The one thing bike shops don't tell you after buying a bike

Updated: May 30, 2021

If you're looking to become a serious cyclist (long weekend rides + "quick" weekday rides), get a bike fit. You're probably asking, what the heck is that? After one year of riding with aches in my knees, lower back, and wrists after my rides (which I thought was normal), my new cycling friend suggested I should "get a bike fit." Huh? If i'm not in pain, then there's no gain, right? Nope, far from it. 1) Pain sucks 2) If not addressed promptly, it's only going to get worse and lead to injury. So where's the “gain” in that? I did more research and found that a bike fit is standard procedure for new (and existing!) cyclists.

Getting "fitted" will be one of the best investments you can make, especially if you’re riding over 2 hours. Your comfort on the bike, from clothing, safety, to nutrition, people you ride with, etc. dictates whether you'll be eager to get back on and explore the world day in and day out. Let's start with what is a bike fit and why it is a vital part in your cycling journey.

What is a bike fit?

A "bike fit" is an assessment where a specialist analyzes your position on the bike. I equate getting a bike fit to seeing a tailor where they adjust the parts of the bike to fit your specific body geometry. Most mass produced items come in standard sizes. Humans do not. When you roll out of the shop with a new bike, it may initially feel fine for those few minutes of test riding. However, stay in that position for a couple hours and usually, discomfort will arise.

Bike fitters find the most optimal position for you so that you're comfortable and strong. Typically, seat height is the first and easiest thing to adjust by eye and by feel. Did you know that you can adjust the angle of your handle bars, how far forward or back your saddle can move, cleat positioning, and how far your hands reach for the handle bars? Handle bars can be too wide too, depending on your riding style. Bike fitters take all that into account as well as your flexibility, posture, and any length discrepancies so you can truly feel one with the machine.

Why is it important?

A bike fit puts you in the ideal position so that you can perform at your best. Combined, those variables above harmonize together in order for your body to recruit the appropriate muscles and maximize your power. Think about how many times your legs are spinning. It's hundreds if not thousands of pedal strokes. If you're starting from zero, it's easy to overuse your legs, especially quads when you're starting with flat pedals (using sneakers vs cycling specific shoes). A proper bike fit can address:

  • Overall comfort

  • Pain around the knees, wrists, back, and neck

  • Numbness in toes, hands, fingers, and saddle area

  • Reduce muscle fatigue

Your performance improves greatly because you're able to recruit multiple muscles versus overusing some.

When should you get your bike fit?

Yesterday. Really though, as soon as you can. The earlier you visit a fitter, the more enjoyable your rides will be to improve and prevent any of the above issues. Your body can then adapt to those changes over time as rides become longer and challenging. Another option is to get fitted even BEFORE buying a bike so they can suggest bikes that best fits you. If you're not experiencing any sort of pain on your rides after long periods of time, then you're probably okay without one. Of course, you can tinker and adjust yourself if you'd like!