Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bike Fit - a common sense approach

It seems that the latest greatest thing these day to improve performance is a bike fit, be it Retul, BG Fit, Steve Hogg or whatever other article promises a 10% increase in watts at threshold.

And whilst any good bike fit will obviously improve the performance of most beginners - who hasn't seen the new guy (or gal) with their seat too low, their knees sticking out and their general awkwardness - a lot of us have also heard the stories from the experienced riders who gave it a go, and over time have gradually reverted to their original position, either through preference or due to unexplained injuries.

Well folks, there is another approach, the approach followed by every cyclist before science entered the sport. Now, it is not for me to say that science in cycling is a bad thing, but we shouldn't always throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The Common SenseBike Fit (or CSBF©) aka old skool, is easy to implement, and will improve your on bike comfort and performance.


  1. The ideal bike frame size is one where you can straddle the top tube (vertical) with bothfeet on the ground (if you have a sloping top tube, estimate the appropriate gap using the geometry chart for your frame;
  2. As a starting position, your saddle should be mounted so there is a perpendicular line from the bony protrusion on the side of your knee to the pedal axle, with the ball of your foot placed over the pedal axle. And parallel to the ground;
  3. The seat should be raised until your hips begin to rock with your heels on the pedals and when pedalling backwards. Readjust the fore/aft position of your saddle re no. 2 above;
  4. Ideally, you would then do a few rides to fine tune your saddle setback - if you keep creeping forward, then move your saddle forward, if you're riding on the back of the saddle, move your saddle back. A couple of 2 hr rides is sufficient to determine saddle setback;
  5. Stem length is then determined. The elbow should be placed against the tip of the saddle, and the index finger should reach to approximately halfway along the stem (a 100mm stem is usually a good starting point);
  6. Saddle to seat drop is the final measurement. There is no magic formula for this (old skool or scientific), and set up is primarily determined by body flexibility (hamstrings and back) and competition type (racing, touring, sportive, etc). Take appropriate tools with you and adjust your handle position on the go until it meets your needs.
  7. If you crave a large saddle to handlebar drop ('cos it is #PRO), try modest adjustments over a period of time, rather than a 'big bang' approach!  
I'm not imparting anything new here, but I bet this approach will meet your needs.

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