Question: I’ve been fitted by three different bike shops using different fit systems. Each shop measured me on and off my bike, which they all agreed is too small for me. They all came to the same conclusion regarding my body: extra long legs and arms, very short torso.
However, each system recommended substantially different bike dimensions (top tube, seat tube, head tube, crankarm length, stem). I’m thinking about purchasing a super-cool new bike, but I want to make sure to get the right size this time. Is professional fitting a scam merely to make sure I’m unhappy with my old bike? — April S.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: No, so-called pro fitting isn’t a scam, although different systems and technicians might come up with slightly different dimensions for your ideal bike.
A discrepancy may not matter, though. Here’s an example: A top tube that’s 1 cm shorter on Bike A could be compensated for on Bike B by a longer stem or a handlebar with a greater reach. To your position, the result is the same.
Also remember that there’s a fairly large “window” of proper fit.
Fitters need to know how the bike will be used, what is your riding style, etc. On a bike meant for racing or fast group rides, you may want to be more stretched out and have a greater handlebar/saddle differential. For touring, lots of climbing or training on rough roads, you may want to be more upright. This is why slightly different fits aren’t necessarily wrong.
Another important factor is your flexibility. If a fitter doesn’t test it, then it’s doubtful the resulting recommendations will be on target. (And don’t forget that such things as flexibility change over time as we age, are injured, etc.)
Your own experience is the best guide here. Are you comfortable on your present bike? If not, decide what changes would make you happy. Perhaps it’s a higher handlebar or a stem with less reach. Then see which pro fit addresses these issues.
One thing that makes me believe a bike fit is a scam is the cleat position. I believe the science behind it but I do not believe they have the tools and methods to execute it properly. Trying to find the center of the ball of your foot is like playing pin the donkey. Then you have to do it on the other foot too. You will never get the same cleat position on both feet! Now you end up with cleats in different positions. Sure… go ahead and believe your feet aren’t symmetrical.