Here’s What You Should Ask Your Bike Fitter!

Should I wear a helmet for my bike fit? The answer is yes, and there are a whole lot more things to check before you go...

By Molly Hurford |

If you want to maximise comfort and/or efficiency on your rides, a professional bike fit can make a major difference. You’d be surprised at what shifting a saddle up or back a few millimetres can do. But in order to have a great bike fit, you need to pick the right bike fitter for you—and to make sure they understand what you need.

To find the right fitter for you, start by asking the people you ride with for local recommendations or do a search online for bike fitters in your area.

Here, we spoke to two long-time bike fitters about what they wish cyclists knew before showing up to a bike fit and the best ways to maximise your experience during your fitting.

What should you look for in a professional bike fitter and what should you ask them?

Your first interaction with your fitter shouldn’t be when you walk into the bike shop or studio. You should have had some kind of interaction already, whether via email, phone or in-person, and you should take some time to look at their website, read reviews, and scope their social media.

As Steven LeBoyer, head fitter for more than two decades, points out, bike fitting is both an art and a science, and the process should feel like a great collaboration between you, your bike, and the fitter.

If you haven’t selected a fitter yet, here are a few things to look for:

  1. Experience fitting bikes to the riding that you do: Bike fitters often have one or two areas of expertise. Lown, for instance, can happily fit riders for road and gravel, but doesn’t fit triathlon bikes.
  2. Positive recommendations: You can (and should) ask for references if you didn’t have a personal recommendation. Ask for references from riders similar to you.
  3. Credentials/educational background: There are quite a few different fitting programs available, but no singular professional bike fitter designation. Anyone can call themselves a fitter, so look for one with credentials—the most common designations include certifications from the International Bike Fitting Institute (IBFI), Serotta, Trek Precision Fit, or Retül. An accomplished fitter may even go beyond bike fit and have other credentials like a coaching certification, physical therapy license, or kinesiology degree, for example.
  4. Vibes: Admittedly, this isn’t always an easy one to intuit. But if you don’t feel comfortable with the bike fitter—say, you wouldn’t admit all the aches and pains you have—it’s not a good (ahem) fit.

What info should you prep before going to your bike fitting?

Don’t rely on your bike fitter to ask the right probing questions—show up prepared! Lown says she often has clients come in and forget to mention a major life change or surgery until an hour into the fitting, but that information can be extremely helpful for your most comfortable, efficient fit.

Here are a few questions to consider:

What are your goals in cycling? If you’re focused on winning a criterium, your fit is going to be slightly different than if your goal is to do a double century in the mountains or if you’re just hoping to put in more miles on your gravel bike with less back pain.

➥ Where do you ride and what are the types of terrain do you tend to ride? Do you climb/descend often? Do you spend a lot of time on fast, flat roads, or do you spend more time on varied terrain? Again, this can help put your cycling life in context for the fitter so they can find the best balance for you.

➥ How often do you ride? Be honest! Lown notes that she often has to ask this question a few times because cyclists prefer giving the “how much they rode on their biggest week of the past five years” number as the answer, rather than the “how much you rode last week” answer. But the amount you ride can dictate how comfortable you’ll be with changes to your fit.

➥ What are you pain points? Here, you need to be as honest and specific as possible. It may feel awkward to say that the right side of your labia goes numb on a ride, or that your perineum is chafing on rides over two hours, but your fitter can’t fix what they don’t know about!

➥ What’s your bike fit history? Have you had a fit before? What did you learn from that fitter? What experiences have you had since then? Your fitter can learn from what you did and didn’t like in the past.

➥ Have you tried any fit adjustments on your bike already? This is especially important if you’re going to your fitter to deal with a pain or numbness-based issue. Make a few notes about solutions you’ve already tried, as that can help speed up the fit process.

➥ Any past injuries, surgeries, or major body changes (pregnancy, weight loss, etc.)? Try to make a comprehensive list so that you don’t miss mentioning that shoulder impingement issue from a few years ago!

Write down your answers to these questions, so that you’re not caught off-guard when you start chatting with the bike fitter. You may even want to send these notes to the fitter ahead of time, so that they can look over your information before the session, or even simply have the list in front of them during the fit. (Sending this information also helps ensure that your needs are properly taken into account, helping avoid a bad bike fit.)

What else should you do to get the best result from your professional bike fit?

Bring your favourite kit and shoes

Don’t wear your oldest kit or your worn out shoes to your bike fit, wear the good stuff. Lown notes that an old chamois may be more compressed than a new one, and will change your fit slightly. Bringing a jersey is also important, since how you pack your pockets can make a difference with your on-bike comfort. And finally, wear the shoes that you wear most often when you ride, since cleat position is a key part of the bike fit process.

Wear your helmet

Seriously, even if the fitter doesn’t ask you to wear your helmet, put it on. This is a major pet peeve of Lown’s, since your helmet (and sunglasses/cap/visor) can inform how you position your back, neck, and head when you’re actually out riding. You may also find that you need a new helmet that allows you better visibility—it’s amazing how these tiny elements can lead to major changes in bike fit and comfort.

Keep all of your accessories on your body and bike

Do you wear gloves when you ride? They should stay on for the bike fit, since they change your position by a couple of millimetres with their padding, can be culprits for causing hand numbness, and may change where you naturally rest your hands on the bars.

Lown has also seen issues with removing certain water bottle cages, bento boxes, and saddle bags: Yes, taking them off makes it easier to tweak the bike fit, but if they aren’t on the bike, it’s hard to tell how you interact with the bike during an actual ride. (A saddlebag or a water bottle on your seat post, for example, may force you to shift forward on the saddle to avoid hitting it with your thigh.)

How do you know if you got a bad bike fit?

You have new, increased, or consistent pain

A bike fit may feel awkward at first, and take some time to adjust to. But if you have a new sharp pain or the pain you were complaining about is worsening, don’t be afraid to mention it and request more adjustments. Some bike fitters will tell you that it will just “take some time” to get used to the new fit. And that’s certainly true, says Lown. But a new properly-done fit shouldn’t be causing pain—it may just feel a little strange.

You didn’t learn anything

There are quite a few fitters out there who consider themselves in guru territory, and these fitters tend to adjust your bike and body without explaining why they’re making changes.

Leboyer says if you feel like your fitter isn’t explaining why they’re making certain adjustments, or if your fitter seems to be ignoring your input (or gaslighting you about the tweaks that they made), this is a bad sign. Your fitter should want you to understand your fit better by the end of the session, so that you can take ownership over your bike (and so that if your seat slips or you have to rebuild your bike, you know how to re-adjust it).

You see no improvement, even after several rides

A bike fit may take a few rides to start to feel normal, but if it’s been a few weeks and you’re still experiencing the same discomfort, or new issues have cropped up, that’s a sign that your new fit may not be the right fit. Many fitters will offer a short adjustment session gratis if you’re experiencing issues, so follow up with your fitter to see if they’re willing to tweak the fit.

READ MORE ON: BIKE FIT bikefit fitness health injuries

Copyright © 2024 Hearst