Most of the professional bike fit protocols and programs are designed around the knowledge of what the optimal set of angles and dimensions are coming from a large pool of tested people. They use whatever system they choose and apply those rules to who they are fitting and their bike. For most people, this is a process where you achieve the best efficiency and comfort with the bike they bring in or buy. But how can you tell if a bike fit is right for you?
Each person has different needs
If you are talking about the fitting of a single-speed commuter bicycle for a fit commuter then adjusting the saddle by an inch or so might not make much difference in how the bike is used. It will still get the commuter to work. If you are talking about adjusting a bike for a 21 year old racing professional then the need for accuracy is much higher and the results it gets are a lot more. However, being young they are also adaptable so can deal with different setups. While they perform better with an accurate bike fitting they can still manage if not.
If you take a 40 year old woman who is competing in a triathlon you would see more comfort and success with a proper bike fit but the adjustments they need would not be the same as the 21 year old male racer. They do not ride in the same position and also as you age your range of flexibility in terms of fit requirements shrinks. A 40 year old has less acceptability than a 21 year old. Having a bike coach is a good idea when you are a racer and they can help with a professional bike fit.
Most people cannot tell because they have never done it!
While some racers understand its value, a lot of cyclists do not know how to tell if the bike fit is right for them just because they have never felt it done well, and so do not know what to compare it to. A professional bike fit is not easy to do and not all bike fitters get it right. It is something ideally to have done by a coach or trainer or professional fitter, not an inexperienced shop assistant at the bike store. Here are some things to look out for that indicate you need a bike fit, or re-fit!
- Are you experiencing neck pain, low back pain or shoulder pain?
- Do you have pain from sitting in the saddle, especially at the front end?
- Do you get pain in your knees, especially at the front?
- Are you having your feet or hands feel numb?
- If you lift your hands from the handlebars, do you slide forward?
- When you are taking descents or corners if you notice being unstable you need to tell your bike coach.
- If you cycle with your hands in the drops is hard to see?
- Are you always sliding forward and have to push back to get comfortable again?
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