Disparity Among Bike Fitters

author : FitWerx
comments : 0

Member Question from Gregkl

"I am having a hard time finding someone to fit me to my road bike for the purpose of riding it during IMWI this year.  I just don't have confidence in area fitters yet. Some don't understand that when I say I cannot buy a tri bike this year, that means I cannot buy a tri bike this year.  Would it work if I used one of my free airline tickets, flew out there, and had you fit me without having my bike with me?  Would I be able to come back, adjust my bike based on the fit and then have the data to begin to shop for a tri bike for 2011? 

Or how can I get some confidence in area fitters?  Comprehensive fits run from $200-$300 and they all seem to have different opinions on what works and what doesn't.  One says use a FF seat post, the other says no.  One says no aerobars on the road bike, some say Jammers are okay, some say they are not.  I don't want to spend that kind of money plus the parts only to find out that my bike handling is so compromised that I ride slower!  How is it that fitters who use the same systems come up with different fits for the same person?  I want to be comfortable first, faster second, and more aero third."

Answer by Dean Phillips
Lead Fitter FitWerx

With more and more bike shops offering fitting services, it can be a challenge to find experienced bike fitters who understand the needs of a triathlete. I can’t stress enough to ask around – ask local triathletes, triathlon clubs, and even triathlon coaches in your area for recommendations.

If there aren’t any solid recommendations, then you’ll need to investigate the options on your own. Visiting a shop in person is great because you get a chance to meet the staff, see the fit area, and have all of your questions answered. If you walk in and a triathlon fitting is in process with another customer, then you know you’re off to a good start. If you can’t visit shops in person then call and ask questions on the phone. There are plenty of good questions to ask, such as:

Can you describe your fitting process?
How often do you fit triathletes with aerobars?
What makes a triathlon position different than a road position?
How long should I expect the fitting process to take?


The dialogue from answering a few of these questions should provide you with a good impression of their triathlon fitting capabilities.  

If you run into conflicting opinions on whether or not you should be using aerobars on a road bike, a forward seatpost, or need a tri bike, I recommend focusing on why they recommend these options and why they don’t. A good fitter should be able to explain the differences and benefits of each of these options in a way that allows you to make an informed decision as to whether or not you need them. We talked about this area recently in this article but let’s take a closer look at the options you mention.

Forward Seatpost - Ask the fitter who is against the forward seatpost to explain the pros and cons of using one. Assuming the rest of the tri position is done properly, the only real downside is the impact on the bike’s handling since more weight is on the front wheel. The upside is the improved aerodynamics, speed, and comfort described in the answer linked above. A good fitter should be able to explain the pros and cons of this choice and allow you to make an informed decision based on your needs and race goals. The best answer may be different from one triathlete to another.

Aerobars - Ask the fitter against clipping on aerobars the same thing. A good explanation of their benefits and potential compromises should allow you to decide if they’re a good equipment choice given your needs and goals.

While many fitters may share the same certifications or fitting systems, this does not mean they’ll do things the same way or have anywhere near the same experience. This is where I’d base your decision on a fitter’s reputation and recommendations from others in the area. A fitter may have gone to a 1-2 day fitting school, but I’m more concerned with what they do every other day of the year. A bike shop may have a shiny motorized fitting bike with lasers, but the more important question is how often they use it and whether or not they understand needs of triathletes.

Comfort and power should always come first. An aerodynamic position isn’t going to be beneficial if you’re not able to ride in it. However; a good bike fitter will be able to position you in aerobars without compromising either comfort or power.

Should you travel to see us?

We’ve been fortunate to have cyclists and triathletes from all over the world travel to see us for bike fittings. When you consider the amount of time you dedicate to cycling and triathlon training, traveling to see a reputable bike fitter can make a lot of sense. This is especially true if you don’t have access to a reputable fitter nearby.

Your position on the bike is far more important than the bike itself or any components attached to it. If you chose to travel to see us for a fitting, you wouldn’t need your existing bike with you. We don’t restrict ourselves with the existing bike position during the fitting. We’ll take some baseline measurements from it for your starting position, but this rarely impacts your final position.

Once the interview and full body assessment are completed, we perform the fitting on a dynamic size cycle that allows for maximum adjustability. It allows us to dial in your most powerful, comfortable, and aerodynamic position without restricting ourselves with the geometry and components on your existing bike. When your ideal triathlon position is optimized, we then record the coordinates of the position in a template and then return to your existing bike and see what needs to be changed or adjusted to match you up to your ideal position from the fitting. Sometimes it’s as simple as adjusting a saddle position and installing the aerobars in the right place, while other times it requires more component changes such as a different stem or aerobars. While we make all these changes to your existing bike during the fitting, you can also take the measurements back home and make the adjustments and any component changes yourself. We can typically give you a good idea of what components you’ll need as long as we know the model and size of your existing bike. We’d then have your ideal position geometry from your fitting in the case you wanted to consider tri bike options in 2011 or beyond. A return visit wouldn’t be required in this case as your new tri bike would be built to match your ideal position and then shipped to you.

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date: March 9, 2010

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FitWerx

Fit Werx offers the most scientific and complete bicycle fitting services in New England, the Northeast and beyond. Regardless of where you are from (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Australia, Macau...) a Fit Werx' bike fit is guaranteed to be worth the trip.

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avatarFitWerx

Fit Werx offers the most scientific and complete bicycle fitting services in New England, the Northeast and beyond. Regardless of where you are from (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Australia, Macau...) a Fit Werx' bike fit is guaranteed to be worth the trip.

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