Bike Fitting Loosing Popularity?

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mellowJohnny
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by mellowJohnny

Had an interesting talk with the GM of my LBS this week. We started off talking about saddles, and how they tend to not carry much in terms of breadth and depth these days, because they don't sell many "after market" saddles.

He attributed it to his observation that bike fitting seems to have died down in popularity, postulating that a lot of guys have dropped $300 on Retul etc, didn't see a significant change, and so figured it's was a waste of time. For the record the LBS is a Specialized dealer and are trained in the BG Fit or whatever they call it. The GM is actually quite a good fitter.

I told him for me getting fit right requires the same kind of approach as F1 - the team needs the right tools to make the car fast, but equally the driver needs to be able to tell the engineers what's wrong, what he's feeling. For me that means not taking everything at face value, and listening to what my body says is wrong, regardless of what an "expert" fitter tells me. It's a good place to start, but ultimately the final fit rests with me. And I think most fitters will tell you that...

Thoughts? Do you find fewer riders getting fits done / talking about it? And if so, why do think? It seemed for a while every magazine I picked up was doing multi-page spreads on bike fitting, and now, nothing.

antonioiglesius
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by antonioiglesius

"don't seem to sell many 'after market' saddles"
This could be due to the fact that people tend to buy online these days, where there's a wider selection and potentially lower cost.

It is strange that a decrease in saddle sale is attributed to a decrease in fitting popularity, it's as if the saddles are sold only during the fit process.

On a related note, I had fittings before where the fitter refused to do anything about saddles that aren't sold at the store. That left an ugly taste. The bike fit wasn't stellar either, I reverted soon after the session. I basically wasted money and time.

There was a post from a supposedly experienced fitter here on the forum a while ago, where basically he said bike fitting is a trial and error process, much like finding saddles. My response was that if I'm not happy with a saddle, I can resell it to recoup some of the cost, but the bike fitters won't provide a refund. What really ticked me off was that he said he didn't know what the optimal fit was at all. In that case, I'd much rather do the trial and error myself, which I indeed do today.

I would summarize my experience with fitters so far as deep disappointment. It's a class of 'professionals' which seem to be redundant. I still think though that there are good ones out there, but most are terrible and not worth going to. I just don't know who the good ones are.

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kgt
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by kgt

Many LBS offer fitting services but very few (like 1 out of 10) know what they are doing.
Nowadays fitting has just become a part of the marketing and a way to charge a few dozens of euros or dollars more to the new or unexperienced buyer.

Considering the saddles I see more and more new models with a central cutout/relief and I think this goes to the right direction.
Last edited by kgt on Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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tymon_tm
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by tymon_tm

I have yet to meet a good bike fitter who actually knows what he's doing and puts my needs on the pedestal. I've been fitted three times, and every time I switched back to "my" position, because the assumptions fitters made (like: if you're not flexy enough, raise your bars) were contrary to my experience and frankly speaking they just didn't work. at all.

I wouldn't agree bike fitting is getting less popular though. from what I gather, those who start riding, or start riding more seriously, tend to ask for fitting. I don't know how things are elsewhere, but in my neck of the woods roadies spread like germs lol. but those who have some years of experience will often tell you bike fitter doesn't know your body and how to turn it's responses (provided you communicate them well) into position change. like said above, it's a game of guessing, and as long as you don't have a clue what you need or have a problem you've no clue how to cope with, experimenting might be the way to go. for the rest of us, who are rather healthy and have some proper mileage behind them, I don't believe there's that much a LBS fitter can do.
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ms6073
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by ms6073

tymon_tm wrote:I have yet to meet a good bike fitter who actually knows what he's doing and puts my needs on the pedestal.

I know a couple 'professional' fitters and have always been curious how they expect to flesh out all the details from measurements and a few minutes on the trainer. From my perspective, you want to figure out a riders fit, you actually need to go ride with them to see what happens over time as the rider fatigues and the terrain rolls up and down.
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tymon_tm
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by tymon_tm

yup, things look and feel so very different on a turbo trainer than out there on the road. the way your palms shift over thea bars or butt over the saddle is impossible to see indoors. I remember one guy tried to ask me 'how you sit in headwind' or 'how you like to keep your hands on uphills' but that's just impossible to reproduce on a turbo.
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Lelandjt
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by Lelandjt

That would be a good trend in my opinion. When I sell a bike I set everything up in a "neutral" position, explain to the customer how to make adjustments, and encourage them to play with different settings out on the road. I think you gotta try different positions to find out what works for you and listen to your body. I've seen some really awkward positions that people refuse to modify because they paid $300 to get there. My coworkers and I used to chuckle at the bike fitting stat sheets renters would email before their arrival. Without fail the more detailed their fitting requests the more out of shape and generally slower looking they were when they arrived. The really good riders would just take the bike and spin around in the parking lot for a few minutes while making tweeks.

Johnny Rad
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by Johnny Rad

Another thought. Those that are better at fitting are still busy based on their reputation.

My $.02

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by RyanH

With the last three bikes I had, I came to appreciate how your fit on the bike affects your experience while riding. The Crumpton went from feeling like it was handling like a Barge in corners to pretty good solely because my balance on the bike was off. I've had quite a few fits and not a single one of them inspected my balance on the bike. I think it was Steve Hoggs that starts there before adjusting other things.
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grover
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by grover

I'm a Physiotherapist with access to and training in the Retul system. The Retul system is a great tool to get new cyclists in the ballpark or to provide some objective data to support what you're doing and provide a baseline for future change. I think the biggest factor in getting someone comfortable is my ability to assess their body properly, communicate with them and link their needs and feelings to their bodies limitations. That level of sensitivity can't be done by a fitting tool.

Fitting is not a one size fits all, set and forget process. To really dial it in there will be a trial period, then it's my job to communicate again and tease out what needs changing. To be honest, bike fitting is not a good money maker for me because the post fit discussions/email chains/reviews that are included in the cost can become time consuming. I'd be better off financially not offering bike fits, but there's a little bit of me that enjoys geeking out with it. There's a sense of satisfaction when you're responsible for making that newbie enjoy riding their new bike for the first time, or help that developing junior get a little more efficient and move up a category.

The set and forget bike shop fit misses the underlying understanding of body integrating with machine and the education to the rider that goes along with this. I believe the rider is the most sensitive fitting tool I've got. My job is to educate the rider to allow them to start having independent thought on the matter. I can then consult with them to make the changes that a tool can't pick up.

Unfortunately there's no regulation on who can call themselves a bike fitter. So the consumer is just guessing and doesn't have a regulatory body to go to if they're not happy with the service.

Many experienced riders have this knowledge (a high percentage of them represented on this forum) and so paying for a bike fit often isn't a good investment. If a riding buddy who's been riding for years asks me about getting on the Retul system I'm happy to do it. But most of the time we can subjectively tease out the issues and make any changes without it. In that case it's often more of a psychological boost to the athlete to see the numbers are right on a screen (or not right according to Retul range but we can explain why we chose that, not everyone fits a bell curve).

These riders (most on this forum) probably don't need a Retul fit. They need someone to make changes for efficiency using power, heart rate, blood lactate data or a wind tunnel. But that's even more $$$ and fancy wheels look way better! At some point you just need to ride your bike.

My business is still at capacity despite it not being talked about in magazines and cycling media websites.

But I digress. My opinion on saddles is that a lot of saddles work for a lot of people. You just have to get them in the right spot at the right angle. Some people swear by a certain saddle so will use it on all their bikes. That's fine and I think the biggest advantage to that is the ability to manually measure your position and reproduce from one bike to the other.

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Tinea Pedis
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by Tinea Pedis

The saddle point is an interesting one. I've done bike fits in the past and while I feel I was proficient, I was certainly no expert. That said, I am still at a total loss to explain how I have twice now had a saddle go from feeling fine - and able to ride/race for hours on end - to 50km leaving me in agony. First San Marco Regal then, most recently, the Prologo Scratch. Both I swore by, now neither of which are tolerated by my backside.

Result was me twice looking for an aftermarket saddle. My gf just bought an 'aftermarket' saddle. And barely anyone I know rides the (typically Fizik) saddle that comes with a bike they buy new. So maybe his opinion is shaped by his experiences. For me, Spec Power and Pro Stealth are popping up everywhere. So it seems like aftermarket saddle sales are anything but dead.

antonioiglesius
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by antonioiglesius

grover wrote:Unfortunately there's no regulation on who can call themselves a bike fitter. So the consumer is just guessing and doesn't have a regulatory body to go to if they're not happy with the service.


I think this is the crucial bit: there is no accountability.

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silvalis
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by silvalis

Tinea Pedis wrote:The saddle point is an interesting one. I've done bike fits in the past and while I feel I was proficient, I was certainly no expert. That said, I am still at a total loss to explain how I have twice now had a saddle go from feeling fine - and able to ride/race for hours on end - to 50km leaving me in agony. First San Marco Regal then, most recently, the Prologo Scratch. Both I swore by, now neither of which are tolerated by my backside.

Result was me twice looking for an aftermarket saddle. My gf just bought an 'aftermarket' saddle. And barely anyone I know rides the (typically Fizik) saddle that comes with a bike they buy new. So maybe his opinion is shaped by his experiences. For me, Spec Power and Pro Stealth are popping up everywhere. So it seems like aftermarket saddle sales are anything but dead.


I had a saddle do that to me (charge spoon). Apparently quite common with that saddle, the internet assumes due to wear (a week of break in, then great for a few thousand km, then the padding collapses or something). Perhaps the same thing on yours?

I still see a lot of fizik aliantes around that came stock on a lot of bikes. Still popular.
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Johnny Rad
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by Johnny Rad

grover wrote:I'm a Physiotherapist...

Thx for sharing your perspective. Very informative.

I applaud your sincere customer service and am sure your customers do, too.

Ghost234
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by Ghost234

I've worked in the industry for the last 8 years. My shop sells high end bikes ($2000+) only and I have done well over 500 fits during my employment. I have fit several pros, a double world champion and multiple masters national champions.

For the most part, the bike fit industry has way too much BS. They sell you on the idea that there is an optimal fit for everyone, but bike fits are like fitting a suit, there is no "perfect fit" but rather a spectrum, and subject to the fitters opinion. Fits also are something that change over time as our bodies do change with age, fitness, and other changes. I've had people love a certain fit for years only to complain that they are in sudden absolute agony and can't explain why.

Fit systems like retul are a good system at figuring out the general spectrum for a fit, but by no means is it gospel. My thinking has always been that a fit is not some "one time" thing, but rather a process. We do a tweak, you ride for a bit and provide feedback and we make further changes. You can never truly tell if a fit is effective until you've spent a few hours in the saddle. I know I've felt great spinning around the block to hating life 100km in.

But I do think a lot of people now are starting to realize that to a certain extent you can tweak certain things and have fantastic results. Plus, a lot of shops are much more educated on how to do a good general fit, that is more than good enough for 90% of the riders out there. As far as saddles go, at least in my shop, people are starting to identify particular ones and always ask for that. We don't bring in a spectrum anymore but rather 4-5 models because nobody seems to want something their buddy doesn't ride.

by Weenie


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