Bike fit for Performance

In coaching, around shops, and in the cycling community we constantly hear the words “bike fit”. Usually the reference is to comfort, but there is another aspect to a good bike fit, performance.

Amateur cyclists of all types, from the weekend club rider to the high end Masters racer are constantly looking for lighter, more aero, faster rolling gadgets to help them eek out a little more performance from their steed. Literally thousands of dollars are spent on the new carbon this, or the ceramic bearing that, and often the performance gained is marginal.

Many cyclists can improve the “bang for the buck” by investing in a professional fit, even as often as once or twice a year. As the body changes, gets stronger, weaker, more flexible, or even less flexible, minor changes in bike fit can improve the handling and performance the rider experiences from their machine. Often, improving the handling characteristics of a bike can help riders corner more efficiently, or have the confidence to ride more effectively in a pack.

It should go without saying, that battling the bike while riding uses energy, perhaps a small amount, perhaps even mental energy distracting the rider from the race. Energy loss can be enough to lose a few feet in a corner and force the rider to accelerate hard to get back up to speed. This can be detrimental in criterium style racing. If a rider has to accelerate hard out of every corner, it will only be a matter of time before those accelerations start using up the available “matches” that the rider has for the race.

While many riders can adjust their own bike to a point where it seems comfortable, even the best fitters will agree it’s virtually impossible to fit yourself. This is where a coach with good fitting and racing experience can be of great value. A good fitter knows how a bike should handle, and the characteristics of bike geometry and the affects of different setups and adjustments. A good bike fitter should be able to spot a potential problem even before they see the rider on the bike. Certain elements, like strange seat angles, or headset stacks will stand out.

Often riders have made unorthodox adjustments to a bike in order to make it more comfortable, often compounding a problem by fixing it with another. While the rider may be comfortable, they are giving up performance, possibly handling ability, and potentially fatiguing earlier in their ride.

The cost for a fit is nominal when compared to the equipment purchases, and cost of racing wheels and other high end parts. It is definitely an investment into the enjoyment of the machine. Get fit, get fast.