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My first bike is coming this Saturday, and I'm wondering if the fitting systems out there are worth the $$$ or not? In the search for my bike, I rode lots and I really bonded with the Cannondale CAAD8 and Six13 frames, at size 56. They just feel great to me, very fast and comfortable too. The Six13's were out of my self-appointed budget, so I was set to order a R1000 or R5000 for MSRP (no discount at all on the bike, but I would have gotten a free computerized fitting and 10% off accessories) at the local Cannondale dealer. Then I saw a brand new 2005 Six13 on the 'bay that I won for about $1,900 in a 56CM frame. I did/do feel bad about not buying local, but for the price I couldn't pass it up.

So now I need to get fitted, but in my search for a bike I visited almost every LBS around here, and some had computerized fitting systems, and some just eyeballed the size of the frame, then were going to watch me ride and make adjustments from there. Old school, I guess.

So here's my long-winded question. Is it worth $150 to spend for a computerized fitting, vs. spending a bunch less to have a seasoned rider/shop owner fitting the bike to me using his experience? Is computerized better? Or is it just a standardized system that allows inexperienced LBS staff to provide a fitting close to what the pro can do by eye?
 

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Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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tuoti said:
So here's my long-winded question. Is it worth $150 to spend for a computerized fitting, vs. spending a bunch less to have a seasoned rider/shop owner fitting the bike to me using his experience? Is computerized better? Or is it just a standardized system that allows inexperienced LBS staff to provide a fitting close to what the pro can do by eye?
I think you may have grasped the idea behind the computerized fitting. Because it's designed to take some of the skill out of the process doesn't necessarily mean it won't work, but in my experience if someone's using a tool to measure you, they need to use it properly or the results aren't any better than eyeballing it.

You can probably get a decent fitting from an experienced fitter who's not using any tools, but it's going to require a lot more patience and skill on their part to get from you what they need to know to make proper recommendations, and to let you ride enough to see what's going on with your position. For example, if they're not really committed to what YOU want, and they're a racer, you might wind up with a much racier fit than you want/need. Or you might wind up with them glancing at you between helping other customers, which isn't much use.

I felt like the initial measuring, flexibility testing and question-and-answer session I got when I went in for a Serotta fitting was a nice balance. Plenty of room for the fitter's experience to show through, but a set format so they were sure to measure what needed measuring and ask the questions that needed to be asked.
 

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Fitting systems, high tech. and low tech.

The "computerized bicycle fitting" you probably saw was the Body Scan CRM. To judge the value of this machine, it is first good to get a good understanding of some of the fundamentals of bike fitting systems.

There are many fitting systems that are based on measuring body dimensions (leg lengths of arms, legs, torso, etc.), including the Genzling system (sometime erroneously referred to as the Hinault or Lemond system), the Fit-Kit (the first commercially marketted fitting system), and the Body Scan CRM is just the latest. Each of these systems attempts to fit the bicycle either by numeric formulas, or by tables of data. In each case, the formulas or data tables are derived emperically - they are derived by measuring a large group of cyclists who are deemed to be well fit well on their bikes, and then the data is averaged.

There is a big caveat to these systems, and that everyone is unique, and everyone has their own unique best fit. That's why none of these systems are guaranteed to give a cyclist a perfect bicycle fit everytime. All these systems can really do is provide a good starting point for a good fit, based on an "average" person of close to the rider's dimensions.

That's where an expert fitter comes in. The real value of a having a fitting done is having an expert fitter observe a cyclist as the ride. A fitter with a good eye will be able to tell what parts of the bicycle should be adjusted to achieve that cyclist's own unique fit. They will be able to see how a specific rider's joint flexibility, musculature, weight balance, etc. affects how a rider is fit to a bicycle, and be able to make the necessary adjustments. An expert fitter might use one or a combination of several of the "standard" fit systems to find the starting point, but will base the final fitting on their own experience and feedback from the cyclist (both from how the rider says they feel, and observations of the cyclist while they pedal). That's why an expert fitter will always set the cyclists up on a trainer and watch them as they ride, before setting the final adjustments.

I'm of the opinion that the Body Scanning CRM might be a handy tool to measure the a cyclists body dimensions, but that it's main use to the bike shop is provide an impressive looking high-tech gadget, to attempt to make the cyclist believe that getting a fitting done with the machine is worth a high price. But in reality, the value of the fitting is not in the techno-wizardry of the initial measurements, but in the quality and experience of the skilled individual providing the final fitting. Most of the cost of a Body Scanning CRM fitting is probably just for the shop to pay back their investment in the machine.

So, before you plunk down some money for a fitting, I recommend that you ask around and get some feedback on the expertise and skill of the fitters at the shops that offer bike fitting. An expert bike fitter with some rudimentary measuring tools will provide a better fit than the latest high-tech computerized gadget operated by an inexperenced fitter.
 

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You're Not the Boss of Me
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Well, you've already bought your bike. Most pricey fitting are designed to evaluate PRIOR to purchase... everything from STA, HTA, fork rake, TT length, ST length, stem and cranks, yadda yadda.

No need to spend that dough after you've already bought the bike. Any reasonable fitter can help you get your saddle height and fore/aft right and evaluate your stem length and angle at this point.
 

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Maybe look at it this way -

How likely are you to spend $150 on the wrong stems, seatposts, bars, and crankarms as you attempt to get things dialed in?

Keep in mind too, that fit isn't a permanent thing. As you get more fit/flexible, you may want something different, as you get older, something different still.
 

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Whether it's a fit done with tape measures, levels, and yardsticks, or a fit done with computers, the most important component in the process is the person doing the fitting. Computers, tape measures, and etc. are just tools and can be wielded correctly or badly.

FWIW, whether a fit is worth $150 to someone depends on what that someone wants out of the fit. A person may not need all the bells and whistles in a fitting if it's their first fit, first bike, etc. At the same time, if a person has been having issues on the bike that persist despite their best efforts at finding a solution.....well, then that person just might benefit from a long, detailed fit analysis.
 

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tuoti said:
My first bike is coming this Saturday, and I'm wondering if the fitting systems out there are worth the $$$ or not? In the search for my bike, I rode lots and I really bonded with the Cannondale CAAD8 and Six13 frames, at size 56. They just feel great to me, very fast and comfortable too. The Six13's were out of my self-appointed budget, so I was set to order a R1000 or R5000 for MSRP (no discount at all on the bike, but I would have gotten a free computerized fitting and 10% off accessories) at the local Cannondale dealer. Then I saw a brand new 2005 Six13 on the 'bay that I won for about $1,900 in a 56CM frame. I did/do feel bad about not buying local, but for the price I couldn't pass it up.

So now I need to get fitted, but in my search for a bike I visited almost every LBS around here, and some had computerized fitting systems, and some just eyeballed the size of the frame, then were going to watch me ride and make adjustments from there. Old school, I guess.

So here's my long-winded question. Is it worth $150 to spend for a computerized fitting, vs. spending a bunch less to have a seasoned rider/shop owner fitting the bike to me using his experience? Is computerized better? Or is it just a standardized system that allows inexperienced LBS staff to provide a fitting close to what the pro can do by eye?

I agree with most. It's the skill of the guy doing that makes it worth spending money on. Don't know if any of your local clubs have websites or mssg boards but that might be a good place to ask if there's anyone local with a good reputation. Some good fit guys here in NYC don't even work out of a shop.

I did my fit myself by doing some research. You already have the frame. Figuring out seat position, handlebar position, crank length and cleat position are all that remain. After a fitting, there's a good chance you'll moving stuff around anyway.

Listen to your body!
 

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Scary Teddy Bear
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If

Sintesi said:
I agree with most. It's the skill of the guy doing that makes it worth spending money on. Don't know if any of your local clubs have websites or mssg boards but that might be a good place to ask if there's anyone local with a good reputation. Some good fit guys here in NYC don't even work out of a shop.

I did my fit myself by doing some research. You already have the frame. Figuring out seat position, handlebar position, crank length and cleat position are all that remain. After a fitting, there's a good chance you'll moving stuff around anyway.

Listen to your body!

you are interested in getting some preliminary data, www.wrenchscience.com has a pretty neat fit computer on it, keep in mind though, that this WILL NOT take the place of an expert fitting. I agree with JTolleson, this is something you maybe should have done PRIOR to buying the bike, but it may help you tweak it just right I guess.
 

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physasst said:
you are interested in getting some preliminary data, www.wrenchscience.com has a pretty neat fit computer on it, keep in mind though, that this WILL NOT take the place of an expert fitting. I agree with JTolleson, this is something you maybe should have done PRIOR to buying the bike, but it may help you tweak it just right I guess.
Be wary of what Wrench Science comes up with. Their "formula" is based on some generaliztions, that like any generalization, can't be true all the time. I ran my measurements through their calculator, and they came up with numbers that weren't at all like what I'm using.

Again, fits are great places to start and can be even better if you're having an issue that just doesn't want to resolve. For a first fit, things like Wrench Science's calculator might get you in the ballpark. If you have issues, however, Wrench Science's calculator will do you no good.
 
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