I got an e-mail from a blog reader recently about his experience with a bike fit. I want to say up front that this guy has a really good perspective on the whole thing and that our exchange was very beneficial. However, he did bring up some good points about a bike fit that I had not really thought about before.
He basically pointed out how, during the process of the bike fit, he was told that his knees caved in with each pedal stroke and his pelvis was rotated forward. Through the use of arch supports, shims and some other adjustments this problem was “fixed” and his legs now move much more efficiently, which resulted in more power and comfort while riding (I also need to point out that this was mostly on his road bike).
This got me thinking about how the problems were not really “fixed” and how a bike fit may actually be masking your real problems and setting you up for more pain down the road. Here is my take on bike fittings…
It really depends on how much you are in the saddle. A bike fit centers around you being in the seated position and as soon as you stand up the “fit” goes out the window. I know that stem length and bike size play a role and those things will stay the same but the majority of a fit centers on the getting you butt in the right position when seated.
So, if you are a roadie it is critical. If you are a mountain biker that tends to sit a lot then it is beneficial as well. However, for a rider who tends to stand a lot (around here the trails are really technical and you have to stand up a lot) a fit is not nearly as valuable.
Personally, I think most riders tend to sit too much (and the skills coaches I have spoken with agree) so while it is valuable, it is more valuable for some riders and less valuable for others.
Now, I also have to point out that all of the problems that were solved with your fit could also be fixed with corrective strength training. Your knees caving in is not from a bad fit, it is from your glute medias not firing properly which causes your femur to internally rotate and cause your knees to cave in. What happened was that the fit, shims and sole inserts masked that functional movement issue, not cure your pedaling problems. Yes, you are now pedaling in a more efficient position but I can guarantee you that some sort of problem will pop up down the road because you did not really fix the true problem, you put a patch on it.
However, that is the common approach to movement issues because most people do not understand movement or how to fix it. Those issues you identified in your fitting don’t just exist on your bike – they exist in everything you do. The bike fit helped you on the bike but what about all of the stuff you do off of it? Every time you run, jump, walk, bend down to pick something up or any one of a thousand other things those same issues are there and causing problems.
So, as you can see I am not anti-bike fit but I do think that it tends to get overplayed for mountain bikers (since they should be standing more on the trail) and that it masks problems instead of really solving the underlying issues. I want people to be better riders but I also want them to be better, more pain free human beings off the bike. The mobility and corrective type stuff I recommend will help you actually fix the problem.
Let me know what your thoughts are…