I have to be honest and say the idea of having a professional bike fitting is not something that’s appealed to me at all in the past. At over £100, the idea of someone adjusting the bike for me seemed odd –after all, it’s something I could do myself for free.
But having experienced a professional bike fitting at Balfe’s Bikes in East Dulwich, my opinion has now completely changed.
After a two hour session, I left riding a bike which felt completely new – in a good way.
What does it involve?
Balfe’s Bikes have a Trek professional fitting system, which, in short, involves measuring the key parts of your body and then analysing your cycling, and adjusting your bike as necessary to ensure it’s performing as it should be.
First off, you’re measured off the bike: everything from height, to the width of your foot – it’s important to know all your measurements and. Other tests are also done before you get on the bike, such as knowing how far you can stretch your hamstrings.
You then ride your bike on the stand – which is an odd sensation if you’ve not done it before – for a good few minutes, so that your body is warmed up and relaxed. It’s slightly odd being able to watch yourself cycling on the screen in front of you, and also odd cycling along without going anywhere.
Kieran, who carried out my fitting, kept telling me about the importance of angles. It was angles that he was watching when I was cycling along – such as the angle of your leg when the pedal is at the bottom of a rotation, as well as the angle of your arm when you’re sat on the bike.
One of the key adjustments that so many cyclists fail to make is the saddle height. I see so many cyclists in London who are so blatantly cycling on a saddle that is to low, and Kieran told me that he was looking for around 148 degrees, that being the angle needed for optimum performance, in my leg when at the bottom of a rotation.
My saddle was a fair bit lower than in reality it should have been (and is now), but I must say I’m struggling to adjust to not being able to rest my feet as comfortably at the numerous traffic lights on my journey to work and back.
Having seen that I was some way off, Kieran rose my saddle post a fair whack, and then analysed me again.
Another important angle is that of your arm, when stretched to the handlebars.
More adjustments were needed: my stem was moved forward and its angle adjusted. This made a huge difference – suddenly I felt like I wasn’t constantly reaching for the handlebars the whole time.
Kieran told me that the reason so many cyclists suffer such extreme saddle sores is often down to their saddle. Balfe’s Bikes had a great tool – neatly called the arseometer (I kid you not) – which you sit on, leaving an impression which can tell you the optimum saddle with you need for a comfortable ride.
Thankfully, I was okay and my arse, you’ll be glad to know, does not get too sore.
Is it worth it?
As I rode away from Balfe’s, not only did my bike feel new but I felt genuinely delighted. The service was not only professional, but personal – and in the one and a half hours I was in the shop (a relatively short fitting – most take two hours), I was given many tips on improving my cycling performance generally.
Kieran tells me that while the fitting remains most popular with fairly serious cyclists, they’re seeing more and more commuters coming in. When you add up the miles that commuters do, it’s often just as many if not more than the serious weekend cyclists – so it’s really important they’re getting the most out of their bike.
All bases covered
The fitting was about as all-encompassing as it possibly could have been, and you’ll be surprised what can be adjusted. Not just saddle posts and stems, but cleats can be adjusted slightly to ensure your own personal leg movements (which can vary from rider to rider) are giving the maximum work.
£125 may seem like a hefty fee. I was sceptical myself, but was delighted to ride away feeling that the session was definitely worth it.
I was told not to expect to be able to notice the benefits immediately, and to give it a couple of weeks. To be honest, the differences I’m seeing so far are stretching for the pedals (and the floor at traffic lights) slightly, and for a day or so I noticed increased saddle sores – but this is from me forgetting that my bike has been adjusted and adapting to my new riding position, which I’m already getting used to and feeling the benefits of.
Bike fittings are a well worthwhile investment if you want to get the most out of the effort you put in on the bike. And, as Kieran said, it’s not just something for the serious amateur cyclists – commuters can definitely benefit too.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.