At Portland Pedal Power, we understand the importance of riding a bicycle that has been properly fitted for its rider. I recently had a chance to head down to River City Bicycles with my father Len to get his bike fitted. I got to see how the magic happens, and ask a few questions as the bike fitter, Amy, talked us through the process.
Amy explained bike fitting isn’t an exact science, and deals more with matching your body structure to the bike structure. There is some exact measuring to the bike, but a lot of the measurement and adjustments are trial and error, based on what feels right. As Amy put it, “Some people feel good in what looks like a terribly uncomfortable setting, but it’s what they like.”
The first step of getting your bike fitted is getting the initial measurements of your bike. This way, we could compare at the end of the fitting what changes were made, and what that resulted in. As Amy did this, she had Len mark down any physical issues he may have during his ride, such as a stiff knee, bad wrist, neck issues, etc. Amy explained this is done to find out where the problem area may be, and what to focus on during the fitting.
The second step is gauging the riders range of motion. This deals with flexibility and balance. Dad had to touch his toes, stand on one foot, and measure how much flexibility he had in his achilles heel. Amy also adjusted the bike pedals to fit better to Len’s bike cleats, and mentioned if you happen to buy shoes from River City Bicycles, they will make sure the cleats are adjusted correctly for your pedals when you buy them.
The third step is getting the rider on the bike. Amy put the bike on what was called a fluid trainer, so Dad could pedal in place. River City Bikes has two cameras set up to record video of the rider’s motion from the front and from the side. This way, the bike fitter can see the movement of the legs, flexing of the arms and wrists, and anything else that may show up while on the bike. This was where the majority of the changes came from, since Amy could see the problem areas at work.
In the end, Dad found he may need another stem for his handlebars. After reviewing the tapes, he found lowering the saddle helped fix the stiffness in his neck, and the adjusted stem would help reduce the pressure on his wrists. Not a bad fix for a few adjustments.
Amy mentioned some common problems she has seen during her time fitting bikes. A lot of issues come from the saddle positions, either being angled incorrectly or sitting too low or high. Problems with the saddle usually go unnoticed because it manifests itself in a different part of the body, like your shoulders or neck.
One way Amy suggested this be fixed is using a less traditional saddle, like the ISM Bike Seat. Based in Tampa Bay, Florida, the shape of an ISM seat relieves pressure from soft tissue areas, and gives a more comfortable ride. This type of seat has been used for everyday use, Iron Man competitions, and even the Olympics!
There are a couple of things you may need to be aware of before going in for a fitting. One thing Amy wanted to make very clear is bike fitters are not medical professionals. This may seem obvious for some, but many people who come in have a more serious issue that cannot be fixed by getting the bike fitted. If you feel you have some serious physical issues while on the road, make sure you see a doctor before you try to get it fixed through a bike fitting.
However, if you want to try to reduce some stress on your arms or legs, stop by River City Bicycles to see if they can give you a hand. Once you get your bike fitted, River City will give you a full year to make sure its exactly what you wanted, and help you out if you need any adjustments. You can find them here, or by going to their website.