Do you need a bike fitting?

You may think that a bike fitting is only for serious racer types, but as I hope to show you it is applicable to a far broader range of people than that.

Do you spend a lot of time on your bike, perhaps you have a long distance commute, ride sportives or race in some capacity? Perhaps you are looking to buy a new bike – often a significant investment – wouldn’t it be great to know that a bikes geometry was suitable for you? In both of these cases, a bike fit might be the best money you can spend on your cycling. 

This year I am spending a lot of time on my bikes, so a bike fitting seemed like a very good idea.

Did I want the extra speed? Did I want more comfort? and did I want to reduce my chance of injuries?

Sign me up!

Enter Freespeed Bike Fitting Studio

Freespeed are a bike fitting company in Chiswick, West London. Freespeed’s sole focus is making your bike fit you and your cycling aspirations. In their purpose built bike fitting studio their experienced fitters make use of the latest and greatest bike fitting technology to enable you and your bike to work in harmony. 

I booked a session with Freespeed to have the bike I intend to use on the Ride Across Britain fitted. A session at Freespeed lasts 2-3 hours, so there is plenty of time to get things absolutely perfect. My bike fit was conducted by Jonathan Morrisson who is a very experienced bike fitter with a background in Sports Rehabilitation so I was in very capable hands. 

Retul Technology

On arrival at the impressive studio, my bike was placed on the turbo trainer in front of the natty little Retul machine. Retul is a very precise 3D motion capture technology that takes measurements of all aspects of a riders motion while pedalling. The Retul system eliminates the guesswork and assumptive nature of fitting, providing the fitter with the most accurate data set possible. 

Bike fitting shown on a computer screen

In order to measure your movements, you are fitted with a harness which places LEDs on various joints from your feet to your shoulder. The light emitted by the harness is picked up by the Retul machine, while you pedal, which can then reconstruct your pedalling motion very accurately. 

Cyclist in the riding position

Various metrics are constructed from these measurements – such as knee forward of foot, knee extension and back angle. All of these measurements have an optimum range. Small changes can be made in your position – through saddle height, bar height for example – and the effects on the various measures can be seen instantly. All of this adds up to a very efficient and accurate positioning of the rider on the bike.

Process

The first part of the fitting process didn’t actually involve the bike at all – just the rider. An assessment was made of my flexibility – fairly poor! – through various manipulations and exercises. This allows the fitter to understand what they are working with – there’s no point setting someone up in a very aggressive position, if they are not flexible enough to maintain it in some form of comfort. I also answered questions about my cycling goals – again, there’s little point setting someone in an aggressive aero position, if their main goal is distance and comfort. 

Side view of a cyclist during a bike fitting session

Armed with this information, it was time to get on the bike and have my position assessed and tweaked until the ideal position for me and my goals was reached.

I had to ride at a moderately hard effort, for about a minute at a time while the measurements are taken. Once the system has captured the data, the fitter analyses it and asks you qualitative questions about how it felt, and then makes the various adjustments required to improve the position. These adjustments could include saddle height, stem height, bar angle, cleat position and many more. 

In my case we made quite a few adjustments to the saddle – lowering it, bringing it forward and altering the angle – as well as flipping my stem into a more aggressive position. Most of this was focused on getting my legs not to over extend, and my knees to track outwards less. Each adjustment seems minuscule, but the overall effect can be remarkable in terms of my on bike comfort. 

The session lasted around 2 hours and I really felt like every avenue was explored to get me and my bike perfectly in tune with one another – it felt like a very personal service with no corners cut and no stone left unturned. 

On the subject of one-to-one attention, the feedback from the session was emailed to me a couple of days later with full details of the changes – and reasons for the changes – as well as a series of exercises that I can do to strengthen my core and improve my flexibility. All of which, will result in even great comfort. 

The results of the fitting

I’ve done around 300 miles on the bike since the fitting, and I have to say I am impressed. I am able to sustain a higher average speed for longer and in more comfort – what more could you ask for?

The final picture shows my position after all adjustments had been made. There are a myriad other small changes that have created the most comfortable ride I’ve ever had.

Final position after the bike fitting session

How to book! +Bonus from London Cyclist

We’ve teamed up with FreeSpeed bike fitting to offer one lucky reader the chance to get their bike fitting paid for.

Book your session via the phone or through the website and make sure you quote “London Cyclist” as the source. At the end of April (April 30th) we’ll do a draw and the winner will have their fitting session completely refunded.

Appointments normally last between 2.5 – 3 hours for a single bike. For any additional bikes, add another 1-2 hours.

Pricing is on an off peak and peak basis. £195 for off- peak sessions which are 9.30am and 2.30pm slots during the week and £220 for evening or weekend slots.

Thanks very much to Freespeed and in particular Jonathan for allowing me to take notes and for taking the photographs included in this article.

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9 Responses to Do you need a bike fitting?

  1. Neal 29/03/2013 at 5:05 pm #

    I had a Retul fit at Yellow Jersey cycles in Billericay this morning. Very good service. The saddle was raised 20mm and forward 10mm. Also swapped 110mm stem for a 130mm one. Not been out in the bike other than around the block but it feels much more comfortable but only time will tell how much of a difference this makes. For info they charge £149.99 off peak and £184.99.

  2. jase 29/03/2013 at 5:11 pm #

    sounds like a great idea 2 be fitted to a bike , less chance of injury and more efficiency… however £195 for 2-3 hours … i payed this much for my bike(2nd hand) and don`t see me spending more than £50 on a fit ,

  3. SteveP 29/03/2013 at 5:53 pm #

    Well, I think paying something for a fitting makes sense BEFORE you buy a bike. So many people are on bikes the wrong size – you see them every day. But once you have a bike, paying someone else to make small adjustments? Well, it’s your money, but personally, I’d invest in a set of allen keys.

  4. Richard Bridger 29/03/2013 at 6:58 pm #

    I had a fitting at Le Beau Velo in Shoreditch, who specialise in road and racing bikes (I wanted one for sportives & triathlons). Helped ensure that I bought a bike exactly right for me and then they fitted me up to it afterwards.

    Whichever service you use (as long as they’re good) then I think if you ever want to do more than a short commute it will £200 well spent.

  5. Richard D 30/03/2013 at 8:27 am #

    It seems to me, the key question is about value for money. If you’re spending a reasonable amount of time in the saddle it’s almost certain that a fitted bike will either help you go faster and/or, be more comfortable. Like any fitted sports gear (golf clubs, snooker cue, cricket box etc.), if you use it often enough, you’re bound to feel the benefit.

    I recently bought a made-to-measure Santos Travelmaster from MSG Bikes in Lancing, W. Sussex, and despite being overweight & middle-aged, day rides leave me tired but still a fully functioning human bean with a back and knees that still work as well as they’re going to.

    But it cost serious money to get there.

  6. bigbluemeanie 31/03/2013 at 9:54 am #

    There’s an app in the apple store called “size my bike”. Anyone tried it?

  7. cafewanda 31/03/2013 at 10:57 am #

    I’ve had bike fits and they are well worth the investment if they make you more comfortable on the bike for the intended purpose and you can use the adjustments on future bikes too.

    My fitter is over in Ealing which is a bit of a trek for me, but well worth it.

  8. Mikey 02/04/2013 at 8:01 pm #

    In my experience different bike fitting ‘studios’ will often give different results for the same bike/person. Always find a bike fitter that is well reccomended!

  9. Chris 03/04/2013 at 11:40 pm #

    I’m doing the Deloitte RAB this year too Sam. My training built up to doing back to back century rides this weekend, after which i’ve been suffering ‘handlebar palsy’ resulting in a dead left pinky and ring finger.

    With 9 days of century rides to face, I think this type of pro set-up is the only solution, in spite of the sting to the pocket!

    See you at the start line.

    Chris \ @chriswarren01 \

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