Bike Fits: A Tale of Two Shops

October 17, 2019 veloadmin

Bike Fits: A Tale of Two Shops

All bike fits are not created equal.

Every shop offers bicycle fitting on its list of services. Fitting certifications usually requires less than a week’s worth of training, training that allows someone to hang a “Certified Fitter” shingle on their wall.

They’re not a dime a dozen, but anyone that works at a bike shop can attain one.

But, bike shops with employees that have in-depth education, substantial experience, and real-working knowledge to provide high-quality fits, those are few and far between.

VeloConcepts’ Experienced Bicycle Fitters

VeloConcepts, with over 30-year’s experience, numerous fit certifications, and hundreds of fits under our belts, offers a unique fitting program in our state-of-the-art fitting lab.

Many of our clients find us after other fits have failed and fallen short of expectations.

Turning Screws for a Triathlete

In the winter of 2019, I received a call from a top-ranked triathlete looking for a shop to set up his bike for him.

He received a fit from another fitter and wanted us to set up his bike according to those specs. Since he’d gone to a fit-only shop, they did not have the mechanical expertise to make these adjustments.

His fit changes were typical of recent trends, particularly with respect to triathlon fits. That included positioning the saddle higher, dramatically. Also, they suggested a lower front-end and that he run extra-short cranks (155 mm).

The other fitter also suggested the triathlete make all his bikes uniform. That meant his race bike, trainer bike and road bike would match — a suggestion that required a $2,500 investment in cranks and power meters.

I made all the changes and adjustments he asked for, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the fit-only shop had the triathlete on the right track.

Don’t Trust All the Latest Bike Fitting Trends

A few weeks after picking up his bikes, I heard back from our triathlete.

Range of Right (based on Slowtwicth/F.I.S.T) suggested ranges for various body angle measurements.

He was frustrated and angry.

Since his adjustments, he had seen a significant decline in power. He’d also suffered decreased run performance during brick workouts. Worse of all, he’d experienced chronic leg fatigue since the changes.

With the season getting underway and no time to lose before his first race, he asked me for an emergency fit evaluation. He wanted to know if I thought the fit was the catalyst of his problems.

If it was, he was interested in a complete re-fit.

Since we did not have his pre-fit measurements from his other fitter, we started with his new, unhappy position. Documenting and saving pre-fit numbers is something VeloConcepts is religious about.

As we began considering his options, the first thing I mentioned was the conservative fit he’d been given. Everything was textbook: short cranks, very flat back, high saddle, etc.

But obviously, convention didn’t seem to be working for him.

As a well-trained, high-performing athlete, what may have worked for other triathletes wasn’t giving him the results he expected.With significant changes in mind, we realized it might take several fit sessions and adjustments to dial him in.

Since fits at our shop are a yearly subscription model — follow-up and adjustment fits are complimentary, — we had the freedom to take a systematic, multi-fit approach to renew his performance on the bike.

During our first round of fitting, we eliminated the super short cranks, decreased his saddle height, and raised his arm pads 10 mm. These changes resulted in better pedaling dynamics while still keeping his hip-angle open (a reason many fitters recommend short crank arms).

Indoor and Outdoor Fits for the Real World, Not Just the Lab

After a few weeks of riding, we determined a few more tweaks were necessary.

For the final adjustments, we scheduled a combination indoor/outdoor fitting session, something rarely seen with other fitters.

For the session, we started in the lab. We reviewed and evaluated how he’d adapted to the previous adjustments, then we developed an outdoor test plan that we believed closely resembled triathlon conditions.

For the outdoors tests, we performed a combination of motor pacing and power analysis. We did so while testing two different crank lengths. During our 20-40 minute tests, the triathlete was turning 30-40 lower average watts and 35-45 lower normalized power with the shorter cranks.

After the battery of tests, it became clear our triathlete required longer cranks. It became obvious the shorter cranks were resulting in lower power outputs.

Fit Complete, Next Stop, Kona!

Over the following weeks, our fitting team continued to work with the triathlete in an effort to optimize the performance potential of his bike.

With one more minor adjustment, we found that a more relaxed back angle improved his power numbers even more. And, we discovered that a slight increase to saddle-height helped to strengthen his off-bike run. Final tweaks were made a few weeks before his “A” race, including a tweak to saddle position — both height and fore/aft adjustments.

On race day, his race results were impressive.

  • Top-10 Age Group Bike Split.
  • Top-5 Age Group Run.
  • Top-5 Overall (Age Group).
  • Qualified for Kona

Your VeloConcepts Bike Fit: Individualization & Personalization

Our multi-fitting process with this triathlete reinforced my personal beliefs…

Bike fitting is more art than science.

Even though countless articles espouse the latest theories in bike setup and its effect on performance, not every approach works for every rider.

When selecting a bike fitter, it is essential that you choose a shop that will not treat you like just another appointment in the book.

Rather, find a shop that treats you like a unique athlete with specific needs:

  • A shop that will take the time to work with your specific individuality.
  • One that understand your goals
  • A shop that will adjust to your feedback
  • And, a shop that customizes the fit experience, and not shoe-horn you into the latest fitting trends.

While this triathlete’s case was extremely involved, we take no less pride in our dedication and commitment to your individualized fit.

VeloConcepts in-depth cycling analysis will improve your riding. Guaranteed!.

Location & Hours

Come visit VeloConcepts in beautful Culpeper, VA. We have some of the best riding in all of Virginia and our shop speaks for itself. While we aren't around the corner, you will be glad you made the trip.