New location

Come on over to my new site:

Going to be posting regularly there.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What should my next bike buying experience look like?

It wasn't too long ago that the normal bike purchase was a pretty quick, very un-scientific affair.  Unfortunately, that is still the case for a large majority of cyclists.

Luckily, in the last 10 or 15 years the bike fitting movement has led to more engagement during a trip to your local bike shop (LBS), as well as happier riders.

What is bike fitting?  Essentially it's making sure that a bike frame and all its component provide an efficient and comfortable bike ride for the cyclist.

Who needs one?  Well, everyone....especially those that ride more than once or twice a week.  Not everyone needs to spend hours getting fit, but it wouldn't hurt.  A poorly fit bike creates pain, injury, and can even lead to the urge to toss your bike off a bridge overpass.

At my Studio, every bike purchase comes with a free bike fit and follow-ups for the first year, and it's common that we spend 90-120 minutes using infrared motion capture technology to dial in their position.  No, many cyclists could get by with much shorter appointments and come out not too much worse for wear, but if you think a poorly fit bike isn't very common, I would direct you to the 200 or so non-purchase bike fits I do every year.

So what should a bare-bones fitting consist of?

1.  Interview - Sit down (yes, sit down....this conversation shouldn't occur while the employee is wrenching on a bike, or manning the register) and spend a few minutes explaining how you're going to ride the bike --  where?  how often?  type of terrain?  goals for this bike?  etc.

2.  Physical Assessment - The employee doesn't need to have a degree in exercise physiology or practice as a PT (although, again, it wouldn't hurt) but they should be able to run you through a few simple physical tests for flexibility and strength to get even a vague idea of your abilities.

3.  Bike Assessment - At this stage you should be on the bike, preferably in riding clothes.  Not spinning around the parking, but rather with the bike set up on an indoor trainer so that your posture can be viewed for more than a few seconds at a time.  Beware of anyone declaring the fit "good" after just a minute of watching you.  Even just getting the correct saddle height usually takes a few adjustments to see how you respond to higher or lower positions, and then handlebar height and reach is likely to be changed at least once before moving on. 
 How do you determine if it's "good"?  If you have a fitter who you are certain is very skilled at bike fitting (not just bike fixing or selling) you can rely on their expertise some, but they should always be constantly assimilating the feedback from you based on nothing more than "how it feels."  If you suspect your fitter is just so-so, then you should lobby for spending as much time on the bike as you can before plunking down the cash.  If you're on the indoor trainer, ask lots of questions, delay a bit or just ask for more time - tell them to go away for 10 minutes while you ride.  Don't be afraid to ask even for an extended test ride; some shops let you take the bike overnight and get in an actual ride.

4.  Follow-up - Ask if follow up fit sessions, even just quick tweaks, will be included (for even a few weeks) since you are likely to find new issues when you spend a full hour on the bike on varying terrain on the road or trail.

All in all this could take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, but think of it as an insurance policy.  The better your bike fits, the more likely you are to ride your bike....which is the point after all.

--John Weirath, PT is a (very slow) runner, cyclist, and triathlete that builds and fits bikes to clients one at a time at The Bicycle Studio right here in GJ. // // 970.255.0055

No comments:

Post a Comment