Just a Casual Rider? Why You Need a Professional Bike Fit.
By Ian Buchanan, Fit Werx, Road and Triathlon Cycling Specialists
Century rides and charity rides of a variety of distances have become very popular for a wide variety of people – and for good reasons. The combination of camaraderie, being able to ride at your own pace within a larger group, and supporting a good cause all at once is hard to beat; novice to experienced riders alike are enjoying these rides in unparalleled numbers. However, I often hear from people who are riding in charity rides that they don’t think of themselves as cyclists and many put minimal thought into their equipment or set-up because of this. This is not only not true, but it is a mistake. The reality is that, regardless of the speed you ride, if you are doing one of these events, you likely ride more than 99% of bike owners and are thus a “cyclist”. You don’t have to average 18 mph or ride over 100 miles a week to be a cyclist, or be “good enough” to benefit from a bike fitting or properly matched equipment, you just have to ride. And, if you ride, don’t you owe it to yourself to enjoy that time as much as possible while doing what you can to minimize your risk of injury? Recreational and beginning riders actually see some of the biggest benefits from a professional bike fit as they have fewer established habits and more to gain from learning efficient riding techniques.
A comprehensive bike fitting is an investment – you can’t get one for $100 or in 45 minutes – but it is also an investment that will pay off for as long as you ride bikes. So, as a recreational rider, what are some of the benefits a professional bike fitting offers?
- Improved Comfort & Lower Chance of Injury - A comprehensive bike fitting takes into account your individual biomechanics and makes sure your joints and muscles are held in neutral and biomechanically “friendly” positions. Like a favorite chair that supports you well, a biomechanically neutral position minimizes joint and muscle load. This results in greater comfort and minimizes the likelihood of repetitive use injuries and muscle imbalances.
- Improved Performance - When your body is set in a position that encourages a full range of muscle engagement and balanced muscle recruitment, you will produce better power (ride faster) and have better endurance.
- Improved Technique – Have you ever seen yourself ride? Very few of us ever learned how to ride a bike beyond learning how to balance while pedaling. Cycling is as technique based as any sport and the better your technique the easier and more comfortable it is to ride. A good bike fit has a heavy coaching and visual element and can help you see and learn techniques in a matter of hours that take years for most riders to learn. This helps a newer rider avoid developing bad habits and it helps riders of all experience levels gain a better understanding of how their bike and body interact.
- Better Equipment Selection and Money Savings - Many people buy their cycling products based on brand names or what their friends use. There are some potential issues with this – what if the brand name does not build products that fit you well or what if your needs as a rider are different from your friend? The net result could be a very compromised expensive bike that you do not want to ride that much. Many riders also constantly buy new bikes and components – searching for something that works better for them. A proper bike fitting helps you find a well suited bike and components the first time and thus can save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars in the long-term; a proper bike fit not only helps you find the right products for your needs now, it also helps you plan and buy with confidence for the future.
- Peace of Mind – If you are in the small percentile of riders who are already riding in a really good position (just by chance), in addition to the technique benefits, a professional fitting still provides the confidence to know that your position is “right” and will help you understand why.
- Enjoyment - Olympian or novice rider, I’ve met few people that did not want to ride better and enjoy cycling more. A comprehensive bike fitting is one of the best starting places to riding to your potential and enjoying cycling as much as possible.
There is a saying that “The best you’ve ridden is the best you know.” This means that the best you have ridden is only as good as how well your equipment has been set-up and your technique has allowed. In other words, unless you have done everything already, there is room for improvement. You made the commitment to do a long ride for a great cause. Riding a bike is supposed to be fun, don’t hold yourself back or make it less comfortable and fun than need be. If you are thinking about getting a new bike this year, be sure to get a professional fitting first; you should not have to accommodate to your bike, your bike should instead fit you and your needs as well as possible. And, if you have a bike now, search out a good fitter well in advance of the event and find out what “the best you know” can be this year!
Have fun riding as you prepare and have a great event!
Note: Charity event riders are eligible for $25 off bike fittings at Fit Werx (just mention this article…) and all bike, equipment and service purchases at Fit Werx qualify for the Fit Werx Gives Back program which will donate up to $100 a year in your name to your ride.