a fitting something objective, that should be reproducible if using the same setup approach; or is it more of a holistic "how does this feel?" experience that leaves you chasing settings ad infinitum?

KeS
Let's say you ride knock-kneed or bowlegged; a fit will not correct your poor form or magically reverse poor core strength. It might alleviate some discomfort, but really, you either have it or you don't.

Some fitters can focus on power output so it's less of a "feel" approach but said power output can compromise aerodynamics and/or comfort.

I mean, it's riding a bike, it's not tae kwon do. There's only so many moves one can pull off on a road bike.
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Old 07-29-11, 11:55 AM
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I tried to fit myself for quite a while, and I learned a lot of things.

In the end, however, having someone who could take measurements, and had different parts in stock to try became necessary to get that last 10%.

I recommend getting a fit.
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Old 07-29-11, 12:15 PM
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probably a bit of both - depends on your objective. For a recreational rider who is not afraid to experiemnt, you can make incremental tweaks to saddle (height, fore and aft, tilt) cleats (fore and aft, side to side, angle) bars (height, angle) and stem (length, angle), and get dialed in so the ride is pretty comfortable, especially if you have a buddy to point out the obvious about your posture on the bike that you can't see yourself. If you're trying to optimize every last erg of power, don't ask me.
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Old 07-29-11, 12:27 PM
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I did self fitting for a couple of years and a couple of bikes. Then I was offered a free fit from a Trek retailer since he was a friend and had just got back from fitters school. It was not a "complete" fit, there was no complex computerized foot/knee/clip alignment. Just the basics. Saddle height, fore.aft, stem height/length, basic cleat alignment. He took a number of body measurements and tested my flexibility. What I gained was a lower saddle, shorter stem, and much better comfort and power. As a beginner, it was tangible. My hamstrings have finally started to get stronger now that my saddle isn't too high. Would I have paid the $150 for the fit on my own? Probably not since my bike isn't that expensive. Should I have paid? Absolutely. Will I pay someone to fit me again? I probably won't have to, unless I buy a TT bike, which is unlikely. It is most certainly not voodoo, but neither is it a panacea for your cycling problems. For me it was a positive. If you are comfortable and powerful it may not be needed.
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Old 07-29-11, 12:36 PM
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As a new rider with past health issues (knee surgeries, back issues) a bike fit was very importantent to me cause I wanted to start out right.

If I was in my 20's, I would have blazed my way through it myself learning as I go. But now that I am older, I cant recover as fast from a mistake, and I have an example...

Ii recently got my 1st road bike, I rode it for 5 days. My elbows started to hurt, so much that i couldnt straighten my arms and had lots of issues with a typing on the computer.

Got the bike fit.. moved my handle bar stem from 120mm to 80mm. The rest of my setup turned out be just about right (seat, cranks etc etc) with minor tweaks.

The elbow thing is cubital tunnel syndrome. Never had it in my life. Of course that dont mean that I wouldnt have had issues with the correct set up. But I do wonder what if... I am still have the occasional issue with my elbows now
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Old 07-29-11, 12:45 PM
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I also recommend going with a good fit, although I agree it can be difficult to figure out who really knows what.

I don't view "different schools of fit thought" as necessarily being a problem, because I don't believe there is one and only one fit that will actually work for you. Rather, there are a variety of positions that can work well.

One problem with the DIY approach is that you really can't do things like measure your knee angle all by yourself. You also can't really walk around yourself while riding to check your fit -- and might not know what you're looking for anyway.
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Old 07-29-11, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001
Fitting is a bit like drilling for water. Some call out the whacks with the divining rods and others call out guys with radar. In the end all you care about is if you have a well that produces water, and both methods have worked and failed int he past.
There is no pure science to fit....
...
Now - I don't get a lot of time to ride and being comfortable is key to me being able to train instead of worrying about stuff....so to me that fitting was priceless. I have since brought in 3 other bikes for the same treatment. Every time there are small changes that make a big difference.
Moral of the story? It's not an exact science. Can you do a good fitting on your own with a little bit of reading and education and willingness to try new things? Yes. Can you get more comfortable more quickly by going to a fitter? Probably. I find though that self ftting will provide you enough background, knowledge and experience to speak the correct language to a fitter when the time comes.
couldn;t have said it better

honestly I think most of us defeat any 'fit' we get with points of bad posture we have.
after 30 yrs of knowing better, way too often I still find myself with hunched shoulders and locked elbows and splayed wrists, when I'm really tired. And injuries which caused structural changes, also affect how I now ride the bike.
there are more issues to 'fit' than just how it seems in a studio, in the parkin lot or the shop/garage. We're all different riders at the 80 mile mark (or 5K+ climbing ft...) than we are 10 mi.
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Old 08-01-11, 11:08 AM
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timely thread for me as i've just resolved (or at least addressed) some fit issues i've been dealing with.

last year at the beginning of the race season i got a pro fit (serotta cert'd fitter). it was my first formal fit, though i'd done a lot of self fits on the trainer using level and plumb lines and angles and such.

we had a weekly hill climb series at that point on a climb i knew quite well. the week immediately after the fit i didnt show any improvement, and was horribly sore after (to be expected, obv). the NEXT week i knocked 2 min off of my previous time (around 40 min) for a 5% improvement with no other changes.

it was a big breakthrough and i had a really solid first season racing, top 10s in all of my SRs and state championships. BAR win, upgrade, all that etc...

sold my bike over the winter, but neglected to save my measurements, and when i got my new bike i basically fit it by feel over the winter. i took a tool out with me on all my winter base miles and anytime i had a sense that something felt off i would just tweak it right there.

i got a dedicated TT bike this winter as well and did the same thing. fit both of them by feel.

early season went great, esp my TT which was hugely improved thanks to a lot of hard work and the right gear.

but i never felt as good or comfortable on my roadie as on my TT bike, and while i had a couple of exciting breaks and a crit podium, i never really felt like i was in good form this season.

then i crashed in mid june and lost a couple of weeks that i was counting on to be my big build weeks and everything went in the crapper.

with the season kinda shot, i figured i'd take advantage of my team shops retul fit, so i went in last week and low nd behold, i had misfit myself exactly the same way i did previously. i was way low and way forward.

corrected it and immediately felt overextended, but after about a half hour on the road i was comfortable and strong on the road bike like i havent been all season. even soliciting comments about my form from the teammates i was riding with. climbed with the elite guys on all the the steepest bit and just felt a smoothness i hadnt felt, but hadnt realized i was missing.

heres where it gets weird though:

i decided to check the leg extension that retul prescribed and apply it to my TT bike as well. since i'd self selected that fit, i figured it'd be off too. but my existing TT extension was almost EXACTLY the same as my retul Rx.

meaning i'd self selected a perfect TT fit and a crap RR fit, which goes a long way towards explaining my consistently good TT results this year and consistently meh Road results, even on FTP type climbs where i'm usually pretty strong.

lesson learned. it was a big eye opener.

i am not sure that retul or any particular fit is significantly, objectively better than any other, but i do think having someone with good measurement tools, who knows what theyre doing, help you optimize your fit can be useful.
badhat is offline  
Old 08-01-11, 11:12 AM
  #25  
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Thanks, very instructive!

KeS
kevin_stevens is offline  

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