Precautions for Shopping Bike Fit
1. All Fitters are not Created Equal:
Ask for credentials, references, and use the Internet search-engines to check the background of your prospective technician. The majority of “Bicycle Fit Professionals” have attended 3-7 days training with minimal (if any) medical and/or academic training. It is impossible to “fail” fit training at any school other than Steve Hogg’s, so doing some research will save you money in the long run. Approximately 75% of my clients have been fitted (poorly) elsewhere.
Requirements fo Fitter Selection:
1. Minimum of 5-years experience or 600-documented fittings. The designation “Master Fitter” is a qualification and does not guarantee of competency. 2. Positive testimonials/reputation. 3. Positive outcome guarantee for CYCLING related symptoms. 2. Installation of necessary components (excluding integrated cockpits and internal cable routing) 3. Complimentary follow-up within a specific time-frame. 4. Documentation of component specifications and contact points.
2. Technology does not Equal Good Bike Fitting:
“Technology is a poor substitute for experience.” (Richard Sachs). Technology should support, not define the decisions of a competent bike fitter. I programmed/pioneered integrated 3d/sEMG protocols for bike fitting with BTS Bioengineering, assisted in the engineering of automated fit-bikes and independent-leg power meters, developed protocols utilizing muscle oxygen levels for bike fitting, etc., only to realize these are poor substitutes for experience, education, attention to detail, and a genuine concern for each client. Technology should compliment, support and document the fitting process.
1. Adjustable Stem for handlebar positioning. 2. Components to modify the foot/shoe/pedal interface. 3. Documentation of component specifications and contact points.
4. Fit Bike or Size Cycle?
Automated fit-bikes (Serotta, Trek, Biobike, Guru, Exit, Shimano) are excellent for pre-purchase or custom sizing, but not actual bike fitting. If positioning with an indoor trainer is one-step from cycling outdoors, fit-bikes are at least two. Fitting “in vitro” alters spinal stabilizer recruitment as a function of restricted balance/sway, which translates into a lower/longer position for most cyclists.
Requirements for Fit Bike Fitting:
1. Position changes shoud be based on objective and subjective data. Proprioception alone (this feels good/bad) is unreliable if the existing bike is a poor-fit. 2. Fees include the transfer of data to the client’s bike and important micro-adjustments on trainer. 3. Size Cycle components (handlebar, brake hoods, saddle) mirror the components of the client’s bike. 4. Documentation of Size Cycle X/Y coordinates and component specifications.
6. Physical Therapy is NOT Bike Fitting:
It’s increasingly common for orthopedic facilities to provide on-site “Bike Fitting” with a physical therapist, which is covered by insurance in most cases. But there is no CPT code for “Bike Fit”, and the closest alternative allocates only a fraction of the time required to conduct a comprehensive fitting.
I see at minimum 5-clients each year with exhausted health care spending accounts from 3-12-months of physical therapy who are not difficult cases.
In my opinion there is a disconnect between what constitutes proper anatomical function and proper cycling function, which might explain why I have never seen a positive outcome for bike-fit or bike-related issues resolved exclusively with physical therapy in Minnesota.
Requirements for PT Bike Fitting:
1. The cycling assessment must occor on the bicycle producing symptoms. It is virtually impossible to identify and treat bike-related issues without inspecting componentry and bike fit. If a PT claims otherwise, find another PT. 2. The PT MUST be a cyclist, and have experience riding a variety of bikes — TT, cyclocross, mountain, road, etc. 3. He/she must demonstrate mechanical competency and provide handlebar installation and taping, appropriate torque settings, cable replacement/routing, gear and brake adjustments when necessary. 4. An inventory assortment of stems, saddles, handlebars, cleats and pedals are necessary to produce positive outcomes — because nothing changes if nothing changes. Installation shold be included with the fitting. 5. A positive outcome guarantee for the complete resolution of symptoms that occur ONLY when cycling. If the problems persist, see a reputable fitter who can provide documentation for the intervention and improvements so you can get a refund. 6. Documentation of component specifications and contact points.
7. Bike Specific Symptoms are Resolved with Proper Fitting:
If your concerns are exclusively bike-specific, they should be entirely resolved from fitting. There are a few exceptions, typically limited to cases of severe scoliosis, femoral leg-length discrepancy (diagnosed with grid x-ray), and nerve impingement — though these symptoms are rarely bike-specific.
Symptom Resolution Tips:
1. Temporary discomfort cycling is common when correcting significant issues. 2. If you feel something is wrong, it probably is and should be re-assessed for free within a specific time frame. 3. Off-bike interventions are sometimes necessary for more complex cases.
9. Pressure Mapping is not the Holy Grail:
Saddle pressure mapping is great technology, but what constitutes “optimal” is really only the best of that shops inventory and should not be used to determine optimal bike fit based on that fact.
Pressure Mapping Tips:
1. Insist on trying a number of saddles if the recommendation is uncomfortable, including saddles that might not be carried by the dealer. 2. Don’t let a “bad” map get you down if the saddle feels great — it’s your booty. 3. Ensure that the saddle can be exchanged within a limited time after riding outside. 4. My experience suggests the best saddles are made by Specialized, SMP and Cobb Cycling.
10. Mobile Bike Fitting
If mobile bike fitting worked, we would all be doing it.
Bike fit studios are designed specifically for fitting. The trainer is secured to a stage that provides a stable and a level platform for fitting. If a subject is corrected while riding off-center from perpendicular, those adjustments will do more harm than good. Video and/or 3D technologies are calibrated at exactly 90-degrees to the subject, with lasers and other fitting technologies oriented in a similar fashion. This calibration is necessary for accurate motion analysis.
There is also an issue with parts and accessories. Parts distributors require a storefront or retail website for all accounts holders. Studios carry all the stems, handlebars, saddles, pedals, cleats, screws, bolts, tools, etc., necessary to establish a positive outcome, or can order a specific component if necessary and typically install without additional fees.
And lastly, it is not profitable to make the 2-3 visits necessary to ensure a positive outcome.
Requirements for Mobile Bike Fitting:
1. Complimentary Installation and/or adjustment of non-inventory components — regardless if it requires a second visit — to ensure proper alignment and position. 2. Bicycle alignment confirmed using a laser-level during the fitting. 2. Complimentary follow-up within a specified time frame. 3. Positive outcome guarantee. 4. Documentation of component specifications and contact points.