Sunday, 7 October 2012


Getting a bike made-to-measure is something many cyclists aspire to but few can afford. There's no question that done properly, a fitting session should result in a bike that will fit you perfectly, and be tailor-made for the type of cycling you do the most.
But if you can't afford a custom build then the next best thing is to have your own bike fitted to your individual optimum riding position.
A few months ago I went along for a session at a London bike shop where they used a well known bike-fitting company's technicians. The session lasted over an hour and cost a little over a hundred pounds.
The technician spotted a few problems with my set up on the bike; my cycling shoes were too loose and their cleats weren't aligned correctly, the saddle was too small and too low, and the bars were too wide and tilted forward too much, making me reach too far thus putting a strain on my back.
I was then fitted for special shoe inserts that were heat moulded to my feet, a new set of bars were fitted, and a new Fizik saddle replaced my more basic one. I left the shop feeling more comfortable on the bike but a little lighter in the pocket. After a couple of rides I was happy that I could ride for longer before the dreaded back pain kicked in, I felt like I was pedalling more efficiently, and the saddle was probably a little more comfortable than my old one.

I was a bit surprised, however, when I looked at the old bars that had come off my bike and realised they had been exactly the same size and shape as the new ones that had been fitted. Still, overall I was pleased enough, and was happy to recommend the service to a friend who had shoulder problems which his physio felt were exacerbated by road cycling.
I bumped into him the other day and he was pretty pleased with the results of his fitting. They'd said that his Specialized Allez, although it was the right size, was the wrong shape for him and 'couldn't be adjusted to fit'. They suggested a make and model of road bike that would suit him much better. I was impressed that they would recommend a bike that they don't actually sell, but less impressed when he replied that they do actually now sell them. This started the alarm bells ringing. As far as I can see, the two bikes have very similar geometry. It seemed odd that the Allez could not be adjusted sufficiently to fit, while this new bike, of the same size and shape, would make such a difference. I was also alarmed when he said they'd suggested that he swapped his run-around hybrid for one of the the same make as the road bike they'd recommended. Surely the bike shop wasn't using the cycle fitting service to sell new bikes to customers who didn't need them? Surely not!?
So if you're getting fitted for your own bike, be careful. If they recommend new bars and stem, or a new saddle, don't feel you have to go along with it. If you do, then think of shopping around before you buy theirs at full price. And if they suggest buying one of the bikes they sell, ask what the exact differences are between yours and the ones they're recommending.

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