Monday, June 4, 2018

How Do I Become A Bike Fitter?

By Rick Shultz PCG Coach

I receive a lot of questions, but recently, I’ve been asked the following question a lot… “How do I become a Bike Fitter?

Most of my clients are already experiencing pain when they call me up to schedule an appointment. Statistics: Roughly half are in pain because they are on the wrong size bike. The other half come in because again, they are in pain, but from a recent bad bike fit. I hear the following all the time … “I’m in more pain now than I was before I got my last bike fit.” The 4 most common issues I see are (a) cleats completely set up wrong, (b) saddle height too high or too low, (c) crank arms too long, (d) stem too long.


Why I’m mentioning the following is that in order to have a successful bike fitting experience, the person needs to have (a) the right size bike and (b) the right bike for what type of riding they want to do. Most cyclists know about bike fitting but very few think about bike sizing which is the most important step in the overall bike fitting process. So, before going to your local bike shop (LBS), I highly recommend that that you do some research on (a) what type of bike you are looking for and (b) look through manufacturers websites, choose several makes and models…kind of like buying a car. You know what they say, “a bicycle can be a person’s third biggest investment following a house and a car.” While on the manufacturers websites, look at their sizing charts. These charts will give you a good indication as to what size frame you will need. The charts below show the bike sizing for TREK’s road bikes as well as Giant’s road bikes. Other charts available will show Mountain Bikes, Triathlon Bikes, Hybrid Bikes and Kids bikes. Some manufacturers will list an actual frame size, others will show sizing in S, M, L, XL.

So, take some time and use the Internet to research different bikes that meet your cycling needs and budget.
At this point, you will know what bike(s) interest you and what size frame the manufacturer recommends.  

Now, onto the LBS. This is where the more information you have, the better chance you will have in getting the best value bike to meet your goals. After your discussion with the salesperson, you should have several bikes shown to you. Note: These bikes should ALL be in the right frame for you.
From here, the salesperson should make a few adjustments to ensure that the saddle and handlebars are set correctly. More often than not, they will install a pair of platform pedals since most customers will just bring tennis shoes. But, it’s OK to bring your own pedals and shoes. For the test ride, you will want both the saddle fore/aft and saddle height adjusted as well as the handlebars. 

For a pre-test ride QUICK-FIT

Saddle Height – Place the right pedal at the 6’oclock position and place your right heel on the pedal. Your right leg should be fully extended but not locked out, while sitting upright and not leaning to the right.

Saddle Fore-Aft – You can eyeball this or bring along a plumb bob. With the crank arms parallel to the ground, place the right crankarm straight forward. Drape the plumb bob over the front of your knee, the string should intersect the front of the crankarm.

Handlebar height – You will want to ride the bike around the parking lot a couple of times to determine if the handlebar height is too low, too high or just right.

The best bike fitters understand human anatomy. Why? 

Human Anatomy deals directly with understanding the different parts of the human body to determine their position, relations, structures and functions. 

Kinesiology takes this further to study the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement.

My daughter is an elite bike racer and has a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. She has a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. This is the ultimate educational background to be the world’s best bike fitter. But, for those of us that don’t have time to dedicate 8 years of our lives to college, what’s the next best thing? 

This was me asking that question several years ago. I looked at taking anatomy and kinesiology in college, but I would have to start with the beginning classes. Since I have a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and math, I could skip the general education classes but still, the way college classes are structured (1-2 classes in your major per semester), I would need to put in 4 years for a kinesiology degree.

Searching for the next best thing, I decided to become a Certified Personal Trainer. There are numerous organizations that provide coursework, testing and certifications. Some of the big names include NASM, NSCA, ISSA, ACSM and ACE. In my opinion, these structured self-study courses really do provide a great background in anatomy and kinesiology. For those that want to gain the deepest understanding, go through these courses with a fine-tooth-comb, the certification should take you 4-6 months of study.
Next, I recommend the following bike fitting courses starting with BIKEFIT.COM. They are great at giving you the best basic instruction for those new to bike fitting. I highly recommend their courses.

Start with the BIKEFIT Foot/Pedal interface online course. After you complete this, take LEVEL 1. If you will be doing TT/Tri fits, then take LEVEL 2, otherwise, you can take a TT/TRI fit course later from any of the others listed below.

1)       On-line (detailed) Foot/Pedal Interface course
2)       LEVEL 1 – Contact Points on Road Bikes
3)      LEVEL 2 – Deeper dive into fitting with TT/Tri/MTB fits
The absolute best place to start
1)       Cycling Analysis Professional
2)      Contact Point Analysis
Instructor for Trek Level 2, Level 3 courses. Cyclologic is IBFI certified. Paraic is also the fitter for the Trek Segafredo UCI World Tour pro cycling team.
1)       Range of Right Fit Pillars
2)      Fitting for Speed (TT/Tri)
Best value is to take these 2 courses together
1)       SICI Personalized
2)       SICI Advanced Fit
3)      Triathlon Fit
For 2018, looks to be 3 classes. More great instruction.


Once you have completed BIKEFIT’s Foot/Pedal course AND their LEVEL 1 course, then take any of the following (in alphabetical order); Cyclologic, GURU or Serotta. All 3 offer more advanced concepts taught with fitting machines such as Purely Custom and Guru Dynamic Fit Unit (DFU).
You will notice that Slow Twitch, Specialized and Trek are missing from this list.
Here are the reasons;
a)      Slow Twitch was left off the list since they are specialists in fitting triathletes. If you look at the educational systems above, TT and Tri fits are covered by Bike Fit, Guru and Serotta. Cyclologic sometimes offers a specific TT fit course but they briefly do go over TT fitting during their normal classroom instruction.
b)      Specialized is left off this list since you need to be a Specialized dealer to be allowed to attend their bike fitting classes.
c)      Trek is left off the list for the same reason as Specialized. The good news is that since Paraic is the bike fitter for the Trek pro cycling team, as well as Trek’s chief instructor, you will get basically the same education taking the Cyclologic classes vs the Trek classes.

So, there you have it. Sign up for anatomy classes and/or look into becoming a Certified Personal Trainer. THEN, start taking your bike fitting classes.

Have fun and I promise, you won’t get bored since there is always something new to learn