Modern road bicycles have evolved over the years to be as efficient as possible. Most of the innovation has come as a result of racing. Technology has steadily improved, and the biggest innovations over the last 30 years have been integrated shifters on the bars, and clipless pedals. I think that electronic gearing and carbon fiber frames are the other big changes. As a result of these changes, particularly clipless pedals, riders are connected to their bikes. Because of this, things like seat height, stem length, bar adjustments and cleat placement are vital to ensuring a comfortable, pain free ride. The way to get these things right is a bike fit.
Before these innovations, bike fitting could be done using the TLAR (That Looks About Right) method. If the frame didn’t leave you looking stretched out or cramped, and you had sufficient clearance of the top bar and your seat height didn’t cramp your pedaling or completely straighten your leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and your seat was in a good position and not pushed too far forward or back, a fit was accomplished. While this is still a starting place, bike fitting has advanced a great deal.
When I was growing up, if we wanted to be connected to the pedals, we used toe clips and straps. These limited foot movement, making your pedaling more efficient, but didn’t entirely prevent foot motion. Platform pedals allowed your feet to find their place even more easily, but they weren’t as efficient as having a good connection to your pedals. Now, we are connected to the bike with a device like a ski binding, Placement of cleats is a science. If your cleats aren’t placed well, pedaling can become painful. A good fit avoids injury.
I had a fitting last week. It was intended to be sure I ordered the correct frame for my next bike. I was on a an adjustable “fit bike” which can be configured to any frame size or geometry. The handlebars, shift levers, seat post and seat that I’m going to use were fitted to the fitting bike, as well as the pedals I use. I wore my normal cycling shoes. The fitting went well, only a few adjustments were needed to make me feel comfortable. When you know that a good fit will be a matter of very small adjustments when the bike is ready, it really raises your confidence.
Now I have to wait for the frame to arrive. This could take a while. If I can stand the anticipation, I’m certain that I’ll be happy with the bike. If a good fit is easy to create, then I know that I’ll be comfortable on the new bike, and that is a big part of the project.