So my blog post on bike fits certainly caused some controversy, which is exactly what I wanted it to do. Being forced to critically think about your position on something instead of just going with it because it is how it has always been done is vital to the growth of a sport.
However, as always the internet is a double edged sword. While it allows me to get thought provoking views on mountain bike training into the conversation, it is very easy to misinterpret what I write. In this case, I think that I need to clarify what I mean by a “bike fit”.
When I hear the term “bike fit” I think of a situation where someone has you sit on your bike (key word being sit) and then proceeds to use everything from their eyeballs to lasers to determine your optimal seated pedaling position. Your seat height, stem length/ rise, handlebars and, in some cases, frame size are all manipulated to get you into the best position possible when sitting down and pedaling.
This same process is used to alleviate pain in the knees, hips, low back, shoulders and neck. I think that this is a pretty well understood definition for the term “bike fit” within the bike industry. While I can respect your personal definition of a “bike fit” for the sake of the discussion we need to establish exactly what we mean.
What a lot of people were referring to in the comments to the post is not a bike fit but simply getting a bike that fits. There is a huge difference between the two – getting a bike that fits simply means getting the right frame size and general stem length so that you are comfortable on the bike. This could also mean optimizing the bike’s set up – like putting a shorter stem on to optimize steering and descending position.
We all need a bike that fits but not everyone needs a “bike fit”. However, I know that a lot of riders are being sold on the value of one, both as a performance enhancer and way to address pain from riding.
I have had countless riders who possessed glaring movement dysfunctions ask me if I thought a bike fit – as defined above – would help them out and this tells me that there is a disconnect in the perceived and actual value of a bike fit. The elephant in the corner of the room for most riders is that they simply can’t move well from poor mobility and strength.
So, if you think that a longer stem feels better then fine, however if you are being told that you need one to optimize your pedaling position based on some sort of bike fit then perhaps you need to think about a few things before you blindly follow that advice. Hopefully this clears up some of the confusion as I think that some people thought I meant that you don’t need any thought put into your position in the bike when that is not the case.