Column: Cycling Sense with Tony Booth

Does the bike fit?
Does the bike fit?

With cycling enthusiasts becoming increasingly serious about optimising their performance, a good place to start is to ensure that your bike gives you the optimum riding position.

It’s well known within the cycling world that enhanced comfort not only boosts performance, but can also give better control and avoid injury which explains why so many riders are investing in a professional bike fit, whether they’re buying in a new bike or simply want to get more from their existing bike.

Even amateur cyclists can take inspiration from Sir Dave Brailsford’s search for marginal gains which transformed the fortunes of British cycling - making sure that your bike is correctly adjusted to fit your body proportions and cycling goals could give you the edge you’re looking for, whether you’re riding competitively or just for fun.

The aim is to get you sitting more comfortably, enabling you to ride longer and more efficiently.

Riders can usually choose from a number of bike fit packages, depending on their particular needs and the level of detail they require.

Generally, professional bike fits are extremely comprehensive, taking two to three hours, analysing current bike set up, riding style, your individual measurements and your body composition.

The idea is to fit the bike to the person, so the technician will start by getting lots of information from you to give him a picture of what you want from the bike, your fitness levels and any particular problems.

He will then ask you to do some exercises to check your posture, flexibility and core strength with a particular focus on identifying any potential problems such as short arms and long legs, or one leg being shorter than the other.

Not only can correct bike set up make a huge difference to your enjoyment and achievements in the saddle, it can also cure a host of problems from sore neck and back, knee and hip pain and uncomfortable saddle to numb hands.

After the physical assessment, you’ll be put on your bike mounted on a turbo trainer so that the technician can watch you go through your paces.

Every aspect of your cycling will be considered, from the perfect positioning of the cleats on your shoes to correct reach, handlebar width and height, not to mention saddle position and knee over pedal spindle.

As in many sports, the latest scientific advances are being used to boost performance and professional bike fits have come along way in the last few years.

In addition to the trusty tape measure and plumb line, technicians now have the added bonus of high tech kit such as a fully adjustable jig which helps them to more accurately custom fit bicycles to riders’ specific needs.

The state-of-the–art jig gives flexibility to assess and easily adjust every aspect of the rider/bike interface, including crank length, saddle angle and handlebar width, in order to create the ideal riding position for you.

The bike fit technicians can then replicate the geometry on your own bike to ensure it is set up to your exact personal requirements.

At the end of the extremely thorough fitting process, you will be given a detailed final report giving your bike position measurements so that if you have more than one bike, they can be used as a basis for setting up other bikes.

Whatever your level or style of riding, ensuring the points of contact between you and your bike are correct will greatly improve comfort and give you a more aerodynamic position for optimal performance.

Given the time many enthusiasts devote to the sport, not to mention how much money they spend on kit to help them go faster, a professional bike fit could be a wise investment.