Expensive popcorn…

Anyone who has looked into getting a bike fitting has seen the vast array of fitting options. There are basic fittings, advanced fittings, precision fittings and a whole bunch of high tech fittings using the latest computerized fitting systems. I keep returning to my basic goals of a bike fitting and asking myself if there’s more value that I can offer – that’s where it gets a little confusing…

The bike industry has taken a number of facts and come to a conclusion, it looks something like this:

The learning process takes time.

Time is money.

The learning process takes money.

And that is why there are 4 hour fittings that cost $500… What they never ask is how do you make a better rider? Isn’t that what the customer is paying for??? I ask that a lot, I’m pretty sure I’ve already seen the answer.

When I started working at Wheelworks, I started to ride with John Allis. John was coaching the Harvard cycling team, he would show up on the early morning rides every day and work with the riders. His version of a fitting would take 2 minutes – just getting the saddle in the ball park. Over time he would make adjustments, both to their bike and how they used it. He started with novice riders in September and had good cyclists by November, year after year.

There’s only so far you can get by adjusting the bike to the rider. Beyond that you have to work with the rider on technique and skills. When I do a fitting I teach the customer how to get their body weight on the pedals, not the handlebars – I don’t understand how a fitting can work without this step. I also teach pedal stroke classes over the winter. The difference is that given 4 weeks and a little bit of homework, I can actually teach a rider how to get their full body weight on the pedals. During a fitting the customers who pick up skills quickly may learn how it’s done, most get the idea but don’t retain the skill.

When I coach riders I work on skills. Over the winter it’s pedal stroke and how to isolate large muscle groups and only use them where they are effective. In the spring it’s riding skills. I teach my riders how to make contact with another rider (if you ride with a group this happens all the time – it’s no big deal), I teach cornering, speedwork, hill climbing… These are skills that cyclists should have, it’s not about racing, it’s about riding well.

People don’t need to spend more on fittings, they need to get more value out of their cycling time. Bike shops should be offering this, but they don’t. Bike fitting prices always remind me of the expensive bucket of popcorn at the movies…

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