Bike Fit Timing
This post first appeared mid Feb 2015 on the PT Performance Training blog. With the launch of this site, dedicated to everything bike fitting, I have decided to re-post it as the first 'knowledge base' entry as it is still a relevant topic.
'when should I get my bike fit done?' I get asked that by racers of various ability levels, as well as recreational riders quite often, but it's a question that seems to come up more often during the fall and winter. Come spring and summer, my bike fitting schedule gets very tight because most people see that as the perfect time to get a fit done (between May and September, it usually takes 7-14 days to see me for a bike fit). But is it? When is a good time to get a bike fit?
Well, the obvious answer is now. If you think you might need a bike fit, you probably do... So why wait until you get really uncomfortable or even worse, injured?
In anticipation for spring / summer
Many triathletes and cyclists, especially at a recreational level, ride much less over the fall and winter compared with the spring and summer. Then when they start increasing their riding time, they get uncomfortable. The bike doesn't feel right. Maybe some niggles start popping up. If their bike was properly fitted to begin with, they will get used to it and everything will feel good after a short adaptation period. Most of us have been in that situation before... I know I have. But if the bike was not fitted properly, those aches and pains might not go away, increasing the risk of injury, which is when a proper bike fit is definitely needed.
Getting a bike fit done in the winter / early spring, in anticipation to the increase in riding time is a better idea - look at it as prevention, rather than reaction. Of course, proper training progression is a key factor in all of this too and many times during a fitting session, I make recommendations in that area as well (the perks of getting fitted by someone who has a lot of coaching experience).
If you do put in a lot of indoor trainer time and/or winter bike miles in the fall / winter, getting a bike fit done on the bike(s) you use most is important to make sure imbalances do not get created and that you are comfortable, especially on your indoor trainer, as there is less movement in and out of the saddle as there might be on the road - riding is a lot more static indoors and being comfortable is important!
If you spend time at the track or on a cross bike during the winter, having those bikes fitted is important too.
At the beginner level end of the spectrum, many aren't sure how the bike is supposed to feel and need the help of a professional to guide them through the process. This should be done as soon as they start riding for two main reasons:
- I find that many people simply stop riding their bike if they are uncomfortable and their bike is left to collect dust. That sucks. Truth be told, I have seen that among higher level athletes too, who have multiple bikes (eg. road bike and triathlon bike among triathletes), and they just spend all their time on one bike instead of both, because one does not feel right.
- I have seen cyclists who get so used to feeling uncomfortable on their bikes, they think its normal! The look of surprise & delight on their face after a few adjustments is priceless (and a big part of why I love my job so much).
On the other scale of the spectrum, for those who race at various levels, it is often a good idea to get a bike fit before the race season starts. I have been doing bike fits for ~11 years and get a lot of repeat business, which most people find surprising, but I think it makes a lot of sense to develop a long term relationship with your fitter. After the initial fitting, additional fitting sessions typically mean changed that are less significant, or if they are significant still - I can anticipate how the athlete will respond to the changes and be able to make better progression recommendations. I have done many minor adjustments for some very high level athletes with a goal of optimizing the position during racing season, but these were to gain an extra advantage, not to completely overhaul the position.
This is a big reason why the initial fitting should be done at a quieter time of the year, with optimizing done as and if needed later on. Get the basics done right early in the season and move forward from there type thing. Doing an initial bike fit earlier in the year also allows us to detect any imbalances you might have and work towards fixing them as needed, often collaborating with other health care professionals (physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, strength and conditioning, etc). Doing this gradually when training load is often not as high is a good thing instead of waiting until the race season hits.
On a related side note - I recommend getting your bike fit looked at on a yearly basis. Goals change, your body changes and the amount/type of training and racing you are doing changes too. Not to mention more obvious things like equipment changes such as shoes, saddles (this is actually a big aspect that most ignore), pedal systems, crank length, etc. Oh, and when getting a new bike!
Questions about bike fit timing? Or other bike fit related questions? Ask in the comments or get in touch! I am also in the process of putting together a very comprehensive bike fitting FAQ section, so if there is something you think needs to be included in it, I'm all ears.