If you are sold on the concept of getting your bike set up checked by a professional, what should you look for when choosing a bike fitting specialist?
All three of our bike fitting specialists agreed that there was no substitute for personal recommendations. CycleFit’s Julian told us, "the best advertising is word-of-mouth – if lots of people you know have visited the same fitter and are happy with the results, then that is a good indicator that their practice is reliable and effective."
While agreeing that this is important, Scherrit Knoesen of The Bike Whisperer thinks there is more to choosing a fitter than checking they have lots of happy customers.
"I like to see fitters who take enough time to be sure that they have looked at every possible issue before they send you out, and further, who would see you again for free if there are still issues which have remained unaddressed, or not perfectly addressed. Fitters should also be able to recommend health professionals for further investigations where needed."
Rebecca Romero of Romero Performance agrees that the process will take a significant amount of time, "you can’t get a bike fit done in two hours, so check that the fitter says a session will be close to three hours."
Romero also made the point that you should not need to visit a discipline specialist "a good bike fitter should know how to adjust for each discipline (TT, track, road and mountain bike)."
We wondered if a female bike fitter might be the best option for a female cyclist, but Cyclefit challenged that assumption, "you may feel more comfortable with a female fitter, but you really need to question whether you are getting the most experienced fitter you can. Male fitters are trained to fit female cyclists just as well as male cyclists, there is no gender trade-off."
However, you might simply feel more comfortable with a female fitter and given that the process is time consuming and may involve detailed discussion around your saddle choice, that is a very personal decision for you to make.
Scherrit made a point of telling us that he calls his wife, Corinne, who is also his business partner and a qualified bike fitter, into consultations where women need to talk very specifically about saddle issues, "I want people to feels as comfortable as they possibly can."
Having invested between three and five hours of your time, what can you expect?
For Rebecca the process should include "a detailed interview to discuss cycling history, current goals, any current injuries or bike/riding issues you may be having, a detailed functional assessment off the bike, some sort of technical coaching assessment and a data analysis of some sort to quantify rider position."
The process at Cyclefit is heavily influenced by an assessment interview and a physical evaluation, "80% of what we need to run the session effectively will be revealed in this process, whether it is an asymmetry, pronated feet, poor posture, etc. The rest is working with the individual and our equipment to match their body to a position that will reflect their goals, whilst remaining realistic in terms of their physical capabilities."
As for what you will take away, Rebecca suggests that changes to a bike set up should be made with reference to all of the information collected. “Ideally you should have some sort of record to take away with you, showing what changes were made and why. A good bike fit service should always include an opportunity to follow up after the session should any queries or issues arise."
And if you really want to get into the detail then you will find The Bike Whisperer specialises in cleat set up. “Cleat set up is essential, it must be correct in five different parameters and the amount of care and attention we spend on feet is unique in the UK. Feet are most likely to be the root cause of your biomechanical issues and in our experience, getting cleat placement exactly right is the thing that makes sure they are sorted for good."
While Cyclefit use a range of technologies including a sizecycle jig, dartfish high-def video, custom footbed moulding facilities, shims/wedges/footbeds, gebioMized pressure analysis. However, they believe their greatest asset is that they have been fitting cyclists in the UK longer than anyone else.
Romero Performance uses the Retul bike fit system, which captures your personal bike positioning data as well as your full bike set up dimensions in 3D and with millimetre accuracy. In addition Rebecca uses Computrainer Spin Scan software to analyse pedalling dynamics and video capture to view frame by frame analysis of your position and pedal stroke.
Are there any things that a cyclist can try to get right (or even adjust) for themselves?
There are things you can change, but to understand whether you have made a positive difference you need to change just one thing at a time and then assess that change over a period of several weeks or even months, so it will be very slow.
General rules for DIY bike fitting include:
- Change one thing at a time
- Keep good records of bike set up
- Give each change a few weeks before deciding if they are in the right direction
However, Scherrit warned us “I wouldn’t advise people to experiment with their own fitting, as it’s difficult to remain objective when fitting oneself (he doesn’t even fit himself). Plus, from a safety perspective, small changes can have a big effect on handling, so unless you really know what you’re doing, don’t ."
We hope this series of articles gives you an insight into the world of bike fitting and if you are suffering any discomfort, perhaps it will give you the confidence to seek professional help in overcoming this.
If you are lucky enough not to be in any pain on the bike, then perhaps it will inspire you to check that you are (in the words of Chris Boardman) simply being the best that you can possibly be.