Custom Bike Fitting Process – How and Why

Many people ask us about our fitting protocols and how we have come to be recognized as one of the best in the world. I wrote this article explaining what we do-how to fit a bicycle-so one can have a better idea of the depth we go to in order to find an exact position for a rider.

I have studied bicycle fitting for over 25 years and have the expertise and technology to fit bicycles to clients more accurately than was previously possible. I also specialize in fitting people over the age of 40 as well as extremely short and extremely tall individuals. In these years of research, I have studied fitting systems and have discovered the pitfalls of other systems as they relate to the human bicycle rider. While other systems rely on equations and formulas, we are aware of them but place the rider first and create a unique environment for them to develop a unique fitting solution.

At my bicycle fitting studio, we have proprietary techniques to help the client become aware of the subtle differences in bike fit. By nature, humans are very adaptive and as such will ride any bike within an acceptable range of sizes. Some people have larger acceptable ranges and some have very small effective ranges.

Our technique is the reverse of traditional fitting systems for performance bicycles. We create an environment whereby the rider can perceive small differences in saddle and handlebar placement. This information is used to tell us where to position the saddle and handlebars, making the bike adapt to the client. Because neither I nor the client is restricted by traditional fitting standards and our system is both double-blind and repeatable, which is the basic definition of good science.

Our protocols include a custom sizing cycle that makes every single interface with the rider easily adjustable – from crank length to saddle height, setback and angle, to handlebar location. The size cycle is equipped with a power meter to accurately determine effort intensity, and repeat the intensity when we change one variable at a time. The variables are changed dynamically so we can quickly determine whether the change is a good one or not. We also use video analysis of to help the client see how he or she rides a bike. The video analysis is further used as a biofeedback aid to help retrain a rider’s form. Our fitting system represents the best technology we have found to date for specialized bikes.

Our expertise is custom made bikes, hence we follow a strict protocol of fitting processes that begins with an extensive interview and documentation of the client’s current setup and riding style. We then optimize the cleats on their shoes and set up the sizing cycle identical to their current bike (unless serious problems exist that make that impractical). Our system coaxes the client to give us feedback so we can then dynamically adjust the saddle and handlebars to a perfectly fit, unique position.

We realize that riders balance differently on a bicycle based on their size, weight, fitness level and riding style. As one rides faster on a bike, more power is transmitted through the legs pressing on the pedals, ostensibly lifting the torso and changing the balance point. A power meter on the sizing cycle accurately measures how much wattage is created, so that the saddle can be set up at the right height and the correct setback. The setback of the saddle is the primary factor that makes the rider comfortable; conversely, an inaccurate setback distance can cause the rider to have too much hand pressure and/or pubic pressure.

Our custom fitting process stabilizes the ankle first, then fully defines the saddle height, all while the rider is performing at their desired pace. The client warms up on the sizing cycle and begins the process of observing his individual riding technique on the monitor, becoming aware of how the body actually feels on the bike. Multiple short sessions prevent the client from premature fatigue, and allow the brain to process all the new information it receives. We build a solid foundation of cleats, ankle and saddle before moving on to handlebars. At the end of the session the client then practices and reinforces the new techniques using our video analysis.

After the correct fit is attained, a cross-hair laser allows us to accurately document the custom setup. The captured data can be applied to the existing bicycle (if the bike can be adjusted to the new dimensions) or can be used to create a new bicycle.

This proprietary fitting technique has earned our bicycle fitting studio a reputation around the world for building custom made bicycles with 100% satisfaction, since the bike is truly an extension of the owner.