I recently polled a few bike fitters about the type of riders they work with, asking what are the most common reservations riders have about getting a professional bike fit.
The fitters primarily worked with recreational cycling enthusiasts— people who rode their bikes two to five times a week for fun and fitness, but who were not competing or “training” per se. And across the board, one of the top reservations they heard is that riders were concerned that they were not “good enough” to benefit from a bike fit; recreational riders and triathletes thought of a comprehensive bike fitting as being applicable only to elite-level athletes.
Proper bike fit and positioning is not just for elite athletes, recreational and beginning riders and triathletes actually see some of the biggest benefits from a proper bike fit as they have fewer established habits and more to gain from learning efficient-riding techniques.
A comprehensive bike fitting is an investment in money and time—you can’t get one for $100 or in 45 minutes—but it is also an investment that will pay off for as long as you ride a bike. So, as a recreational rider or novice triathlete, what are some of the benefits a professional bike fitting offers?
- Improved Comfort and Lowered Chance of Injury. A comprehensive bike fitting takes into account your individual biomechanics and ensures your joints and muscles are held in neutral and biomechanically friendly positions. Like a favorite chair that supports you well, a biomechanically neutral position minimizes joint and muscle load. This results in greater comfort and minimizes the likelihood of repetitive use injuries and the development of muscle imbalances.
- Improved Performance. When your body is in a position that encourages a full range of muscle engagement and balanced muscle recruitment, you will produce better power (ride faster) and have better endurance.
- Improved Technique. Have you ever seen yourself ride? Very few of us ever learned how to ride a bike beyond learning how to balance while pedaling. Cycling is as technique-based as any sport, and the better your technique, the easier and more comfortable it is to ride. A good bike fit has a heavy coaching and visual element, and can help you see and learn techniques in a matter of hours (techniques that take years for most riders to learn). This helps a newer rider avoid developing bad habits, and it helps riders of all experience levels gain a better understanding of how their bike and body interact.
- Better Equipment Selection and Money Savings. Many people buy their cycling products based on brand names or what their friends use. There are potential problems with this approach—what if the brand name does not build products that fit you well, or what if your needs as a rider are different from your friend? The net result could be a very compromised, and expensive, bike that you do not want to ride that much. Many riders also constantly buy new bikes and components—searching for something that works better for them. A proper bike fitting helps you find well-suited bikes and components the first time, and therefore, can save you thousands of dollars in the long-term. A proper bike fit not only helps you find the right products for your needs now, it also helps you to plan and buy with confidence for the future.
- Peace of Mind. If you are in the small percentage of riders who are already riding in a good position (just by chance), a professional fitting still provides, in addition to the technique benefits, a level of confidence that your position is correct and why.
- Enjoyment. Olympian or novice rider, I’ve met few people that did not want to ride better and enjoy cycling more. A comprehensive bike fitting is one of the best starting places for riding to your potential and enjoying cycling as much as possible.
There is a saying, “The best you’ve ridden is the best you know.” In other words, unless you know you are riding in an ideal position, are on the right equipment, and are using the right technique, you have room for improvement. Starting out the season in the right riding position for your body is a great place to start. Don’t hold yourself back for another season, search out a good bike fitter and find out what “the best you know” can be this year!