The Importance of a Good Bike Fit

Aug 28, 2015

Ever return from a bike ride with an aching neck or numb hands? A poor bike fit might be the culprit. Riding a bike that’s too big or isn’t positioned correctly for your body can not only affect your performance, but can also lead to serious discomfort and potential back pain or injury.


Too many cyclists believe that fitting a bike is as simple as a finding a frame that fits their height and then adjusting the seat until they can reach the pedals comfortably. But Bruce Schwab, owner of Lakewood-based Schwab Cycles, says fit is more art than science and can vary widely based not only the type of bike (road versus mountain, for example) but on brand as well.

To increase the odds of getting a good fit Schwab suggests visiting a bike shop staffed with experienced and knowledgeable professionals who won’t sacrifice your comfort for the sake of a sale. Ask about their fitting process and the charges involved and make sure they’re willing to work with you to make adjustments later.

“It can take weeks of riding to get in tune with a bike, so you want to work with someone willing to swap things out and give you full credit. You shouldn’t get nickel and dimed to death,” he says.

Many bike shops now offer bike fitting “studios” that utilize a variety of technologies (from motion capture analysis to laser scanning systems that take body measurements) to achieve a more precise fit. At Schwab’s shop, cyclists can hop on the Guru Dynamic Fit Unit, a computerized stationary bike that records the perfect settings while a rider is in motion.

Whether you opt for a high-tech or low-tech approach to having your bike fit, Schwab says your fit should be based on how you plan to use your bike. Someone who plans on racing, for example, will have much different fit needs than a recreational rider.

“Fit is a function of performance and comfort,” stressed Schwab. “You want to set the bike up for what you’ll be doing 80 percent of the time.”

But if your level of activity changes over time, you may have to re-adjust your fit. Body changes may also make a new fit necessary. To be safe, Schwab advocates having a fitting performed every four to five years.

“It’s a lot less expensive to do adjustments and checks than to get a new bike,” says Schwab.