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  CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Bike Fits
    Why do I need a Bike Fit?  
    In the recent dialogue about buying and fitting bikes I don't remember anyone mentioning the Fit Kit, so I thought I'd toss my little story out there, since it worked so well for me. I had my heart set on a certain bike last year, but since it was fairly expensive I wanted to make sure it fit properly. It'd be pretty awful to shell out major $ on a bike that didn't work out. So I got a custom fitting done with a Fit Kit and an "adjustable fitting machine" (I don't know what it's really called). I had it done at Ti Cycles in Seattle near where I live even though I didn't plan on buying the bike from them. You can take a look at the fitting sheets on their web site at in the FAQ/Tech section. They charge $40 for the service [1999] - and it's worth every penny (if you buy a bike from them, it's deducted from the purchase price).

The results from the fitting calculations surprised me - I actually didn't believe them, so they put me on the adjustable fitting machine - a stationary "bicycle" which has adjustable tube lengths to show me how it felt. And, they were right - this configuration felt great. It turned out that I needed a shorter top tube and a longer seat tube than comes on typical production bikes. I could've done it with long seatposts and a high short stems on a 57cm frame, but it would've been too weird. Well so much for the bike I had my heart set on - I ordered a custom steel bike on the spot. I put 2,500 miles on it last summer, did a bunch of centuries, STP, RSVP, and a week long tour in Idaho - I love it at the end of each ride no matter how long or tough it was. No more numb palms and toes. And the pain in the elbow that plagued me all through 1997 from riding my old mountain bike converted to a hybrid is gone, too.

Basically, I'd recommend before shopping for a bike that you visit a a shop which offers the "fit kit" package, have them measure you and calculate the dimensions of the bike fit you need. Not only should they tell you what size frame, but how long the top tube should be, the handlebar width, crank length, chainstays, etc. for the type of riding you'll be doing. All these little things add up. Don't settle for less. You like wearing the proper size clothing and your bike is no different - you'll probably spend more than you would on a suit, so...

I would recommend getting the fit kit done at a store which has an adjustable fitting machine so that you can verify that the fit kit measurements are correct. It'll give you peace of mind and allow you to tweak the calculations to perfection.

The current issue of Bicycling Magazine (April 99) is their annual buyer's guide and has a variety of information on how to choose a bike for your particular needs. Some of the info is more cute than useful, but it's a great start.

Tom Spille

Fit is the most important thing.. don't just buy a bike off the street.. go to a bike shop and get fitted on a bike and learn something about bike fit... then you can see if this bike fits you. You can't judge by how many centimeters it is. The top tube and stem also have to be the right size.

Down tube shifters? that is very old stuff.. you can get new that is so much easier to use.. Like STI Shifters.

Go shop a lot at bike shops. Get fitted on a bike.. Do your homework and learn.. You will be glad you did.


First, I'd recommend that you buy your new toy from a local bike shop, to keep them in business, But a great place to get excellent sizing info is from Colorado Cyclist's home page ( You print out their bike sizing info (about four pages) and get an idea how a road bike should fit, and then fine tune the bike size at your local shop. Going to your bike shop with knowledge sure helps. Good luck and enjoy your new bikes....


[Written after the 3 of us got bike fits with Aaron at Bike Gallery...]

All 3 of us here ended up with new handlebar stems (the standard stems on the hybrids pulled us too far forward and rounded our shoulders - bad for breathing). Both of the guys got wider handlebars and also had their seats moved back to get their knees in the correct position - this stopped the pain Bob had been having in his knee. Robbin uses toe clips and size 13 shoes (huge!) and got the clips extended to stick out in front another inch. All of this has helped a lot in comfort and we continued to try minor experimental changes such as shoe liners, different socks, etc. as we did training rides all summer.

Rox Heath

I'd like to join two threads together here and say: now that I have my new well-fitting road bike, hills are FUN! Did I say fun??? YES I DID! I've never had the luxury of a granny ring before and I am loving that. I thought after being on an upright Hybrid that I'd hate the tuck position of a road bike. I am loving that too! My lower back pain has all but vanished in a few days. I'm still getting used to the new position but it's only a matter of time before the bike and I are truly one. I don't have to stand and pump like a madwoman up hills anymore. I just spin and climb, comfortably....albeit slowly.....

I'm astounded at how much more pleasurable riding is with my new bike. I'd have never believed it if someone told me it would be this much better. If you dread hills and it hurts and training on them isn't helping, consider a professional fitting at your local bike shop. It's well worth it!

Julie Kay

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I just had a re-fit done at Bike Gallery on my Frog clipless pedals. I generally ride with the toe ends of my shoes laced somewhat loosely because my feet swell so much (which causes burning toes in tight shoes). When I did the bike fit I had only ridden about 5 miles on a cool morning and didn't even think about my shoes being loose. Since then I have often felt like the toes of my right foot were trying to force their way through the side of the shoe on the down stroke. I went back and laced the shoes up tight and it was amazing how much both shoes changed. Aaron set my right side so that the heel just barely clears and I am really floating the foot back and forth as I pedal since this is what my leg and foot want to do. With the Frogs you have 11 degrees of float. It is much more comfortable.

These BG fits are guaranteed and they really want you to be comfortable so you can ride a lot. If something is still a little off go back and talk to them and schedule a re-fit.

Rox Heath

[Written 2 weeks before CO 13]

I just want to mention something that all readers looking to get a bike fit before CO may want to consider. Its just my opinion, but I've gathered it from reading many fitting articles.

While I think it is a great idea to get a bike fit done since it will improve your form , efficiency, and alleviate present pains and/or potential future skeletal/muscular dysfunction, make any changes such as saddle height gradually. It will take a while for your body to get accustomed to the new setup, even though it will be a BETTER setup in the long run. I would also be hesitant, in general, to try out all new equipment or setup this close to a tour in which you will be doing long distances for many days in a row. Your body may not be used to it. Make sure you do some short trips with the new setup beforehand and go to the new positioning gradually.

This may not be possible after putting on a new stem, but things like seat heights or cleat positions should be done gradually. This is just a suggestion.

On the other hand, if something hurts now and the pain goes away immediately after changing the fit - GO WITH IT IMMEDIATELY, by all means.

Orest (I'm just starting to train two weeks before the trip) Kawka

I agree with your opinion. I was told that you should not make any equipment adjustments 1 month before CO. Ideally you make all your adjustments at the start of summer training.


This is true -- if your bike fits. But if it doesn't, you are better off changing it later than never.

The problem with this advice is that you don't know if your bike fits. My Blue Touring Bike was custom built for me in 1974, and had been in the same configuration ever since. I thought that it was great -- and it was. But an hour with Michael Sylvester made it so much better that I couldn't believe it. And this required no new components, just small adjustments to brake lever position and handlebar angle.

This year I was experimenting with bar height. I tried something new that seemed to work for me for a week and 50 miles around town. Then I started the Community Cycling Century with the new set up, and after 30 or 40 miles started to get back pain. After 50 miles I was wondering if I could finish the ride at all. So at the next rest stop I flipped over my stem, raising the bars about 2.3 inches. Let me emphasize: this is in the middle of a 114 mile ride!

The result was magic. The back pain went away, and I rode another 64 miles and enjoyed it.

Last Cycle Oregon, on day 1 when we were riding on the Interstate shoulder, I came up behind a woman who seemed to me to have her saddle _way_ too high. Her hips were rocking from side to side on each pedal stroke, and her whole spine was flexing as a consequence. Normally, I don't like to tell other people that I don't think that they fit their bike, but this case was so extreme, that I felt that I had to say something. Otherwise, I thought that the poor woman would be flat on her back by day 3, instead of enjoying the ride of her life.

So, I rode up beside her and struck up a conversation, discovered that she was a relative novice, and eventually asked her if she felt comfortable on her bike. She said that she didn't really, but that she had had a professional bike fit (I won't say by whom) and the technician had put that saddle in that position for her, so she supposed that it had to be right! As soon as we got off the freeway, I helped her to lower her saddle about 1.5 inches, until she was able to ride without rocking and without hyper-extension of her knees.

It so happens that in Joseph, several days later, I ran into the same woman in the Valley Bronze sculpture garden. She recognized me and made a point of thanking me profusely for helping her to adjust her seat, because it had been so much better on CO than it had ever been on her training rides.

What's the moral of this story? I think that if you have been riding centuries in comfort, I would take Lonnie's advice, and not touch anything. However, if you have been getting pains or discomfort, then I would advocate changing things now rather than suffering. Any discomfort that you have will multiply itself with 7 days of riding. BUT record or mark your old positions and bring along your old components! If you don't like the new set up, or find that it exacerbates your problem rather than curing it, then it will always be possible to put things back the way that they were.

One other point: as you train, your body becomes more flexible. Racers often start the season with bars significantly higher than they ended the previous season, and gradually lower them. What is "right" for you in May may not be right in September.

My two cents ...

Several years back after my second bike fit. My seatpost was raised almost 2cm from the year prior. (as you develop your pedal stroke and the supporting muscles your set height may indeed rise) Something to carefully experiment with... But I digress...

After that extension I climbed the Mt St Helens Tour De Blast route up over Elk Rock. The day following my left knee (underside) had pain. It actually got pretty bad and had me off the bike for several days. It took *months* for it to eventually go away entirely. As long as it doesn't get worse you should be OK. If you had a bike fit I would inquire of your "fitter" and have them check your relationship to the saddle position. They should do that gratis as a matter of pride in their work. (mine did).

Don "I thought it would never go away but it did" Bolton

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Actually, I did raise my seat post after the first sign of pain. I probably do need to go back and get fit again after CO.

Don, thanks for your encouragement. I'm icing the knee right now.....

Wendi Thornton

I recently got on my bike after not having ridden for a while - and after the bike was in for some work. It sure felt like the seat was a little too high. Any tips on what to look for the right seat height? I did have a fitting at the outset a couple years ago, but the seat height was not marked. :-(

Diane Kerns

Adding the Frogs has likely changed the thickness of the pedal Ie: its probably now a longer reach to the pedal surface.

You want your leg not quite fully extended when you hit the bottom of your stroke. When you set it up on the trainer you can have Sam watch you as you spin. The idea is to get as much extension as you can without hyperextending the leg muscles. If you've gone and stretched your hips will rock as you pedal. Not good.

Is this a new seat? Do you need to pedal in and have someone "plumb" your legs at 3:00 and 9:00 to set fore/aft adjustments too?

You should always mark your saddle height and fore aft positions as a rule of thumb. That way if you have something slip while riding resetting isn't guesswork and you can always check the mechanics work when you pick the bike up and get them to reset proper if it looks wrong.

Also, make reference marks on the stem and bars so that you end up with the same stem height and bar angle too.

I'm bad, I have a checklist I run the bike through before I'll accept it back from the shop. I set it up in their workstand and ...

Check the settings relative to their reference marks.

A complete run through of the shifting.

Check brake pad alignment to the wheels. This is crucial for me depending on the wheelsets I'm using on the roadbikes. Its hard to get one setting that works with both different wheelsets I use on them. I won't even get into the fun in installing new pads on cantilever brakes can be (older mountain/hybrids):-) (I just did this on the "Grand Marquix LS").

Too many times I've had to readjust things after I've gotten home.

I've gotta know all functional gears work without chain rub and that the front engages each ring if I shift the shifter with the pedals at rest and then begin rotation. If the front requires "encouragement" (Ie: gotta be spinning and extending the lever beyond the click) moving up, it's not adjusted right.

Bike mechanics aren't paid well at all and they have high work volume expectations so they tend to get things close but not precise usually. Once in awhile you find a more thorough "wrench" but even they get forced into working too fast at times.

Know your equipment as best as you can. Its well being is your well being.

Don "can help on the seat height & fore/aft adjusts if needed" Bolton

Just before CO last year [CO 13] I had a super quick fit check and my seat raised. Aaron said that it was likely that my legs were getting more limber and extending farther from all the riding. Evidently this is not at all unusual and could make quite a difference.

I suppose this means in your case that if you were off the bike and not doing similar stretches you could have tightened up some.

I also suppose this means that those of us who had bike fits a couple of years ago and were fairly new at this at the time might consider a "check-up" later in the summer.

In my case I felt like I was continually pushing my rear to the back of the seat because my legs weren't extending a comfortable amount.

Another problem - with all that bikes go through it is very easy for a seat to have magically "slipped". Although they usually slip downward. This phenomenon can especially occur when someone puts your bike in a rack along with a lot of other bikes and the seat and someone's handlebars conflict. And then they forget to raise the seat back up. Husbands are good at this! ;-)

Rox Heath

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Bike Fits  

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