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Getting A Bike Fit


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Getting A Bike Fit: Should I? & If So, Which One?

Following several years of relatively trouble-free time in the saddle, I recently experienced symptoms that suggest I’ve injured my sacroiliac joint. Where’s that? I hear you ask. Well its apparently the load-bearing joint where the pelvis meets the spine. This being my first ‘body says no’ experience, being forced to take time off the bike is a humbling experience. In my effort to sort things out and aid healing as best as I could, along with many sessions with the physio and osteopath, I turned my attention to my bike and it’s set up.


‘Get a bike fit’ your knowledgeable fellow cycling friend tells you. Personally it took me a couple of years on the bike, having owned my Cannondale Synapse for some time, before I actually entertained the idea.

I’m not sure about you, but I initially approached the idea of getting one with some reluctance. I couldn’t let go of the question: ‘If a bike fitter is paid to add value to my bike and its dimensions relative to myself, they must feel obliged to change things, be it saddle, stem or cleat position?’ This combined with the fact that unless the fitter had a complete physiological profile of my body and its characteristics, whilst getting inside my head and understanding what is a truly comfortable, sustainable and efficient riding position.


The above might resonate with you or indeed other questions may remain. Beyond injuries, my motivation for investing in one came when I stopped and added up all the hours I spend in the saddle. Rather a lot! Given this it made sense to invest in giving my riding position the best chance of being correct for me. To invest an amount of money rather small relative to the potential cost, not to mention physical discomfort I could continue to end up spending on avoidable physiotherapy sessions, etc down the line. If you get your kicks from seeing an improvement in performance, gaining more power from your muscles through optimum positioning on the bike is another good reason for investing in a bike fit.

So what options are there? Several fitting methodologies are out there. I considered two that seemed to be most talked about. Retul fit: A motion capture method of bike fit technology that provides the means of providing the most economic means of expending energy. This system captures data, that sits either within or outside recommended limits, be it knee angle whilst pedaling for example. The bike fitter can apply their expertise to these ranges and work towards the goal of optimum riding position. Settings on a bike are adjusted with the rider off the bike.

Guru: This system offers a collaborative approach, with movement of all variables able to happen in real-time. Seat, bars all moveable whilst the rider is on the bike. Power on the pedal, i.e. resistance is set by the fitter, so that positions can be tested under different riding circumstances, e.g. hill climbing and sprinting.

As a fellow Etape du Tour participant at this years event in Annecy, I was fortunate to have been introduced to Ben Hillier, a bike fitter with years of experience under his belt and founder of the Department of Endurance, a workshop, studio and bike shop based in Fulham, SW London. Having fit for several cycle clubs and triathlete clubs including locals: ‘The Clapham Chasers’, I felt in good hands. When I arrived I saw a number of highly desirable bikes, learning that he was in fact a dealer for cycle brands including: Look, Jaegher, Felt, Enigma and Argon amongst others.

What impressed me particularly with the set up here was the fact that the Guru has a preloaded archive of nigh on every production bike on the market, meaning a customer’s fit dimensions can then be applied to a huge number of bikes. Each one will have the equivalent saddle height, stem spec and height necessary to create the exact ride dimensions of this fit. This gives a customer access to a virtual warehouse of bikes without the need to leave the shop! Before setting up, Ben had actually gone over to the US to spend several days with Guru’s founder in order to become one of only a handful of UK Guru system bike fitters.


Lessons were learned as we went through the process. Cleats: the positioning of them on your shoes is influenced by the type of riding I do. A sprinter requires more power from the whole of the leg, including considerable wattage from the calf muscles, equating to cleat position centering closer to the upper metatarsal bone (big toe), where as someone more endurance-orientated, would benefit from a cleat aligned to the lower metatarsal bone (small toe) There are apparently triathletes who attempt to mount their cleats near to the mid-point of the sole of the shoe, in an effort to save their calf muscles for the run!


With minor adjustment I was on the bike and pedaling. Lasers were placed opposite my legs, with beam shining along the vertical axis of my pedal stroke along the front of my legs. This revealed whether there was a gait in my pedal stroke or not. Turned out there wasn’t, apart from a minor movement at the top of my right legs rotation. The width of the pedals from left one to right may not be thought about, however it makes sense to consider it, when tall riders naturally stand wider than shorter ones!

Seat adjustment in real time whilst riding meant that going beyond height threshold was easy and the point where hips began to wobble suggesting excessive height was clear, without me getting off the bike.


My previous perception of sizing a bike was that of one number, the height of the seat tube, from bottom bracket up to base of seatpost, in centimeters. At one time this was appropriate and consistent across brands of bicycle, as top tubes were horizontal across from top of seat tube to headset. However, with frame geometries evolving, top tubes have adopted many angles, dropping from the headset at different angles, thus rendering that one ‘frame size’ inconsistent and with it almost irrelevant.


Stack and reach:


The two consistent measurements considered by the 21st century bike fitter  are stack and reach.


The ‘Stack’: The vertical distance between the middle of the bottom bracket to centre of the top of the head tube and…


The ‘Reach’: The horizontal distance between the middle of the headtube to the centre of the top of the head tube.


The combination of these two measurements can be universally applied to any bike manufactures frames to find the right fit for the rider.


A little over 90 minutes later with many adjustments made, an optimal riding position was found. Crucially this could be compared to what I had been riding across several bikes, namely my Cannondale Synapse and my Look 695. The outcome involved both the forward adjustment of my saddle, (using a Specialized Romin, Ben even had one in the shop so I didn’t have to take mine of my own bike) My aggressive riding style, think superman without the cape or supernatural abilities for that matter, was tamed via a shorter stem. Ben kindly gave me a stem for my Synapse so that I could soften the geometry of a bike I didn’t bring to the fit. Much was learnt during this fit.


My body is a temple


Would I recommend having one? Well given the time spent on our bikes, having a bike fit, one that I can take with me to educate future bike purchases, is worth more than £200, which is likely to be the most you’d pay for a bike fit. Already I feel the benefits with greater comfort on the bike. Its early days, however I’m also confident this is translating to more power delivery with greater ease.


There is of course a caveat – a bike fit is only part of the puzzle. It doesn’t replace the need to train efficiently, listen to your body, rest, strengthen & stretch (core etc) and generally look after yourself, especially if putting in extended hours of training.


If you’re interested in having a bike fit, email ben@doendurance.com


Better still, mention ‘All Things Ride’ and you’ll get a 15% discount.


For the record I paid for this bike fit. As mentioned, I met Ben at L’Etape du Tour, as he joined us on our L’Etape du Tour trip in July this year. For those keen to reserve a place on our 2019 trip,  we have a few places remaining. Email enquiries@allthingsride.com and reference this article for free pair of exclusive ATR arm screens.