Author Topic: Getting a bike fitted  (Read 4400 times)

missundecided

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Getting a bike fitted
« on: June 03, 2014, 11:44:08 PM »
I've been biking here and there for a little over a year, with 10 miles being my longest distance, but those rides are few and far between. However, I've been experiencing knee pain and other physical maladies have started to develop. I'm not saying it's the BIKE'S fault (it could be my poor form, or any other number of non-bike-related contributing factors, even ME), but it's probably a good idea to get it fitted just to remove one variable.

However. I'm not so sure my bike is worthy of getting fitted. It's a used mountain bike that I picked up for $65 at a hole-in-the-wall, Spanish-speaking bike shop in my neighborhood. I've tried using forum member Bakari's bike-buying guide to assess whether my two-wheeled steed is a piece of crap or just "rough around the edges." I couldn't decide. Obviously, I don't need a fancy bike. I like that it's not attractive to thieves, for example, with the Duct-taped accessories such as lights I've cobbled together over the year and the tattered seat. I've already had my seat and handlebar heights adjusted, but I can't tell if that helped.

Is getting it fitted an exercise in futility? Or do professional fittings benefit any bike and its rider, regardless of either's quality? I mean, I'm certainly no triathlete, and my bike has no similar illusions of grandeur either.

waltworks

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2014, 12:04:10 AM »
A professional fitting will cost you $200 and up. It might be money well spent if you are having serious medical problems. Or you may be able to resolve things yourself.

First, check with your health insurance company to see if a medical bike fit is covered. In some cases if you are in pain, you can get the entire tab picked up and get a really good fit for nothing.

Assuming that does not work, do the following:
-Raise your saddle until your knee just starts to lock out when your *heel* (wearing whatever shoes you normally wear on your bike) is on the pedal and the pedal is all the way down (ie the bottom of the stroke). Note that if your knees are locking out when actually riding, that's bad - but you won't be pedaling with your heels on the pedals. If you feel yourself having to rock your hips to reach the bottom of the downstroke, drop the saddle in 1/4" increments until you don't.
-It may be that your saddle won't go this high. If so, your bike is *probably* too small.
-The new saddle height is probably going to seem crazy high but ergonomically it's where you want to be. You may need to raise your handlebars as well. Practice mounting and dismounting the bike! It will be a bit more difficult with the new saddle height, but you'll figure it out quickly.

If that doesn't work for the knee pain, you may need to just suck it up and get a real fitting.

-W

GuitarStv

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2014, 06:14:54 AM »
As suggested, play around with the saddle height before going in for a fitting.  Knee pain is often the result of the saddle in the wrong position.  About 90% of the people I see cycling around have their saddle too low, which can certainly cause knee pain.  If you can put both tip toes on the ground while in your bike seat you're almost guaranteed to be too low.

The Happy Philosopher

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2014, 08:37:01 AM »
Go to a bike ship and ask them to help you out.  Most bike shops will help you without change if you ask them nicely. Keep going to different bike shops until you get someone helpful. You won't get a professional fit, but you can find someone knowledgeable to help decide if you need a different size bike or major adjustments.  A proper fit goes a long way in getting rid of minor pains.  Proper fit has made a huge difference for me on several bikes I've owned.

waltworks

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2014, 10:45:21 AM »
As someone who works in the bike industry: please do not do this. There are community cycle/bikeshare organizations that can provide free help if you can't afford to pay. If you want help from a bike shop, be aware that most of the employees make not much better than minimum wage and margins are tight/competition is fierce. If you want professional help be prepared to pay for it like you'd pay for any other professional service.

-W

Go to a bike ship and ask them to help you out.  Most bike shops will help you without change if you ask them nicely. Keep going to different bike shops until you get someone helpful. You won't get a professional fit, but you can find someone knowledgeable to help decide if you need a different size bike or major adjustments.  A proper fit goes a long way in getting rid of minor pains.  Proper fit has made a huge difference for me on several bikes I've owned.

phred

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2014, 07:58:34 PM »
you may be using too high a gear because you want to go faster.  Drop the gear selected down one or two

A true professional bike fitting measures you first, and then builds the bike.  They don't try and back-fit a piece of crap.  Two guys could be the same height, yet require two different bicycles.

The Happy Philosopher

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2014, 09:13:43 PM »
w,
I'm not saying to try and get a free two hour bike fit, I'm saying go to a local bike shop and say "I got this bike and I'm not sure it is the right size/fit, can you help me out." They will most likely say sure, throw it on a trainer and spend 10 minutes assessing you. With a $65 dollar used marginal bike they will likely adjust saddle height and position. Who knows, something this simple May help.  If I wre a bike shop I would do this for free because I would want you to return and buy a new bike when ready, buy accessories, and bring it in for maintenance. $200 dollar bike fits are really not necessary for the average cyclist unless they are racing or riding high miles. I did a formal fit for my time trial bike and it was very useful.  It helps to go to the shop at a time when it isn't busy. I've been to various shops for minor adjustments and it rarely costs more than a few dollars. The shops that take care of me get my business when I need a tune up or more expensive overhaul. It is because the margins are thin and competition is fierce that a good shop will help you, they want your business. Also they best thing may be to get a new bike,I've riden cheap bikes that don't fit and it sucks, invest a few dollars into a bike you love OP.

As someone who works in the bike industry: please do not do this. There are community cycle/bikeshare organizations that can provide free help if you can't afford to pay. If you want help from a bike shop, be aware that most of the employees make not much better than minimum wage and margins are tight/competition is fierce. If you want professional help be prepared to pay for it like you'd pay for any other professional service.

-W

Go to a bike ship and ask them to help you out.  Most bike shops will help you without change if you ask them nicely. Keep going to different bike shops until you get someone helpful. You won't get a professional fit, but you can find someone knowledgeable to help decide if you need a different size bike or major adjustments.  A proper fit goes a long way in getting rid of minor pains.  Proper fit has made a huge difference for me on several bikes I've owned.

waltworks

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2014, 05:30:26 AM »
As I said - I've worked in a lot of shops. So here is my experience: people on $65 bikes that don't fit will never, ever come back and buy anything. If they come to have their bike tuned up they will never return to pick it up and pay because "$50 to tune up my bike! That's as much as I paid for it at Wally World!"  Every season, the shop will donate a pile of these (now nicely tuned up) bikes to various charities or give them away to poor people during the holidays (at least that is what we did).

Shop owners and employees get hit up for free services and parts *all the time* and they will generally not do stuff for free because once you start, you're on a slippery and unprofitable slope.

I mean, I guess you can go ask. But bringing a 6 pack, or buying a set of fenders or a pump, just to prove you're not a total freeloader will definitely grease the skids. And if really basic stuff is all that's needed, almost every city has a community bikeshare type nonprofit that can do bar/saddle/etc adjustments at no charge (and teach the OP how to do them as well).

Sorry for the rant.

-W

Russ

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2014, 06:19:38 AM »
+1 the bike shop is not a library. If you want "free" service, at least buy something or bring something with you.

Still, the shop I worked at wouldn't touch a $65 bike due to liability issues. If all you want is a rough fit but there's 3 other things wrong with the bike (not saying there necessarily are OP, but on an inexpensive bike it's likely there's something you haven't noticed), that's a risk to the shop to allow the bike out the door unfixed.

furrychickens

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2014, 07:17:43 AM »
Knee pain (for me) is a result of saddle too low and using too high a gear. Especially the gearing. My legs like a pretty fast cadence.

Also, pay attention to whether your feet move or slip on the pedals. The effort of holding your feet to the pedals can create strain as well. When I switched to traction pin pedals, I removed a lot of wasted effort.

marblejane

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2014, 12:20:21 PM »
As an alternative, you might consider going to a local bike shop and asking to test ride one or two entry level hybrid bikes. The shop will generally be able to select the appropriate size bike for you, and get the seat adjusted correctly for the test ride.

This will give you some ride experience to compare against your mountain bike. You can also make a note of what size bike the shop puts you on. Both of these things can give you insight into whether your current bike is too big/too small, your saddle is too low, gearing is too high, etc.

I have done this myself, knowing that I'm unlikely to buy a new bike, but have bought parts & service at those shops instead. Also, try to go do test rides when the shop will be slow (i.e. early on a weekday).

FLBiker

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2014, 12:52:34 PM »
Here in Tampa we've got a great bike co-op that can help out with stuff like that.  I'd definitely look in your community for something like that.

GuitarStv

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Re: Getting a bike fitted
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2014, 12:54:28 PM »
This fitting stuff is being a little over-thought here.

You don't need a specialist to play around with your seat height to get things comfy.  You don't need to go to a bike store.  You don't need to go to a coop.  You just need a wrench and a couple hours to test it out.

Raise the saddle a quarter inch, bike around for a bit . . . see how it feels.  Raise the saddle another quarter inch, bike around for a bit, see how it feels.  Once it starts to feel like you have to stretch to reach the pedals, lower the saddle about a quarter of an inch and you should be fine.  Use some electrical tape to mark the spot off on your saddle in case you ever need to take your seat post out, or in case it slips a bit.  Over the next couple weeks you might find that you need to raise or lower the seat an 8th of an inch or so to be comfy.