If you have never had a true bike fit before, you might be asking yourself why you might want to get one. There are three factors to consider with a bike fit: Comfort, Power production, and Aerodynamics.
Finding a comfortable position should be the priority when tuning-in your bike fit. If you are not comfortable, you will not produce the power in your pedal stroke you are a capable of achieving, nor will you keep your body in an aerodynamic position. Believe it or not, cycling should NOT be a painful endeavor. Finding the right saddle, the best cleat placement, and optimal handlebar position (among other potential factors) can make your cycling experience exciting and fun!
When you can relax on your bike, your ability to produce power opens up. For most of us, simply adhering to the standard range of motion parameters a cyclist should have is enough to evoke more power. Once within the optimal range of motion throughout your body, fine tuning the range can result in small power output changes.
As triathletes, we’re also, more often than not, concerned with aerodynamics. Evidence of this can be seen by the seemly infinite number of Time Trial or Triathlon bikes found in every triathlon we participate in all over the world. Why TT bikes? Bike manufacturers would like us to believe that the slippery, aerodynamic design of their bikes is why. It’s true, but not nearly as much of a factor as we are lead to believe. The amount of drag created while we are riding a bike falls somewhere in the realm of 20% bike and 80% our body.
So, again, why Triathlon bikes? The real answer is that they allow us to position ourselves on the bike in such a way as to reduce the amount of drag or air/wind resistance our bodies create, which is affecting the largest cause of resistance aerodynamically. A sound bike position on any TT bike will reduce the amount of drag created so much so that, regardless of the bike, the position will allow you to slip through the wind, resulting in a faster velocity. This, to me, indicates a bike fit will yield the biggest bang for the buck when we compare the cost of a high quality bike fit ($200-$400) to a brand new TT bike ($3000+).
The Three Factors of a Great Bike Fit
A bike fit should address three key factors (in this order):
Comfort. A rider properly fit to his or her bike should feel comfortable enough to ride strong for hours at a time. This applies to all riders, not just the pros. The better fitted to your bike you are, the more you will ride, which is our goal!
Power. More power = more speed. A comfortable rider will naturally produce more power while pedaling, and for those looking to maximize speed, spending the time finding that “sweet spot” on your bike that is not only comfortable, but also powerful is a key component in making you a faster rider.
Aerodynamics. Whether you are looking to crush the competition, or just the local Strava segments, positioning your body on the bike in a manor that reduces drag is basically giving you free speed. This applies not just to time trialists or triathletes. Road cyclist, and to an extent, mountain bikers can benefit from a more aerodynamic positioning as well.