Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bike Fit IS important

The Gazette's fitness columnist Jill Barker put her running shoes down for a change and took up the subject of bike fit.

Read it here (but do it soon because this is not a permalink).

We believe bike fit is one of the most important and neglected aspects of cycling.


At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It used to be that you sized a bike by standing over the frame and making sure there were a few inches of clearance between you and the bike’s top tube. Today, bike fitting is big business. It’s also considered a necessity for riders who want comfort and performance from their bike.

How do you know if your bike fits? For most people, pain is the first sign that something is wrong. Sore knees, elbows, hands, neck and back as well as genitals that go numb in the saddle are all symptoms that your bike doesn’t fit your body.

For most cyclists, pain doesn’t set in until mileage increases. Jaunts around the neighbourhood rarely elicit the same kind of discomfort as do rides that keep a cyclist in the saddle for extended periods of time.

Many cyclists seek relief from a doctor or physiotherapist, only to be referred to a bike fit specialist who uses a tape measure, bike wrench and plumb line to make the pain go away. These specialists not only rejig your bike to fit your frame, they analyze your cycling posture and offer suggestions on how to improve peddling efficiency.

One of the best bike fitters in Montreal is Pierre Poulet, owner of Robert Cycle in LaSalle. He fits up to 800 cyclists a year, many of which are referred by local osteopaths, physiotherapists, chiropractors and physicians. The cyclists range from weekend warriors to the cycling elite, including cyclists with a special need, like a prosthesis.

“I do my best to fit everyone’s body mass between two wheels,” Poulet said.

It doesn’t take much of a mismatch between cyclist and bike to cause discomfort. Legs that are long when compared to the length of the torso or vice versa are common reasons for a poor fit. So are long or short arms, lack of flexibility or stiffness in the neck, torso and hamstrings and chronic postural problems like disk pain.

Poulet watches cyclists peddle on a cycle trainer in his workshop while evaluating their posture and technique. Then he starts measuring and only then does he begin the fit.

A good fitter alters the bike’s components relative to the cyclist’s physical measurements and cycling style. Saddle height and position (fore and aft) are adjusted, handlebar height is altered and the crank (the component to which the pedals are attached) is sometimes replaced. The fitter tweaks the bike’s parts millimetre by millimetre until bike and rider are in perfect harmony.

Some parts of the fit, like the saddle, are personal. Unlike several years ago when bike fitters spent a lot of time tilting the seat just so in order to relieve pressure on the genitalia, today’s gender-specific cut-aways keep everyone’s private parts more comfortable. This allows the cyclist to sit comfortably and the fitter time to focus his efforts on other parts of the bike.

The benefits of these adjustments are usually felt immediately. Cycling comfort improves and pain disappears. But there’s another benefit: Improved position on a bike boosts cycling efficiency and performance.

Poulet, who also sells bikes, says a good fit is made easier by choosing the right bike. Selecting the optimum frame size and configuration (longer or shorter top tube) can significantly reduce the need to do a lot of extra work to perfect the fit.

His experience as a fitter has led him to carry only three models of bikes. Most people find the right fit on his top two models. For those who don’t – hard to fit cyclists like short women and tall men – a custom-made bike, the third and most expensive option, might be the best choice.

As for triathletes who tend to ride in different positions during training and racing, Poulet does a combo fit that consists of an extra saddle, seat post and clip-on bar.

At this time of year Poulet is a busy guy, fitting twice as many bikes as he sells. A comprehensive fit takes about 90 minutes and costs $150. Most of the time cyclists leave happy and stay that way. A few, however, come back for still more minor adjustments. Fitting a bike isn’t always about the perfect set of measurements. Comfort is very personal and can often be evaluated only after time spent on the bike in road conditions.

Not every cyclist needs to make an appointment with a bike fitter. But for those who can’t get comfortable on their bike, a solution may be a trip to your local bike store for a personalized fit done by a seasoned professional.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Bilko said...

Please make sure your nomentclature is correct between SIZING and FITTING. They are different aspects entirely.


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