What Is Bike Fitting? (And The 6 Essential Benefits of a Bike Fit)

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Cycling as a sport has a fantastic community of people who want to help and give lots of advice.

When I first started cycling, one bit of advice I always got was to get a bike fit. I was told going through the bike fitting process would completely change my cycling. 

Many people disagree with this and feel a bike fitting isn’t always necessary. Interestingly enough, many professionals in the pro peloton openly admit to not having a bike fit and not feeling the need to. 

It leaves a lot of cyclists asking the question: Do you really need a bike fit?

In this article, we’re going to be answering this question by discussing the following:

  • What Is Bike Fitting?
  • The 5 Key Components Of A Bike Fitting
  • 6 Essential Benefits Of A Bike Fit
  • Can I Do My Own Bike Fit?
  • Do You Really Need A Bike Fit?
  • 3 Top Tips From A Pro Bike Fitter
  • Robbie’s Video Guide: Is A Bike Fit Worth It?

Let’s dive in!

What Is Bike Fitting? (And The 6 Essential Benefits of a Bike Fit): Title Image

What Is Bike Fitting?

A bike fit is the process of a trained professional fitting you to your bike.

They watch you ride and adjust the bike (or replace some of its components) to give you the best cycling experience. This is often done at local bike shops or bike fitting studios. 

For many cyclists, a bike fit solves a lot of issues they might have, from recurring injuries to uncomfortable riding experiences, especially over longer distances.

A bike fit focuses on making the rider as efficient and as comfortable as possible – though for performance cyclists aerodynamics will also be a key consideration.

The 5 Key Components Of A Bike Fitting

A bike fitter looks are various components when it comes to getting the perfect position for their clients. Here’s what they will focus on:

#1. Saddle Height

The first and most important measurement is the saddle height.

This is the distance between the crank’s center and the saddle’s center. This is vital for getting the right angle on the knees and helps give the correct muscular balance for a pedal stroke.

Showing the angle of the knee on a bike fit.

#2. Saddle Fore-Aft Position

The saddle fore-aft position is very important because it keeps the knee aligned with the pedal axle.

This is important to ensure you’re not sitting too far forward or back for the pedal stroke. If in the wrong position, it affects the whole pedal stroke.

#3. Handlebar Height And Reach

Getting the handlebars at the correct height and reach is important for your arms and has a big effect on the hips, shoulders, and behind.

As little as 10 mm between the saddle and the handlebars can make a huge difference, and help avoid hip pain and lower back pain.

Showing the angle of the shoulder on a bike fit.

#4. Cleat Position

The cleat position is what governs where your feet sit on the pedals.

If your feet aren’t in the correct position, it can plant havoc on the knees and hips. Finding a rider’s cleat position can be challenging as many factors affect it.

#5. Components Pairing

A bike fitter will also recommend certain components to help make the cycling experience better.

They will recommend cranks of a certain length, handlebars of a certain width, and even saddles that suit your sit bones.

A bike fit can cost as much as $400, which is the cost of a budget bike.

A road bike on a turbo trainer with a rider on.

6 Essential Benefits Of A Bike Fit

Bike fits come with many benefits and can improve the cycling experience, especially if you find riding a bike uncomfortable.

Here are the benefits you can expect:

#1. Increased Comfort

The best reason to invest in a bike fit is for extra comfort.

It means instead of feeling too uncomfortable after 10 miles and needing to stop. You can continue to 20, 30, 40, or even 100 miles

#2. Injury Prevention

If your bike is not in the right position for you, it’s only a matter of time before you either feel uncomfortable or just get injured.

A bike fit will put you in a position that minimizes the chance of getting injuries as it stops stress in particular areas. 

#3. Pedaling Efficiency

If you are in the correct position, then the load can even distribute across the muscles.

This means you can produce more power as the body is much more in sync. This can increase power with less effort.

#4. Better Aerodynamics

Another big part of a bike fit, especially for triathletes and time trial riders, is aerodynamics.

A bike fit can put you in a much more streamlined position where you can still ride efficiently and also not jeopardize your breathing ability.

#5. Reduced Fatigue

The bike fit process is to get the muscles in the body working together properly.

It means the workload can be shared evenly across the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and even calves. By doing this, you reduce fatigue in certain muscles. 

#6. Better Handling Ability

Being in the correct position will give you a much better center of gravity.

This means you can lean around the bike much easier with much better stability. It’s not only going to balance you better, but also give you a lot more confidence. 

A bike fit is well worth investing in as it does come with so many benefits, but this isn’t always guaranteed. Some people have a bike fit and struggle to get used to the position.

It’s not a perfect science, as we are all so different.

Road bike on a turbo trainer with a rider cycling.

Can You Do Your Own Bike Fit?

We often get asked the question if it is possible to bike fit yourself, and the answer is usually yes.

There are a lot of different applications that you will be able to use to help you get a DIY bike fit. Typically it is not perfect, but close to where you need to be. 

These applications will require you to film yourself pedaling on the bike, and then you will upload the video, which will measure the angles and give you recommendations. It is a challenging process and can take a few hours to complete a full fit for yourself. 

It’s easier with two people doing it together, fitting one after another. I personally find that people who go down this route need to make modifications later, and it’s easy to question if you got it right and lose confidence.

You can also check out our Bike Fitting Charts here!

A good bike fitter will look at each rider differently depending on their discipline and unique body shape and make the best fit possible. An application is very generic, so is unlikely to give you as perfect a fit as a pro – but they’re still much better than nothing.

Close up of a foot on a turbo trainer.

Do You Really Need A Bike Fit?

When it comes to needing a bike fit, we don’t always believe that it is necessary. Here’s when we recommend a bike fit and when you might want to reconsider. 

When Do You Need A Bike Fit?

A bike fit has many benefits that would be amazing for the right cyclist. Here’s who we think should definitely invest in a bike fit:

  • Professional Cyclists
  • Long Distance Cyclists
  • Touring Cyclists or Bikepackers
  • Anyone Who Gets Pain Or Discomfort Cycling
  • Cyclists Who Get Regular Injuries
  • Cyclist Who Want To Be Faster Or Plan On Racing

This is where a bike fit is going to give the most benefit to a cyclist. Essentially, anyone who spends a lot of time on a bike or suffers from discomfort when riding. 

When Don’t You Need A Bike Fit?

Then there are times when we don’t think a bike fit isn’t always required. Here are the times we might not recommend it.

  • If You Only Occasionally Ride A Bike
  • If You Don’t Get Any Discomfort When Riding
  • Experienced Riders Who Have Adapted A Position
  • If Your Only Short Term Using The Bike
  • If You Don’t Feel You Have The Budget

As you can see, there are a lot of times when you might not want to invest in a bike fit as they might not add much value to your cycling.

While a bike fit undoubtedly has many benefits, it should never feel like a barrier to a beginner cyclist wanting to get started but who can’t shoulder the cost.

Close up of a smart turbo trainer with a cyclist on.

3 Top Tips From A Pro Bike Fitter

As an experienced bike fitter, here are my top tips to improve your cycling – whether you plan to have a bike fit or not.

#1. Use The Right-Sized Bike For You

As a bike fitter, one of the biggest issues I found was cyclists in discomfort because they were using the wrong size bike. As much as bikes have adjustability, it’s important to be on the right size bike for you.

#2. Get The Saddle Height Right

If there’s one measurement you don’t want wrong, it’s saddle height. This will cause you the most aggravation if it’s wrong. An easy way to find your correct saddle height is by following this video on our YouTube channel on getting the correct saddle height

One of the biggest issues when it comes to cycling for beginners is knee pain, which can really ruin the experience.

Getting the saddle height right early is so important.

Comfort Is More Important Than Speed

There’s no denying that an aggressive bike position looks cool and makes you quicker.

However, many cyclists make the mistake of focusing on that instead of comfort. Comfort is very important, not just for long bike rides but short rides too.

Aside from the increased likelihood of injuries in an uncomfortable position, you’re unlikely to be able to perform at your best if your back and joints are in agony!

Robbie’s Video Guide: Is A Bike Fit Worth It?

Now You Know All About Bike Fitting…

A bike fit offers a lot of benefits to a rider, but we don’t feel it is always 100% necessary.

As a very experienced rider who has raced ultra at a high level, I didn’t have a bike fit until later in my cycling career when I was more established. 

We highly recommend a bike fit if you feel you’re a cyclist who might benefit from one, but it shouldn’t be a barrier to stopping you from getting on a bike, going out, and having a great ride.

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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