Newbie bike fit question

by omikin   August 14, 2014  

So I've had my road bike for about a month and due to family/work commitments I've only been able to cover about 70 miles on it in that time. I have managed to fit some SPD pedals and despite 2 falls I *think* I'm getting the hang of those.

I bought the bike from Edinburgh Bikes who offer a free 6 week check to make sure it's all as it should be, so it'll be going in for that in a couple of weeks. I will ask them to look at seat height etc as the pedals and shoes are different from when I bought it.

My question is about bike fit. Having looked into it this seems like a really sensible thing for a new rider to do to make sure they're not leaving themselves open to injury and are getting the most out of riding. However, given that I have so few hours under my belt, is it worth doing so soon? I mean, I'm not finding anything uncomfortable about the bike at the moment, so would I be able to accurately judge if things feel better, if that makes sense?

Should I do this anyway or would it be worth waiting perhaps till the spring when I'm more used to the bike?

Thanks everyone!

9 user comments

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It's a good question. Having a bike fit up front should mitigate the risk of you developing aches or pains etc, but on the other hand, your body changes as you ride more. For example, your flexibility improves to adopt the forward-leaning riding position, your muscles develop and perhaps prevent aches experienced during the initial getting-fit period.

In theory, bike fits are an iterative process, repeated as your body and riding style improves and changes. In reality though, no-one wants to shell out £100 every year for one, and understandably so. If you feel comfortable now, and you aren't prone to sports injuries/aches and pains, then holding fire while you get some miles in probably isn't a bad idea. However, getting things like cleat positioning right is a fine art, so keep an eye on how you feel, particularly as your riding distance increases. Any pain from the knees down or hot sensations in the foot often (although not exclusively) indicate foot support or cleat positioning issues.

Personally, I got the obligatory 'looks about right' bike fitting from the shop, and then paid for a fit further down the line.

If you can tell us your location, you may receive suggestions for good bike fitters. I'm in Manchester and can recommend Pedal Precision based in the velodrome.

The other thing is telling the difference between aches/pains because the bike doesn't fit you, and aches/pains because you aren't used to long periods on the bike. Stretching your hamstrings, quads, ITB, hip flexors, back and neck are all great to alleviate the latter.

Don't worry about the SPDs - twice seems to be the regulatory number of times to fall off! As you get used to them, try to mimic the sensation of scraping dog muck off the sole of your shoe as your foot is in the bottom third of the pedal stroke - i.e. from 4 o clock to 8 o clock. This will improve your ability to apply power through a greater proportion of the pedal stroke and is the real value of being firmly attached to the pedals.

Well done on taking the plunge and buying the bike by the way - pesky kids still get in the way of actual bike time though!

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3598 posts]
14th August 2014 - 17:13

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I agree, certainly when you're just starting out the best 'bike fit' you can do is simply to ride and pay attention to what your body tells you. Hips rocking from side to side: saddle is too high. Pain at the front of your knee: saddle too far back (meaning you're pushing 'forward' on the pedal) or too low (meaning you push the pedal with your knee angle <90 degrees). Hands numb: too much weight on them, either raise the bars or move the saddle back a touch.

Your flexibility will increase and you'll find that your perfect 'fit' moves, it's not difficult to get 'close enough' though.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [1099 posts]
15th August 2014 - 9:43

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Thanks for that input - makes a lot of sense. I think I will get through to the spring then have a think about it then.

omikin's picture

posted by omikin [8 posts]
15th August 2014 - 14:23

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Hey dude, whereabouts are you?

posted by Graham Simmons [9 posts]
15th August 2014 - 21:45

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Leeds. Any recommendations around this neck of the woods?

omikin's picture

posted by omikin [8 posts]
15th August 2014 - 23:11

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I'd go for a bike straight away. It won't be perfect but it will give you a great idea of what to focus on. It will help prevent injury and make sure you are getting your power through properly. Six months or a year down the line you'll need another one as you will have changed physically and will have a better idea of your riding style.

I don't agree that delaying a fit is saving money. I'd advise any cyclist to have an annual bike fit, most of us can stretch (deliberate pun) to £150 a year. I find it hard to understand why so many riders refuse even rudimentary coaching, as it's the cheapest but most effective performance enhancer. A modest spend can increase your effectiveness massively.

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posted by Scrufftie [99 posts]
16th August 2014 - 19:56

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Bike fitting is pointless for a beginner, just get the shop or a knowledgeable friend to help you set it up then experiment a little. You will gain far more from going out and riding your bike than you will from spending money on a bike fit, money which could be spent on tyres, or a saddle, nice bibs or beer, bike fit is a low priority and TBH a bit of a con, and I say that as a trained bike fitter.

posted by drfabulous0 [404 posts]
16th August 2014 - 20:40

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Save yourself the money and do this http://youtu.be/FAl_5e7bIHk

You may not get it right first time but you'll get the idea.

The Human Cyclist A blog. Try it, you might like it...

sm's picture

posted by sm [359 posts]
16th August 2014 - 21:34

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Scrufftie wrote:
I'd go for a bike straight away. It won't be perfect but it will give you a great idea of what to focus on. It will help prevent injury and make sure you are getting your power through properly. Six months or a year down the line you'll need another one as you will have changed physically and will have a better idea of your riding style.

I don't agree that delaying a fit is saving money. I'd advise any cyclist to have an annual bike fit, most of us can stretch (deliberate pun) to £150 a year. I find it hard to understand why so many riders refuse even rudimentary coaching, as it's the cheapest but most effective performance enhancer. A modest spend can increase your effectiveness massively.

Or you can spend a lot of money on a bike fit and introduce new problems. I personally had nothing but problems after my bike fit.

The only good thing that came out of it was the narrower bars and shorter stem - admittedly items I was unlikely to change on the off-chance it might help my shoulder pain. What I did end up with was minor knee pain turning into major knee pain and about a months lost riding. In the end I re-did my own cleats, saddle etc based off of weeks of trial and error and lots of internet research.

I get quite annoyed at this "bike fits are magic" line. I accept that maybe I didn't get the best fit I could have (and for £450 including parts I certainly should have been over the moon with the results). But unless your "bike fit" includes multiple free follow up sessions for a couple of months afterwards - I personally think you can do a lot of this yourself.

Fact of the matter is, you are paying someone £100+ to map you to a specific system that the fitter uses - that may work for you, it may not.

One site a friend pointed me at was Steve Hoggs, there's a lot in his articles (http://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/) about cleats specifically - which were my problem.

posted by sergius [172 posts]
16th August 2014 - 22:01

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