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8 Signs You Need a Bike Fit

July 2, 2018

8 Signs You Need a Bike Fit

I admit, I just realized I fell into the bike fit trap that I warn women about when I’m doing one of my Saddle, Sore Ladies Talks! I was racing this weekend and I’ll be honest, I could definitely tell that I just wasn’t as efficient or comfortable as I have been in the past… And then it occurred to me that while I have had a bike fit recently, it was about 18 months ago and was done on my road bike when it had aerobars on it, and it was being set up for peak Ironman efficiency.

Meanwhile, I was racing a crit.


© John Nable

Now, the fit wasn’t terrible or anything, but I know it could have been tweaked to a more roadie-style of riding versus the comfort oriented way I had been for Ironman. (Also note: The time I’ve been spending on mountain bikes has shown up in the fact that I refuse to wear road shoes, but also in the way my elbows wing out a bit more now.)

ANYWAY. The point of all of this is just that a single bike fit may not do the trick. If you’ve had one, that’s awesome. But one single bike fit won’t last a lifetime. There are a few times you should probably go in for a new / modified fit (and sometimes, a fitter will do a modification for a reduced price, so make sure to ask!)

The reasons:

You’ve Switched Bikes

This one should be obvious, but often isn’t. Fitters will usually give you a few measurements like saddle height so that you can keep your current bike adjusted properly if you take it apart for travel, etc…. But those numbers often get used over and over on new bikes, and that’s not great: new bikes, even similar new bikes, might have slightly different geometries, and bigger bike changes, like swapping road for mountain require totally different fit situations.

You’ve Switched Riding Styles

Like I just said, this is the trap I fell into: I was using my road bike for triathlon, but when I went back to road, I didn’t make any changes or concessions for that, just took off the aerobars and kept on pedaling. The fit was great for a 112-mile bike course, but not as powerful as I’d prefer for a Pro-1-2-3 field sprint.

You’re a Different Rider Now

A lot of people get fit when they first get a bike, or after an injury, and maybe aren’t at peak fitness at that point. Then, once you start riding more and more, you maybe lose a few pounds, gain some muscle mass, just generally change the structure of your body. Even upper body strength can impact how your bike is fit! So if you’re a completely different person than you were when you first got fit, it might be time for a change.

You’ve Been Injured

This one should be obvious—if you’re coming back from an injury, you may need to make concessions in your fit to get more comfortable. And when you start healing from those injuries, you may need yet another fit, because you won’t necessarily be able to go back to that original fit.

Side note: These pics are from getting a taste of the Trek Precision Fit process with the head fitter there, Kyle Russ. He’s rad! I loved his best tip: a good bike fit should never begin on the bike. We spent a bunch of time talking through fit stuff and my goals, then a physical assessment off the bike before he had me start pedaling. 

You’ve Increased/Decreased Flexibility

A lot of people will get into cycling, and eventually start adding in some strength / mobility / yoga to their training. The increase in flexibility can allow for a more aggressive bike fit, so if you’re hoping to go faster and you’ve been working on your mobility, you might be able to get a fitter to tweak you to a more aggressive fit. On the flip side, a decrease in flexibility—this happens as we age!—can also require a bike fit reset in order to make it more comfortable.

You’ve Had a Baby

This is a common one I hear from new moms: your body goes through MASSIVE changes when you have a baby, and your pelvis in particular won’t be exactly the same. You may need a new saddle. You may find that things that weren’t pressing on the saddle before are now, you may find that the way you’re set up now makes your legs cramp.

It’s Not Comfortable

To be honest, not every bike fitter is going to do a perfect job. The biggest mistake I think some people make is assuming that the fitter knows best, even when the fit still feels terrible. It should feel more comfortable, more powerful—don’t just assume that the bike fitter is 100% right. You’re the only one who knows what you’re feeling, and a bike fitter can’t always tell what’s going on, especially when it comes to the soft tissue type stuff. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second shot at fitting, be vocal about your problems and issues, and definitely find a new fitter if the old one ignores those issues.

You Have New Goals

This one sort of circles back to my initial point, but to tie it all together… maybe now you aren’t racing, but when you got fit, you wanted to be a crit champion. Race-specific fits tend to be more aggressive and way less comfort-focused, and if you’re not planning to race but want to be more comfortable on the bike, it might be time to get your fit tweaked with more comfort, less aggression in mind.

(Next up: now that you know you need a bike fit, what should you look for in a fit/fitter?)



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