Bike fits are an interesting topic in mountain biking. Born in the world of road riding, bike fits promise to fix aches and pains while also improving your power and efficiency. Some riders will spend thousands on getting things dialed in to the millimeter and we’ve all run across that guy who gets super pissed if you change his seat post position while trying to cram his bike onto the rack, claiming that we’ve just ruined his pedal stroke and knees.
However, despite all of this most mountain bikers don’t invest in a bike fit and are left wondering if they are missing out by not doing so. I recently got this question from a rider asking my thoughts about the value of a bike fit for mountain biking…
Q: Now and then I’m wondering whether I should invest in a qualified bike fit. To me there are three more or less coupled aspects of bike fitting/adjustment:
- Prevent injuries
- Power output
- Bike handling
My own bike adjustment approach is (probably very natural) to start out with the most basic things such as saddle height and determining whether the stem should be in a positive or negative angle. Here the focus is probably mostly on Power Output and Injury Prevention.
When the basic things are settled the fine tuning takes over. The fine tuning is characterized by smaller adjustments such as removing or adding spacers under the stem and moving the saddle back or forth and adjusting the saddle angle.
Because these adjustments are small it can be difficult to evaluate right away their long-termed impacts on 1. and 2. So, when it comes to fine tuning I feel left over to base my judgement on the immediately impression of 3. and “how it feels”.
What is your opinion? Do any one of you have experiences with bike fitting, why did you chose it, and what difference did it make?
A: I personally don’t think that bike fits have much to offer your average mountain biker for 3 main reasons…
1 – They tend to be used as a band-aid for bad movement. Unless you have a clean Functional Movement Screen then you would be better served fixing how you move, not trying to adjust things to the millimeter to compensate for it.
2 – Bike fits only work if you are sitting down and pedaling and since a lot of trail riding isn’t about pedaling and you have to stand up a lot more than a roadie (or at least you should be) then the benefits of a bike fit quickly become less relevant on the trail.
3 – You need to focus on Bike Handling first and then worry about the other things. In reality your #1 reason – Injury Prevention – has far more to do with what you do off the bike than your bike fit anyways and Power Output has more to do with how your body is creating the pedal stroke than the exact position you are sitting in. Also, on the trail if you compromise handling through things like a longer stem for an improved “power output position” you’ll waste so much energy through bad movement on the trail that it won’t matter.
Here is an article and a really informative podcast I did with one of the top bike fit guys in the world Greg Choat:
In my opinion bike fits may have some benefit for some riders but you would be better served simply getting a bike that fits, is set up to handle well for the type of trails you ride, improving your skills and focusing on your mobility and strength off the bike.