Five Reasons to Get 'Fit'


Save for pro riders, dedicated roadies, and triathletes, the idea of paying money for a professional bike fit is a foreign concept to most bicyclists. But to truly get the most from your bike, whether you use it to race or just casually, for most people a pro fit will make a noticeable difference. Earlier this year, I took a few days off to dig in and see what bike fitting is all about. Over a three-day course at Specialized’s Bicycle Component University outside San Francisco, I was taught the science and art of making a human fit to a machine.

At the SBCU class, which caters to bike-shop fitters and trainers who work with pro teams, the instructors walked my group through textbooks, lectures, and then onto the hands-on “fitting” part of it all. Eventually, we rolled out onto some pavement to see if the techniques worked as they did in the lab. I am happy to report that I became a bike-fit believer. There were immediate, substantial results.


Specialized Bicycle Component University bike-fitting class

The following five points are a sampling from the bike-fit knowledge I learned over a few days at Specialized’s Bicycle Component University. Keep this in mind when you swing a leg over your bike this spring and contemplate how you might better fit and perform on your two-wheel steed.

Make a commitment to being “fit.” When you get a new bike, choosing the right size frame is merely a good starting point for getting fit to your ride. A true bike fitting is akin to taking your suit to a tailor, not just determining what size you wear. Now, every body is built differently and should be treated as such. A fit will cost on average a couple hundred dollars at many shops. While that may seem like a lot for the casual riders out there, consider that a well-fit bike may function good enough to propel you up from casual to a “dedicated rider” status. No matter your interest level, you’ll feel more comfortable, pedal more efficiently, and be less prone to injury on a custom-fit bike.

Bio-mechanic perfection. Bike fit is less about getting aero (in a tuck) or getting your bike to look like Mario Cipollini’s and more about trying to achieve bio-mechanic perfection with your machine. Primary goals include injury prevention and improving a rider’s efficiency on his or her machine. Once those items are in place, the result can often be an increase in the rider’s speed, endurance, and power on the trail or road.


Fitter analyzing rider on stationary bike

It’s a procedure. Getting a bike fit is a lot like a visit to the doctor’s office — it’s full of science and analyzation, though there are fewer needles in the bike shop! A thorough body examination is a big part of getting a proper fit. Having bones measured, flexibility determined, angles assessed, and questionnaires about injuries and riding style are all average steps. With their custom tools, bike fitters can measure your sit bones, find optimal leg extension, identify your body’s limits, and more. All of this can bring you closer to that “bio-mechanic perfection” we mentioned earlier.


The author getting fit on a road bike

New parts. With any pro fitting, it will most likely be recommended that you get some new components and parts to yield a better fit. Typical replacement items are the seat, stem, handlebars, and your bike shoes. Costs will vary greatly, but count on setting aside a couple hundred dollars at least if you want the best fit.

The real costs. The money you spend on a good bike fit is almost guaranteed to give you more performance gains than the same amount spent on lightweight or higher-end components. No gram-saving carbon seatpost or titanium bolts will give you the same results. Indeed, few things a rider can buy will return dividends as much as a good fit can. Happy riding!

T.C. Worley is a contributor to, a professional photographer, and an unabashed bicycling geek.

Posted by Josh - 03/17/2011 11:28 AM

So where can your average guy go to get a good fit? I guess I am leery of the local bike shops.

Posted by t.c. worley - 03/17/2011 01:35 PM

Josh, if you wanted the Specialized branded “BG” fit, one of their dealers might offer that. In Minneapolis, I know Erik’s bike shop does the BG fit and I even attended the class with a few of their guys. Good luck!

Posted by JL - 03/17/2011 02:58 PM

I would start at the bike shop that you have a relationship with. I ride a Specialized and the owner of the local bike shop, here in Montana, has been to some of these classes. I’m in luck going into the shop in a couple of weeks to get fitted. I’m a casual ride that does a couple of longer rides a year and average only about 60+ miles a week. I just want to become a little more efficient and want to make sure I am getting the maximum benefit out of my effort.

Posted by Mark M - 03/18/2011 12:14 PM

A good bike fit is extremely important for even the casual rider. Think about it, if your average cadence is around 90, over a 2 hour ride your feet will go around 10800 times. The repetitive motion on an ill fitting bike could lead to severe knee and hip issues.

As far as where to go, ask around. Find riders who put on thousands of miles a year. The local race club could be a good place to start. Find out who these people go to for fitting. Another option is to check out USA Cycling There is a “find a coach” section. Most coaches will know the fitters in their area and they want to see the sport grow. So, they should lead you in the right direction.

Treat yourself well, the alternatives aren’t pretty.

Posted by Jim - 03/18/2011 12:16 PM

Instead of the whole pro fit thing the shop I go to is owned and run by a guy who has coached many riders. He puts your new bike on a trainer and then you spin for at least an hour as he makes tweaks to the bike setup and replaces parts as needed to fit. Not sure if I’m any faster but I’m sure more comfortable.

Posted by Bfeltovi - 03/18/2011 02:59 PM

In our town there are a couple of options for bike fitting. My favorite shop has a guy who does it “old school,” with a plumb bob and some rulers. And then there’s a guy doing custom fitting using the Retul system, which uses a computer, motion-capture technology, and a power meter. I’ve tried both and each has their advantages, but for 200 bucks the Retul system is a steal.
Retul fitters are listed here: retul
Disclosure: I’m not affiliated with Retul or any of their fitters, just a happy customer.

Posted by BurbankGal - 03/18/2011 03:04 PM

So would I be able to take my non-Specialized bike in to have it fit? I luv my bike — Lotus Excelle — and have no desire to purchase a new bike. :/

Posted by PJ - 03/19/2011 04:30 PM

Having been employed by a shop for the past five years, I have seen and personally felt the difference between bikes that fit and those that dont. It is vitally important to have a proper fit. In fact, it is a policy of ours to fit anyone and everyone for their bike, whether they buy one from us or not (but hopefully the time we spend fitting a customer sends them a message of confidence in our employees and is enough for them to give us our business). Regardless of the brand, most bike shops SHOULD be willing to fit you to your bike. If anyone is in the Philadelphia area, might I suggest you stop by one of our locations (one in Glenside and one in Cherry Hill, NJ)and see what a proper fit is all about. It makes a world of difference!

Posted by T.C. Worley - 03/20/2011 03:21 PM

BurbankGal – For sure, unless your bike is just the wrong size altogether, they’d fit your bike to you. That’s what its all about. Great question.

Posted by Steve - 03/27/2011 07:22 PM

One thing this review does not mention is the cost of the Specialized BG fit. It is very expensive; more than $300. Most bike shops charge $100 to $200 for their comprehensive bike fittings (and much less for basic fittings). Is the Specialized fit worth the extra cost? Maybe for some people, but likely not for others.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 04/05/2011 04:19 PM

Steve – True, the cost is high, but this is one of the best fits in the industry. Only a handful of programs are as thorough, and Specialized would claim theirs’ is still tops. That is a whole new article though…

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