The majority of my work as a bike fitter is a result of word to mouth, which is something I am both proud of and incredibly grateful for. In most cases, people know my background as a bike fitter, my process, etc. But in some cases I am surprised when I get asked half way through the bike fit what my bike fitting background is...
Here are several suggestions for key things to consider before choosing your bike fitter.
Ask around to see what other cyclists/triathletes are saying. Of course, not every fitter is right for everyone (the same goes for coaching and any other health care professional), but the same few names will likely keep coming up, which will help you narrow things down a bit more before you can dig a bit deeper.
Happy riders is not the only consideration though!
Taking the time
How long does the fitter claim a bike fit will take? Its normal for fit sessions after the initial one to take less time (unless there were major incidents, like sever crashes or significant change to goals), but if a fitter claims an initial bike fit will take 1-1.5 hours, ask yourself if all factors associated with a bike fit will be taken into account in that time frame.
Make sure the fitter will be patient and take enough time to look at every possible issue. If a fitter agrees to only look at one aspect of your fit having not worked with you before, that should be a red flag - Keep in mind that when you change one aspect of your fit, other aspects will change as a result - its a domino effect!
At the other end of the spectrum, most bike fits should take 2-2.5 hours, not 3+ hours at the same appointment. While I have had bike fits that take over 3 hours, they were all cases that were quite complex and needed to involve other health care professionals. I find that in complex cases, it is best to split the fit into several parts rather than make the initial appointment longer, as you are likely to get a better long term outcome that way. Which brings us to the next point...
A good fitter will also have a network of recommended health care professionals like physiotherapists, chiropractors, RMT's, strength & conditioning and sports medicine for their own learning and to recommend to riders as/if needed. These professionals should be open to sharing their findings with the fitter (with consent from the rider, of course) and the fitter should have the knowledge and experience to communicate with health care professionals effectively.
As mentioned above, I sometimes stop a fitting part way through and refer the rider to a health care professional for further investigation, then book them in to finish the fitting once more information is gathers in collaboration with others.
Establishing a relationship
I have seen many fitters work in the field for a few years, then move on to other things. This is not a good thing for riders who are looking to establishing a relationship with a professional... Trust between a rider and a professional is essential and leads to better results, in both the short and long term. Ask other riders if they come back to work with their fitter when they get a new bike, other new equipment, for a yearly follow to make sure everything is good, etc and if they trust their fitters recommendations and advice.
Of course, trusting your fitter should not mean you follow advice blindly, as the process should be a collaboration between the fitter and the rider. Feeling comfortable enough to have an open and productive dialog with your fitter is important.
Does everyone leaving the fitters studio look like they have been positioned the same? Can your fitter only do one type of bike fit? A good fitter should have experience with all cycling disciplines and ability levels - road (recreational & competitive), TT, track, MTB, triathlon (short course, draft legal, long course).
Education & experience
Does the fitter have post secondary education in a relevant field (ie. sport science)? What bike fitting education do they have? How do they further their education on a regular basis?
Education isn't limited to the fitters own education. Can the fitter educate the rider during the fitting process? A good fitter should explain what they are doing and why during the fitting process, including what to expect after the fitting. Ideally, the fitter will also have the ability to look at posture and technique and understand how those affect the position.
When it comes to experience, look at more than the amount of years doing bike fits - look at volume of fits too. Some fitters might have been doing bike fits for ~15 years, but their weekly average is only 2-3 bike fits... While someone with ~10 years experience does an average of 8-9 bike fits a week. Practice makes perfect!
Tools and take away
While having all the gadgets is fun, they need to be in the right hands. Knowing how to use the tools you have is important and knowing not to rely solely on gadgets is just as important! I have seen a rider who said a fitter used pressure mapping to tell him he is leaning to one side. When I asked what was done to correct that on the bike, I was surprised to hear that nothing was done because the fitter did not know how to fix the underlying issue. Ask the fitter not only what tools they use, but also how they incorporate them into their practice.
You should have a take away from the fitting session. It can be key points to work on with regards to technique, posture, etc... And what changes were done and why. Having the measurements is important too. The most important thing is that the fitter keeps a record of the fitting session, to refer to down the road as/if needed.
If you have any questions about me as a bike fitter, feel free to get in touch and ask, or ask in the comments!