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The Importance of Bike Fit

The following is a contributed piece by Aaron “Rambo” Harrison, who heads up the bike-fit program for The Bike Gallery. A professional bike fitting is one of the best investments a serious cyclist can make, and is something we highly recommend for all Cycle Oregon riders. Those new to the sport will be amazed at what a dramatic difference the correct fit can make when it comes to comfort, performance and overall enjoyment of cycling.

Spring has sprung, and it’s finally time to start adding distance to your training rides. Most people look forward to a season full of long days in the saddle. But nagging aches or pains can suck the enjoyment right out of cycling and turn a long ride into a REALLY long ride. Life’s far too short for that nonsense – particularly since most cycling discomfort is easily eliminated through proper bike fit. For most people, this requires the help of a professional.

What is a bike fit?

Bikes come in a limited number of shapes and sizes. Cyclists do not. Bike manufacturers use adjustable components so their bikes can be made to accommodate a larger cross-section of riders. A trained bike fitter knows which adjustments need to be made to each of these components so that human and machine can truly become one.

Who needs a bike fit?

Anyone who plans to spend any length of time riding a bicycle will benefit greatly from a professional bike fit. A proper fit can:

  • Improve overall rider comfort
  • Help prevent cycling-induced repetitive stress injuries
  • Reduce or eliminate back, knee, neck and wrist pain
  • Reduce or eliminate “hot foot”
  • Reduce or eliminate saddle discomfort and genital numbness
  • Reduce or eliminate numbness in the hands and fingers
  • Reduce rider fatigue

A good fit can also improve riding performance, because it allows the rider to use multiple muscle groups in the most effective and efficient manner.

What happens during a bike fitting session?

The first step in the process is the rider interview. We take into account your history as a cyclist (and an athlete), your cycling goals and any injuries you’ve had that can affect your comfort on the bicycle. From there we assess your flexibility and measure various parts of your body.

A typical fitting includes:

  • Setting clipless pedal cleats in the correct orientation and fore/aft position
  • Setting your seat height and fore/aft position
  • Evaluating shoes and insoles
  • Determining correct stem length, handlebar height and handlebar width

A fitting takes between one and two hours and costs between $100 and $150. Much of the fitting takes place with you and your bike on a stationary indoor trainer. For this reason, you should bring all your riding gear to your fitting and be prepared to spend 10 minutes or more riding on the trainer.

When should you get your bike fit?

As soon as possible. Today is the ideal day to make an appointment to have your bike fit. Getting this taken care of early in the season will give you and your body time to adapt to changes made to your position on the bike before the start of Cycle Oregon. In addition, it will make your training rides more enjoyable.

Most fitters guarantee the fit for a full year, so you can go back later in the season to take care of any adjustments and fine-tuning if the need arises, or to facilitate any changes your body might have undergone through training.

Where can I go for a bike fitting?

Today there are more professional bike fitters than ever before. Most work in full-service bike shops, but some cycling-specific physical therapists and coaches also do fittings. One good place to find a local fitter is to consult the list of dealers of Bike Fit Systems products. Of course, if you’re in Portland, come see us at any of the six Bike Gallery locations in the metro area. The Bike Gallery has been doing bike fittings for more than two decades, and all our fitters are highly trained and experienced professionals.

Our ultimate goal is for the bike to all but disappear underneath you. While we can’t guarantee you won’t be sore after that long ride, we do guarantee you won’t be in any pain. If you’d like to know more, check out our list of frequently asked questions or shoot us an e-mail at

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