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10 Common Bike Fitting Myths Debunked

Updated: Mar 5

10 Bike Fitting Myths Debunked Cover Photo

Bike fitting is a critical aspect of cycling that often falls victim to various myths and misconceptions. At 90+ Cycling, we believe that every cyclist, from casual riders to seasoned racers, can benefit from a proper bike fit. In this article, we will debunk some prevalent bike fitting myths to shed light on the importance of personalized fitting for riders of all levels. The article will start with 10 and count down to 1 with a new myth released each week for 10 weeks.

Certainly, more myths than 10 exist so this article will grow over time and will then require a new title!

Myth 10: Only Racers Benefit From a Bike Fit

Bike Fitting Myth 1: Only Racers Need a Bike Fit -- Bike racers on road

Many cyclists mistakenly believe that bike fitting is only essential for those engaged in competitive racing. However, the reality is that bike fitting caters to a broad range of riders, regardless of their cycling objectives. While racers seek every possible advantage to gain that extra edge, recreational cyclists, commuters, and enthusiasts can equally benefit from a bike fit tailored to their unique needs.

A bike fit is not solely about gaining a competitive edge; it's about ensuring your cycling experience is as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Recreational riders may not be pushing the limits of speed and endurance like racers, but they still deserve a bike setup that minimizes discomfort and fatigue during their rides. This tailored approach contributes to a more enjoyable and sustainable cycling journey for cyclists of all levels.

Injuries related to poor bike fit are not exclusive to racers. Cyclists of all levels are susceptible to issues such as knee pain, lower back discomfort, overuse injuries, or numbness in hands and feet if their bikes are not properly fitted. Whether you're racing or commuting, a professional bike fit takes into account your individual biomechanics, reducing the risk of injuries associated with poor positioning on the bike.

Performance in cycling isn't confined to winning races; it encompasses achieving personal goals, whether that involves completing a challenging route, commuting efficiently, climbing the local highest mountain or simply enjoying the ride. A well-fitted bike ensures that every pedal stroke is efficient, contributing to an overall enhanced cycling experience irrespective of competitive aspirations.

Different cycling disciplines demand unique adjustments, and bike fitting recognizes this diversity. The needs of a commuter may prioritize comfort and posture, while a mountain biker may emphasize handling and maneuverability. Bike fitting is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it's a personalized service that caters to the specific demands of your preferred riding style.

Cycling journeys often evolve, with riders progressing from recreational rides to more challenging routes or different disciplines. A proper bike fit serves as a foundation for this evolution, providing support as your cycling goals and abilities develop. It ensures that your bike setup evolves with you, offering a consistent and optimized experience regardless of where you are on the lifelong cycling adventure.

Myth 9: Bike Fits are too Expensive and not Worth the Money

Bike Fitting Myth 9: Bike Fitting is Too Expensive and not Worth the Money

This myth often stems from a narrow perspective that overlooks the numerous advantages gained from a professionally tailored bike setup. When evaluating the cost of a bike fit, it's essential to consider the potential long-term savings and benefits.

Firstly, a well-fitted bike reduces the risk of injuries related to poor positioning. Injuries, whether minor or severe, can lead to medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and potential time off the bike. By investing in a bike fit, you are proactively addressing biomechanical issues, minimizing the risk of injuries, and ultimately avoiding the associated costs.

Consider this scenario: You decide to invest in a high-end $5000 bike, expecting an elevated riding experience. However, each time you ride it, you find yourself experiencing significant pain and discomfort. Frustrated, you may end up spending substantial amounts of money attempting to address the issue—perhaps by purchasing various component replacements in the hopes of finding a solution. "Perhaps these carbon aero bars will reduce my hand numbness..."

Alternatively, faced with persistent discomfort, you might gradually reduce the frequency of your rides, diminishing the enjoyment and benefits of your costly investment. This is where the initial investment in a professional bike fit becomes crucial. It ensures that your bike is not just a financial investment but an investment in your future progression in cycling and enjoying the investment you've made in an expensive bike.

Moreover, the enhanced comfort and efficiency achieved through a professional bike fit contribute to a more enjoyable experience. This can result in increased motivation to ride regularly, leading to improvements in overall fitness and mental well-being. The positive impact on your health and lifestyle can be invaluable, emphasizing the long-term value of a bike fit.

Consider the cost of upgrading components or accessories in pursuit of being more comfortable in the saddle. A bike fit optimizes your current setup, making it more ergonomic and efficient. This means you may not need to invest in unnecessary upgrades or modifications to address discomfort or performance issues that could have been resolved through a professional fit.

The benefits of a bike fit extend beyond individual rides. Whether you're a recreational rider or a dedicated enthusiast, the long-term gains in terms of physical health, mental well-being, and the overall joy derived from cycling are immeasurable. A bike fit is an investment in your personal well-being and the longevity of your cycling journey.

Myth 8: All Bike Fitters are Created Equal (or provide the same level of service)

Myth 8: All Bike Fitters are Created Equal

The belief that any bike fitter can provide an equally effective fit regardless of the nuanced skill set required for a comprehensive and precise bike fitting process is categorically untrue. Unlike a standardized product, the fitting process involves a personalized approach that demands a deep understanding of biomechanics, anatomy, and cycling dynamics.

An experienced and skilled bike fitter brings a level of expertise that goes beyond basic adjustments. They possess the ability to interpret a rider's unique characteristics, including body proportions, flexibility, and riding style, and translate this understanding into tailored adjustments. Their keen eye can identify subtle nuances that significantly impact comfort, performance, and injury prevention.

Furthermore, the tools and technology used by different bike fitters may vary. A well-equipped fitter employs advanced tools such as motion capture systems, pressure mapping, and dynamic analysis to gather precise data about a rider's movements and pressure points. These tools contribute to a more accurate and detailed fit, ensuring that every aspect of the bike setup is optimized, consistent, and repeatable.  Moreover, not every bike fitter can properly use those tools to interpret what’s best for each individual rider. Advanced tools can be purchased without any training or experience.

The disparity in training and certification within the bike fitting industry is another factor to consider. Not all bike fitters undergo the same rigorous training programs or acquire certifications from reputable organizations. Choosing a fitter with varied experience and training provides assurance regarding their commitment to professional standards and ongoing education.  Even if all bike fitters received the same training, do all medical doctors provide the same level of effectiveness? Bike fitting is similar in this aspect, so gleaning information about the bike fitter and their experience is paramount to a great fit.

This discussion is not intended as a critique of dedicated and skilled bike fitters. Instead, it sheds light on the misconception perpetuated by some establishments that believe a bike fit can be performed by anyone, regardless of their experience, expertise, training, tools, and talent.

In the experience of this blog writer, the most passionate fitters who seek to constantly improve their skills and outcomes provide the most exceptional services.

Myth 7: My Friend fit me and I Watched Bike Fitting Videos on YouTube, so I'm Good

Myth 7: Image of My friend fit me and I watched bike fitting videos on Youtube so I'm good

You’ve likely heard this one before, “opinions are like anuses, everyone has one.” That doesn’t mean that they are right for you. The myth that a friend or online tutorials can substitute for a professional bike fit overlooks the intricacies involved in optimizing a bike setup for an individual rider. While the intentions of friends and online resources are commendable, achieving the level of precision necessary for an optimal fit demands a trained eye, experience, and a comprehensive understanding of biomechanics.

A friend's assistance and YouTube tutorials may offer general guidelines, but they often lack the personalized assessment required for an effective bike fit. Every cyclist is unique, with distinct body proportions, flexibility, and riding preferences. A professional bike fitter should go beyond generic advice (see Myth 8), considering these individual factors to create a customized fit that enhances comfort, efficiency, and overall cycling experience.

Moreover, the dynamics of the fitting process involve real-time adjustments and observations that cannot be replicated through online tutorials or second-hand guidance. A true professional bike fit typically includes an evaluation of range of motion and functional movement, assessments of saddle height, handlebar reach, pedal alignment, crank arm length, and other nuanced adjustments that contribute to an optimal riding position. With 90+ Cyclings fittings, after every adjustment, the data and biomechanical range of motion are retested and adjustments continue until you are dialed in. Relying solely on generalized information may result in overlooking crucial details, leading to discomfort and potential long-term issues.

The belief that a friend or online guidance is sufficient may also neglect the evolving nature of a cyclist's body and riding style. Professional bike fitters understand how changes in fitness, flexibility, or riding goals can impact the ideal bike setup. Their expertise enables them to anticipate and adapt the fit accordingly, ensuring that your bike remains tailored to your evolving needs.

Myth 6: Stock Bikes Fit Everyone

The myth that stock bikes fit everyone stems from a common misconception that standard bike sizes and configurations cater to a wide range of body types and riding styles. In reality, riders are as diverse as their bikes should be, and assuming that a stock bike accommodates every individual overlooks critical factors influencing comfort and performance.

The misconception that stock bikes fit everyone is reminiscent of a historical dilemma (cataloged by Todd Rose in the Toronto Star) faced by the U.S. Air Force in the 1940s. Lt. Gilbert Daniels, a researcher, aimed to create an average cockpit size for pilots based on 10 dimensions measured on 4063 selected pilots of a presumed "average" height. Astonishingly, not a single pilot measured in the average range on all 10 dimensions. In fact, only 3.5% of pilots fell within the average range on just three dimensions, such as height, arm length, and leg length. Lt. Daniels' groundbreaking findings shattered the notion of a universal average, emphasizing the need for highly customized cockpits for each individual.

Similarly, the sizing of stock bikes is often determined by the law of averages, with brands reviewing and plotting the dimensions of 7-10 other brands to create their bike sizing geometry within a "normal" curve. While bikes come with adjustable components, these adjustments based on sizing significantly impact the ride experience. Just as Lt. Daniels concluded for cockpits, the story underscores that there is no one-size-fits-all in the cycling world. The importance of a personalized bike fit prior to purchase becomes evident, ensuring that the bike aligns with the unique dimensions, biomechanics, and preferences of the individual rider. Recognizing the individuality of cyclists and the limitations of standardized sizing is crucial for a truly comfortable and optimized cycling experience.

Beyond body dimensions, every cyclist has a unique set of biomechanics, proportions, and preferences. Stock bikes, designed with generalities in mind, might not align with the specific needs of an individual rider. A personalized bike fit becomes paramount in addressing these unique characteristics, ensuring that the rider is harmoniously connected with their bike. This customization is not just about achieving an optimal riding position; it's about preventing discomfort, enhancing efficiency, and reducing the risk of potential injuries.

Moreover, stock bikes may come with generic and often cheap components, including saddles, handlebars, and stems, which may not suit every rider. These components play a crucial role in comfort, performance, and control. A personalized bike fit considers these elements, ensuring that the rider interacts seamlessly with their bike, preventing discomfort and promoting optimal handling and efficiency.

Myth 5: You only Need a Bike Fit When You're in Pain or are Having Issues

Bike Fitting Myth 5: You only need a bike fit when you're in pain--cyclist in pain banner

The notion that you should only consider a bike fit when pain or issues arise neglects the proactive advantages that come with a customized bike fit. Pain is often a silent companion, subtly affecting your cycling experience until your body reaches a tipping point. It's much like a faucet that drips. It doesn't cause damage at first but over time you'll notice stains and even indentations in your sink. By waiting for symptoms to emerge, you may have missed out on the enhanced cycling experience that a proactive bike fit can provide.

Cycling, particularly with an ill-fitted bike, can lead to overuse injuries and discomfort that accumulate gradually. The body often adapts until it can no longer compensate, resulting in pain or discomfort that seems to emerge suddenly. A proactive bike fit addresses potential issues before they become pronounced, unlocking more power and comfort, and reducing the likelihood of overuse injuries.

Imagine the difference it would make to your cycling experience if you could tap into more power, pedal with increased comfort, and significantly lower the risk of overuse injuries. Seeking a bike fit before symptoms arise allows you to optimize your riding position, ensuring that your biomechanics are in harmony with your bike. It's not just about mitigating existing pain; it's about unlocking the full potential of your cycling performance and maintaining a sustainable and enjoyable relationship with your bike over the long term.

Myth 4: All Road Bikes are Uncomfortable

Image of road cyclist racing, Bike Fitting Myth #4

Contrary to the myth, road bikes are not inherently uncomfortable; instead, discomfort may result from factors such as incorrect sizing (super common), improper adjustments, road bike type and rider style mismatch, or misconceptions about the nature of these bikes.

Road bikes are engineered for efficiency and speed, featuring lightweight and/or aerodynamic frames, drop handlebars, and often aerodynamic, light wheels. The design prioritizes aerodynamics and a forward-leaning riding position to maximize power transfer and reduce wind resistance. While this design may seem unfamiliar or potentially uncomfortable to riders accustomed to more upright positions, it serves a specific purpose: enhancing performance on smooth, paved roads.

Another problem riders experience with road bikes is often a result of mismatched bike styles rather than an inherent flaw in all road bikes.

Understanding Different Road Bike Types:

Aero Bikes: These bikes prioritize aerodynamics, featuring sleek designs and aggressive geometries. While they may be less forgiving on rough roads, they excel in speed and efficiency. Riders seeking maximum speed and performance may find aero bikes suitable.

Argon 18 Sum Pro lightweight aero road bike

Endurance Bikes: Designed with a focus on comfort, endurance bikes feature more relaxed geometries and often incorporate vibration-dampening technologies. They are ideal for long rides, providing a smoother and more comfortable experience, particularly on varied road surfaces.

765 Optimum Chameleon - SRAM RIVAL ETAP AXS - Endurance Road bike

Touring Bikes: If your cycling adventures involve long journeys with loaded panniers, touring bikes are the go-to choice. They prioritize stability and durability, making them suitable for extended rides, including bikepacking or touring.

Cinelli Hobootleg Touring Road Bicycle

Selecting the right road bike that aligns with your riding style is crucial for comfort and enjoyment. An endurance bike, for example, might be more suitable for those prioritizing comfort on long rides, while an aero bike is ideal for those focused on speed and performance.

Another discomfort associated with road bikes is often a result of improper bike fit rather than an inherent flaw in their design. Achieving the optimal bike fit involves considerations such as frame size, saddle height, handlebar reach, crank length, and overall geometry. A professional bike fit for a road bike ensures that these factors align with your unique body dimensions and riding preferences, mitigating discomfort and promoting a more enjoyable riding experience.

Myth 3: Bike Shoes are Not Important

Bike Fitting Myth 3 Cover Image: Bike shoe choice is not important

The misconception that bike shoes don't matter overlooks the pivotal role they play in ensuring a comfortable and efficient cycling experience. The reality is that the right pair of cycling shoes can greatly enhance your performance on the bike, prevent discomfort, and contribute to a more enjoyable ride.

Cycling shoes are not mere foot coverings; they serve as a direct link between your body and the bike. Properly fitted and designed cycling shoes play a pivotal role in optimizing power transfer from your legs to the pedals. This efficient power transfer is not only beneficial for competitive cyclists seeking to gain an edge but is equally crucial for recreational riders aiming to enhance their overall efficiency on the bike.

Foot stability during the pedaling motion is another critical aspect addressed by the right pair of cycling shoes. Ill-fitting, inadequate, or improperly set up cycling shoes can lead to discomfort, hotspots, and even numbness. Recognizing the unique anatomy of each cyclist's feet, a professional bike fit considers the design and fit of cycling shoes, recommending pairs that provide the necessary support and comfort for individual riding styles.  This is especially critical considering the complex anatomy of the foot, including three key arches: the transverse arch, medial longitudinal arch, and anterior longitudinal arch.

Myth 2: All Bike Seats Hurt

Bike Fitting Myth 2: All Bike Seats Hurt - Image of Bike Saddle with painful spikes

The widespread myth that all bike seats inherently lead to discomfort is rooted in a misunderstanding of the intricate factors involved in saddle selection (we dove into major saddle myths in a previous article). It's important to clarify that not all saddles are uncomfortable; rather, the key lies in choosing a saddle that aligns with your individual riding style, body geometry, and the overall fit of your bike. 

Bike seats are unequivocally not one-size-fits-all. The diverse anatomies of cyclists require a wide array of saddle options, each designed with specific shapes, widths, and cushioning. Acknowledging this diversity, a professional bike fit takes into account your unique pelvic structure and riding style, guiding you toward a saddle that provides the necessary support in precisely the right places. This personalized approach is integral to fostering comfort and preventing discomfort during rides.

The mismatch between a rider's style and the saddle's design is a primary contributor to saddle discomfort. Different riding styles, whether it's an aggressive road cycling posture or a more upright commuter position, require specific saddle shapes and features. It’s imperative to have your riding dynamics carefully assessed by a professional bike fitter, ensuring that the selected saddle supports your preferred position, thereby minimizing pressure points and discomfort.

Discomfort often arises from pressure points on the pubis rami, perineum, or sit bones. A bike fit utilizing pressure mapping analyzes your riding position, identifies painful pressure points, and makes necessary adjustments to distribute pressure evenly. This meticulous attention to detail minimizes the risk of soreness or numbness, contributing not only to enjoyable rides but also to your overall well-being.

Image of the skeleton pelvis pointing out areas that are the most sensitive for cyclists
Pressure Mapping

Saddle comfort is not isolated; it is intricately connected to the overall fit of your bike. A well-fitted bike optimizes your riding position, preventing unnecessary strains and discomfort. A professional bike fit encompasses not only adjustments to the saddle such as height, tilt, and fore-aft position, but also biomechanics, pedaling motion, and foot stability which can all impact your feelings toward a saddle.

Finally, saddle discomfort may also be attributed to the condition of the saddle itself. An aged or worn-out saddle, potentially worn or broken, can contribute to discomfort during rides. Regular assessment and replacement of saddles, when necessary, become crucial steps in maintaining optimal comfort and performance on the bike.

Myth 1: You Must Already Have a Bike to Get a Bike Fit

Bike Fitting Myth 1: You Must already have a bike to get a bikefit image

Contrary to popular belief, the necessity for a bike fit isn't confined to those who already possess a bike. In fact, opting for a professional bike fit before making a purchase can be a strategic move with various benefits. This approach ensures that you select a bike that not only suits your personal preferences but also aligns seamlessly with your body's unique geometry.

Picture this scenario: you invest in a bike only to discover later that it doesn't quite match your body proportions or riding style.  Now what? Can you return or exchange the bike or do you find yourself with limited options after a significant investment? A pre-purchase bike fit serves as a proactive measure, guiding you towards bikes that are not only the right size but also complement your biomechanics. This foresight saves you from potential costly mistakes and the inconvenience of having to modify or replace costly components after the initial purchase. In addition, the modifications or replaced components may not fully provide you with the best experience.

Beyond merely determining the correct frame size, a professional bike fit before purchase offers insights into the ideal bike geometry and type. It helps you make an informed decision, ensuring that the bike you choose provides a comfortable and efficient ride right from the outset. Additionally, a pre-purchase fit doesn't only stop at adjusting existing bikes; it also provides valuable recommendations for components such as saddles, handlebars, stems, pedals, and other accessories that enhance your overall riding experience.

While it's true that adjustments can be made post-purchase, beginning with a professional bike fit is a time-saving approach. Instead of undergoing a trial-and-error process to find the optimal setup, a pre-purchase fit streamlines decision-making, allowing you to hit the road with confidence immediately. Moreover, riding a bike that isn't properly fitted to your body can lead to discomfort and potential injuries. Addressing these concerns before purchasing a bike minimizes the risk of developing issues such as knee pain, backache, or numbness during your rides.

In the End

Our journey through the debunked myths surrounding bike fitting has illuminated the crucial role this process plays in optimizing the cycling experience. From breaking free of the misconception that only racers need a fit to understanding the nuanced designs of road bikes catering to different riding styles, we've dismantled preconceived notions. The narrative emphasizes the expertise and experience required for a truly effective bike fit, dispelling the myth that all fitters are equal. By addressing these myths, we pave the way for cyclists of all levels to embrace the transformative power of a personalized fit, enhancing not only comfort but also performance and overall enjoyment on the road. So, as you gear up for your next ride, remember that the key to unlocking your full cycling potential lies in the precision and personalization of a professional bike fit.

Don't forget to book your 2024 bike fit today!

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