Road Bike, Cycling Forums banner

Choosing A Bike Fitter

3629 Views 45 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  One Wheel
I'm planning to buy a "forever" or "last" bike in the next year or so, I'm thinking it's worth getting a fit to make sure I buy the right size bike. A quick Google search shows several places within a few hours drive with a variety of services and price points, but I don't know what to look for.

1. Generally what should I look for when picking somebody to do a bike fit?

2. Specifically, I'm located about 2 hours drive west of Madison, WI. Is there anybody you would recommend roughly in the radius of Madison-Dubuque, IA-Rochester, MN?
1 - 17 of 46 Posts
how about just try some bikes that are different sizes and chose what you like? especially as you get older youre going change what will fit you comfortably.
I'm a little hesitant to do that because the frame I've ridden for the last 2 years is obviously too big for me (5'9", 60cm frame) but until I had ridden for about 2 hours in a single ride I could have told you with complete sincerity that it fit me just fine. I've done several 3+ hour rides, and one 8+ hour, and I can now say confidently that it's the wrong size. I could probably pick up quicker on those clues now, but I don't know how quickly.
A couple basic "rules of thumb" that I use when trying out a new bike; Start with the right frame size, or something close. I'm 5'11" and a 56mm or 58mm frame works for me (I have both), as well as 170 or 172.5 crankarms (I also have both, in addition to a fixie with 165 cranks, but that was originally set up for track use). Set the saddle at mid-height and mid-forward/aft position. Then knees should be slightly bent with pedals at 6:00, sight-line of the handlebar should line up with front axle when riding on the hoods with arms slightly bent. Make adjustments to the saddle height as necessary, but not to the extent that it is at an extreme position. You want to be able to make further adjustments if needed.
As detailed above, I'm not confident in my ability to get close. If I was planning to buy a $1,000 bike I would agree that it's not worth spending money on a professional fit, but I'm hoping to spend closer to $4,000 including a frame that's worth upgrading in the future. A few hundred dollars extra to get a frame that's exactly what I need right now with room for future adjustment seems like a worthwhile investment.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
You could go to 5 different 'bike fitters' and end up with 5 distinctly different set-ups. You need to find someone that understands then type of riding you plan on doing and is comfortable doing fittings for that. Some fitters are very caught up in 'racing' fits and will set up most of their clients in a similar way. I worked with a guy for years that thought every custom frame he did a fitting for needed a head tube extension. I'm surprised that the frame builders would actually make some of these frames. Ask around when you're riding w/ groups, see what others have to say about this. And of course ignore lowrider's advice. If you knew what you wanted you'd just buy it or have it made.
I don't even know what questions to ask of bike fitters. My local shop is run by mountain bikers who are skeptical of the value of a professional fit. I'm in a rural area, and busy every morning and evening. All of my group experience is getting friends of mine to ride midday. The one guy I've ridden with who strongly recommended a fit did his several years ago when he lived in California, and it's not worth a ~4,000 mile round trip to his fitter.

I mostly ride 1-3 hours at a time with occasional longer rides. I like riding pavement, and have quite a lot of nice rural roads to ride, an I hope to get a bike that is capable of venturing onto some of the local gravel roads as well. I like going fast and wouldn't mind trying my hand at some racing, but at 35 and with the natural athletic talent of a pineapple I won't be racing to win. Local hills are mostly in the 2-400' vertical x 0.5-3 mile horizontal range: some punchy climbs, and enough going down that I sometimes spin out in my current top 53x11 gear.

So what kind of riding is that? And barring finding somebody who knows somebody, how do I find somebody who can help me with that as opposed to somebody who just says they can help me?

Sorry for the dumb questions, I'm genuinely a bit confused.
See less See more
Being in a rural area certainly limits the number of bike shops you can go to for advice. Not sure what the answer is if you don't have time to travel.
I've found a handful of fitters within what I would consider driving distance, nobody close enough I want to drive there just to say hi:

What Lombard said...where are you? I might know someone that's reasonably close to you. And spinning out 53/11? Really? At 120 rpm, which should not be considered 'spun out' that's over 45mph.
SW Wisconsin, between LaCrosse and Prairie du Chien, closer to Prairie. I don't spin out every ride, but most rides I'll hit 40 mph at some point. My record is I think 54.6 mph. I'm usually most comfortable at a slower cadence: 70-80 rpm. 110-120 is about as fast as I can comfortably go. I think running flat pedals may be conducive to a slower cadence?
what specifically you feel isnt a good fit between you and the 60cm frame? too long when seated? too long when standing? top tube too high and you wish it would disappear?!:unsure:

i had a 60 something frame i really liked but it was an old steel pearl olmo with an 80s style short quil stem. it wasnt long. other than having no standover clearance it was nice. turbo saddle.
To long seated, mostly. I notice on the smaller (54) frame I'm also closer to the ground and therefore more confident on rougher surfaces.
what do you mean closer to the ground?

what are the rough surfaces you'd ride?
I think most of "closer to the ground" is a lower seat tube angle. On the larger frame I also had my handlebars set higher than my seat.

Rough surfaces would be light gravel.
Simply be aware that above roughly 35 mph, you can go just as fast in a tight tuck as you can when pedaling. In a tight tuck you cut your aero drag by a third, and that means that you pedaling position requires a lot more power at these high speeds. Unless you are a really gifted rider, that 53/11 is surplus to requirements.
35 mph in still wind is 55 mph with a 20 mph tailwind, except 55 requires higher gearing. I'm not above sniping a good tailwind to win a local downhill Strava segment or two.
And at 150 rpm that would be over 58 mph.
Call me weak, or stiff, or whatever you like: 150 rpm is just not happening for me. I know that my highest gear right now is 53x11 and my lowest gear is 30x28. Wishing that I had a wider range is rare, and equally common on both the high and low end. I've ridden most of the paved roads within 20 miles of where I live, and covered around 2,500 miles on my current groupset. I obviously could be wrong, but at this point I'm reasonably confident that I wouldn't be happy with a significantly lower top end gear ratio.
55mph on the bike? No thank you. 40mph is as fast as I care to go and that's only on roads I know very well, otherwise no more than around 30. 50/11 works fine for me.

Downhill Strava segments don't impress me. What impresses me are uphill segments.
Uphill segments are undeniably more impressive than downhill, but I'm still working on reducing my advantage on downhill segments, so I'll take what I can get.
Very well. For me though, 55 is just crazy. Go down at that speed and I won't be cycling another day.
There's only a handful of freshly paved rural roads without sharp corners that I'll try it on.
It may be worth mentioning that I'm hoping to buy parts and build the bike myself. I'll probably either buy a frame online or buy one that my local (non-fitting) shop has in stock. I may buy the rest of the parts from one shop, or I may shop around. It's easy to compare measurements to a fit sheet, but much more difficult to test ride a bike online. And it certainly wouldn't be reasonable to expect a bike fit to be included in the price of some random parts.
So far I've emailed 2 fitters about 2 hours drive from me asking for help deciding between a standard size frame or custom geometry. Maybe I'm just asking wrong, but so far I've gotten a grand total of zero emails in response. I have lots of one-sided conversations, and while they're great for assimilating information that I already know I've noticed a distinct lack of new information learned from those conversations.
FWIW, when I Google bike fitter in my area, I only get bike shops. I think finding someone who is exclusively a bike fitter and not a retailer would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
One of the two I've emailed, who never got back to me, looks to be primarily in the fitting business ( That seems to be the most promising option at this point.
Well, I guess the search starts with phone calls and face to face communication.
What is offered, what is needed and do the two gel? Maybe a chance to stop in the shop during someones fitting,
One of the few downsides to living in a rural area. A casual drop in would require 3 1/2-4 hours of driving, so I don't think that's going to happen.
Phone call.

But 1st read and watch videos. Google is your friend. There's plenty on the interwebs posted by pro fitters, read all you can find. Watch their videos.

2nd, play with the different positions on your current bike. Seat up and down, fore and aft. Raise and lower handlebars/stem. Cheap stems of different lengths longer & shorter, depending what feels right.
Ride bike on trainer in front of mirror and with partner watching. Change what feels like changing or what looks "wrong" and ride some more. Ride on the road, how do the changes stack up? Repeat.

When everything feels good then call and talk with fitters, get a feel for their take and decide if you want to take the drive.

Or, take your measurements and and transcribe them to the geometry charts of the bikes that catch your eye. What frame size of the brands that you're considering can match your measurements with a stem length and seat post extension that suits you.

If you can find what works on a too small or large frame those numbers can be transcribed to the correct size frame.
I play with all that this summer. I've done a fair bit of watching and reading. I don't have a trainer, the best I've got is a spot I can prop my phone up and ride by:
1 - 17 of 46 Posts