I recently tried to update my Linked-In profile by adding my occupation, but bike fitter isn’t on their list of possible jobs. If riding a bike is truly as easy as riding a bike, why would anyone need a bike fitter? This blog is my attempt to answer that, and a few other questions that people have asked me over the years.
Bike fitting exists because they human body was never meant to be attached to a machine which controls movement. If that movement goes beyond the body’s range of motion in any direction destructive force is generated. This is where riding a bike is very different from other activities. If you’re walking and you take a bad step, it happens once. On a bike, if the pedal is taking the rider’s body beyond it’s range of motion it happens 80 times a minute for as long as they are on the bike.
If you Google bike fitting you’ll get all kinds of information. You’ll find there are YouTube videos about how to do a bike fit, on-line bike fitting resources and local places to go to for a bike fitting. What you won’t find is a definition of a bike fitting. Some places will offer a list of steps taken in a bike fitting, others will describe the technology used in their bike fitting, the “how to” videos will just tell you to change certain things without explanation.
So what is a bike fitting? I have two basic goals when doing a bike fitting:
- Put the rider within range of motion in every direction (eliminate destructive forces)
- Teach the rider how to put their body weight on the pedals
That’s it. There’s really nothing complicated about it until you realize that every body is different, and we’re all a growing list of injuries and limitations. There are lots of ranges of motion to pay attention to, most of them oppose other ranges of motion – it’s never that simple…
Part 2 is something I learned over 25 years ago when I first started bike fitting. I fit a rider on their bike and then I went riding them to observe the outcome (something that’s missing in bike fitting). What I saw on the road was a rider trying to create a bridge between the saddle and the handlebars with their spine and arms. They were supporting 1/3rd of their upper body weight on the handlebars, which is pretty common. This was not a person who walks around on their hands and feet, something that works while walking wasn’t working on the bike. Have you ever miscounted the number of stairs and tried to put your foot on nothing? Your brain goes into panic mode and finds the next solid object. As soon as the pedals start to move your brain goes into panic mode. The next solid object would be the handlebars. For a fitting to work the rider must learn to put their body weight on the pedals.
So there you have it, two very simple goals for a bike fitting.