How many of you have considered or have had a professional bike fit?
A staggering number of cyclists, and I don’t mean the hipster or the commuter crowd, have never really given serious consideration to whether they are riding the correct setup for their body. I was in that boat too.
My previous bike, a 2009 Scott CR1 Pro, was a quick sizing by the sales assistant. Likely, a sizing choice to ensure they have a stock. From there, I rode a size 54cm (medium) for the next four years.
Like any enthusiasts, I had numb hands, sore shoulders and knee pain as test of my manhood. I should HTFU, and ride my bike. Cycling is all about enduring pain, isn’t it? While the pain wasn’t unmanageable, it was enough to feed my massage addiction.
In late 2014, I started the process of selecting a new bike. Eyeing off Scott’s Addict range, I wanted to get everyone’s feedback on guiding my ‘large’ purchase. Everyone loves sharing their opinion when it comes to which bike to buy, but I wanted facts. And the trail of facts lead me to Choonwei Tay, of FitSkuul, one of Singapore’s top recommended bike fitters, known for working with national teams in the region.
Choonwei is an interesting guy, operating out of his Little India studio full of stunning cycling photography surrounding his tool of trade. The world lead Retul fit system. A laser-guided, computer-generated fit system with global pedigree. Retul uses a bunch of sensors attached to the cyclist to measure body angles, alignments, and pedaling efficiency. It didn’t take long for Choonwei to confirm what many had thought of, I was riding a frame that was too big for me.
Luckily Singapore’s secondhand bicycle market is very active, with TogoParts and Carousell going head to head. It didn’t take long for me to sell my old Scott, and purchase a 2010 Scott Addict, size 52cm. Along with a few other tweaks, I was soon riding on something closer ideal for my body. And guess what? Ever since, I don’t get numb hands and sore shoulders anymore.
More importantly, we were able to start ordering the key parts for my new bike, a 2015 Scott Addict SL, and by January 2015, the first build was complete. But Choonwei’s work doesn’t end there. After I had done roughly a thousand kilometers on the new bike, we went back to the Retul.
Not sure if it was a refinement, or my body adjusting, we made a few changes that shifted me to a more aggressive position; drop stem height by 5mm, raise saddle height by 9mm, and putting on a 110mm stem. I was feeling ‘aero’.
The process with Choonwei isn’t cheap, but it has given me improvements with my power and efficiency. Plus, the adjustments positioned my body for a comfortable ride, so I can ride further and more often. Best of all, I was able to spend large amounts of money with confidence.
Today, that fit has been the foundation of my training, power and efficiency, helping me on the road to competitive cycling again.
What did I learn?
- Subjective versus Objective Fit: There is a huge difference between feeling like a good fit, and having numbers to back it up. Knowing things like back angles, knee and hip alignment, are key data points in understanding the bio-mechanics of your body.
- Important Parts: Most cyclists might know this, but the process of a proper fit re-enforces it. The most important parts of your bike are: frame, saddle, bars and stem, in order of priority. The data builds on the foundation each creates.
- Fit is Dynamic: As you train, you get fitter, or more flexible, and your fit might change. Saddle height, stem height and length will be the key components that adapt with your ongoing needs.
- Invest in the Right Fit: You may have read this post, have great opinions from your bike store or even know a pro, but none of that is a substitute for a correct fit. This is something you MUST invest in.
Have you had a fit before? Had a fit issue? Or considering a fit in the near future? Share your stories in the comments section below.