A Good Bike Fit is One of the Most Efficient Ways
By Dirk Friel -
Rocky Mountain Sports
to Improve Cycling Performance
With spring on the horizon and no more excuses for
winter hibernation, cyclists are coming out of their dens to once again focus
on another cycling season.
Those looking to notch things up will most likely
start to lay out their annual training plan, which helps to ensure they reach
their race goals throughout the season.
However, before focusing your energy and resources
toward improving areas such as endurance, power and lactate threshold, start
off the season by making sure your time on the bike is spent as effectively as
How to accomplish this? With a bike fit.
Within all of the areas that a cyclist can
improve, the one area that is vastly ignored is simple economy, i.e., how
effectively you pedal a bike.
Most cyclists can dramatically improve their race
times through lower relative heart rates, increased power output, and have less
overuse injuries if they improve their economy. But one of the simplest ways to
improve economy is by having your bike position analyzed through a bike
A simple 90-minute professional bike fit
evaluation could produce the same gains as spending a month or more of training
on the bike.
Not just for newbies
Dont think of a bike fit as a
once-in-a-lifetime experience for the newbie. Even Lance Armstrong spends time
analyzing his bike fit every year during the winter. Now if Lance still has
room for improvement, just imagine what a bike fit can do for you.
Wes Hobson, an ex-pro triathlete and coach,
explains, A lot of people I see out training have a major flaw somewhere
within their bike position that can easily be corrected with the right expert
Over the years, Ive visited my fair share of
bike fit experts here in the Front Range of Colorado. Each one gave me expert
advice and feedback that advanced my economy and, effectively, my fitness.
My most recent visit was with Annie Sirotniak of
Integrated Cycle Fit in Boulder. She has a wealth of world-class athletic
experience, having been a professional road and mountain bike racer with
results that include finishing the Tour De France Feminin.
Sirotniak is also a certified physical therapist
and has over nine years of experience in orthopedics. Her protocol for a bike
fit doesnt start how you might imagine it would.
Sirotniak explains how she doesnt ask people
to just hop on their bikes and start evaluating and changing positions. She
first needs to see the whole picture, which includes strength and flexibility
Two people could be the exact same height
and yet have major differences in how I set up their bike," she says. "Strength
and flexibility tests help me to determine what issues to address in terms of
their bike dimensions. I take into account their individuality."
Sirotniak put me through a battery of tests to
assess my strength, flexibility and biomechanics in several key areas. She took
the time to analyze my pelvic alignment, leg length comparison, hamstrings,
glutes, back, hip flexors and foot alignment.
By simply observing how my body naturally moves,
Sirotniak was formulating in her head how my bike might look, and be formed, to
mold with my unique biomechanics.
Some of the issues she found and pointed out to me
had to do with strength in my glutes. My glutes are relatively weak, and within
the down-stroke motion misfire in relation to my hamstrings. Sirotniak was
pointed out to me how improvements in strength and timing of my muscles could
dramatically improve my cycling.
If you get a bike fit performed, expect to learn a
great deal about things youve never noticed before. Through my bike fit
experiences Ive learned that I have a larger-than-normal leg-length
discrepancy, which warrants a shim between one of my cleats and the shoe. Each
expert I have visited has also been in agreement that I have a hip rotation
that can be compensated for with changes in my cleat alignment.
By slowly integrating these changes into my
cycling biomechanics I have no doubt that my economy has improved. I am sure my
power has increased, and at the same time, lowered my relative heart rate at
the same workload.
Another, often overlooked, benefit to having a
bike fit conducted is the reduced-injury aspect. I have had the fortune to be
injury-free through my years of cycling and I directly owe much of that fortune
to the numerous bike fits I have sought out.
Learn about your bike, too
During a bike fit, not only will you become more
aware of your body, but youll also learn about the bike you have chosen
Jack Turner of Pro Peloton explains, Most
riders dont know how a proper bike fit should feel, so they just have no
idea if they are doing something wrong or not.
Turner explains that common areas of improvement
are many times related to the fact that commercially available bikes tend to
have long top tubes. This makes the rider reach and stretch too far. Many of
the cyclists he evaluates also have their saddles positioned too low, which can
dramatically reduce their peak power output.
Turner often recommends changing the stem length
on a bike from what it originally came with. Customizing the stem and saddle
height before a bike sells is very easy and has many benefits to the customer.
A simple 1- or 2-centimeter change in stem length can dramatically improve the
rider's comfort and cycling enjoyment.
The break-in period
If you decide to get a bike fit, dont turn
around the next day and race all-out. Do your body a favor and take it easy at
first to allow for adaptation. Your joints and muscles need a
break-in period to ensure injuries dont appear. A bike fit
can certainly make you faster, but only after your body has gotten used to the
The best time of year to seek out a bike fit is
during the lower-volume training periods. Fall and winter months tend to be the
best times. Consider scheduling your bike fit at the beginning of a rest period
so you can spend a planned rest week playing with your new set-up. This will
give you time to adapt before the next training cycle begins.
Once youve gotten used to your new position,
you will hopefully see improvements in economy almost overnight, with
absolutely no additional training hours. It can feel very exciting to have
gotten faster in a painless manner. Now you can make those road miles even more
Minimum fees for bike fitting can range from less
than $50 to $100 or more, depending on the services offered. Many bike shops
will give you a discount on bike fits if you purchase a bike from them.