When I was an exuberant 15-year old out seeking to expand my neighborhood reach, I saved up to buy the bike of my dreams. I scrutinized bike catalogs for a year trying to decide which model I wanted as well as could afford. Once I was certain what and were to buy, I dashed into the store loaded with cash and rolls of change saved from the many grass cuts and odd-end jobs. I recall the “fitting process” was simply me standing over a couple of bikes to determine what looked best with a couple tweaks to the handlebars. It wasn’t until I began researching the bike industry a few years ago as an entrepreneur before I really understood the role of a professional bike fitter.
I see the fitter role like a cross between a physical therapist and a mechanical engineer. The main focus is a balance of your body’s fit to the bike by making mechanical adjustments ensuring a comfortable ride. A professional fitter will go through a series of classes to obtain certification. They study how to interpret your riding style, goals, and ailments while taking into account bike geometry types like triathlon, mountain, or road. Most riders have never used a professional fitter likely due to the lack of understanding the benefits. An inexperienced cyclist may assume an ache or pain that is occurring as “must be something with my body” which could be accurate but not the full story.
A friend shared a story about his father while in physical therapy rehabbing from a leg injury by using a stair climber. A stair riser that was seven inches tall was no problem for him to climb, but a 7.5” stair riser was a height beyond his legs ability making it impossible for him to scale. Small adjustments even at ½” increments whether a stair height or a bike seat can be very significant so before making further self-diagnoses, consider a professional bike-fitting session.
Fitters can be found through various channels. Many are staff members within a local bike shop working on customers who purchase new equipment at that store. Fitters can also be independent professionals with private fit studios engaging with a variety of clients. A quick source to locate fitters is a site slowtwitch.com offering a map of their location with correlating customer satisfaction rating. Your local fitter can speak with you and share a sense of their fit session methodology, time commitment, and cost.