Professional Bike Fitting

In a story for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, I wrote about the rise of professional bike fittings, a bike-adjusting procedure for experienced and intermediate riders alike.

Indeed, professional bike fittings are now offered at hundreds of shops around the country for prices ranging from $50 on up.

Most riders make ad hoc adjustments to their saddle height. Some might add spacers to the handlebar stem for better reach. A professional bike fitting takes these same kind of simple steps and applies a degree of science and precision developed through years of industry research.

The magic behind a bike fitting lies in its combination of an anatomical assessment and its qualitative consideration for every riders’ cycling style.

The body makes contact with a bike in three places — at the pedals, the saddle and the handlebars — and a fitting focuses on these areas almost exclusively. Changing the height of a saddle, for example, allows a fitter to position legs for optimal efficiency during a pedal stroke. By adjusting the handlebar stem, back angle and arm extension is manipulated to maximize comfort as well as an aerodynamic stance.

“The advantages I see of being fit are an increase in power, more comfort for greater distances, and less fatigue,” said Adrian Contreras, a manager at Flanders Bros. Cycles in Minneapolis, where up to 20 fittings are performed each month. “You feel more in tune with your bicycle.”

Contreras added that there has been a considerable increase in recreational cyclists being fit to their tool-around-town rides. The everyday cyclist who gets fit, he said, begins to see how much better cycling can be.

“It makes a once-tolerable exercise into an enjoyable experience.”

See here for my full story, a bike-fitting case study about a rider named Ryan Sportel.

Or, I wrote about my own bike-fitting session in preparation for the Ironman race in 2005. See this link for the Gear Junkie column on my personal fitting.

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Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.