It's the Fitter AND the Tool

- The fit bike allows you to try different positions very quickly with no time between them needed to swap out bike parts. Walking through how to turn pad x/y into selecting a bike size was also very helpful.

This is one of about 2 dozen comments from folks who'd been through the the “Complete Bike Solution” exercise at our Road Shows. This consists of a no dinner, no flowers roughing out of your tri (or road, if you prefer) bike fit, followed by the mathing out of complete bike solutions.

During the first 11 weeks of these Road Shows I've used the fit bikes the shops have in their fit studios, as long as they are conforming dynamic-process bikes. Included are the first rudimentary Exit Cycling fit bike; the more modern Exit MKII; a Retül Müve; a GURU legacy bike; the more modern GURU Gen II; a Purely Custom Fit Bike; and a Purely Custom Fit Bike Pro. I have no problem using any of them.

The above comment is from a survey of those who went through this process. Here is another:

- The instantaneous feedback you can get from a dynamic fit is what made it so worthwhile. My prescribed changes were relatively minor, but there is no way I would have made them had I been going through a traditional static fit.

The survey is anonymous, and those taking it knew they could speak with absolute anonymity. Of the 21 respondents right now who have replied and who went through this particular exercise, 19 clicked a radio button alongside, “Can no longer imagine getting a proper fit without the use of a fit bike. Two selected another option: “It was fine; a good fitter not using a fit bike would do just as well.”

Of these 21 who were surveyed:

- 4 said they already bought a new bike, one of those prescribed;
- 7 intend to buy a new bike among those prescribed;
- 6 retrofitted an existing bike based on the prescription for such;
- 3 were prescribed changes to the existing bike but have not made the changes yet;
- 1 is going to buy a new bike but not one of those prescribed.

Here are more free-form comments from respondents:

- Was very effective in a short amount of time.
- Very interesting to have positions changed as you rode, and not needing to stop and get off. The measurements that were on the bike at each point allowed for changes to be accurately measured. I was impressed and pleased with the process and the result.
- Could quickly find the optimum position without stopping for technical adjustment.
- The fit process was pretty intuitive. I cannot understand why all bike fits aren't more like this.
- It was impressive how quickly fitter was able to diagnose my fit issues, fix them, and then suggest new bikes that fit me.
- This was my first bike fit and the process was amazing. Such a great experience, and I wouldn't do a fit any other way.

What the respondents referred to were speed; feedback; and an accurate and granular prescription. Here's another comment from a survey respondent:

- Helpful but felt there was a strong bias for TriRig products, which I am totally okay with. Love their stuff!

When a fitter becomes familiar with the numbers, he quickly realizes when today's tri bike geometries (which are in general taller than they used to be) do not provide a solution for those whose armrests are low versus the bikes length. Long and low geometries are gone. Accordingly, if I cannot get a QR, Felt, Cervelo low enough with the bars that come spec'd with that bike, a low-profile aerobar becomes the driver of the bike purchase. We start with the bar that offers the low position, and find complete bike solutions that match this bar's unique and necessary geometry. The most obvious and desired low-profile aerobar right now is the TriRig Alpha series, but I can prescribed just as well with any aerobar.

If I have a proper fit bike – not an expensive bike; not a bike that I have some sort of money deal with; not necessarily a motorized bike or a bike with sexy software surrounding it – just a fit bike that performs the basic functions, I'll be prescribing complete bike solutions within 30 minutes of the time the rider first hikes his leg over that fit bike's saddle. He walks out 20 minutes later with a page that has 3, 4, 5 bikes of various manufacture with the precise set-up, as in, Felt IA 16, size 56, 25mm of pad pedestals, pads pulled back 15mm from neutral. Or, Speed Concept, size L, low-far stem, 35mm pedestal, pads pushed 20mm in front of neutral.

Yes, I'm good at this particular process, mostly because I've had the luxury of time. When I first identified and named the bike geometrics “stack” and “reach” in 2003 this was a necessary precursor to what would eventually blossom into the fit systems of today. No, the typical fitter is not good at this process... yet. But I'm not alone. I know a half-dozen fitters around the U.S. who are as good or better than I am at this process, and there are no-doubt dozens more but I don't spend time in their studios so I just don't know how good they are.

The reason this process is quick, accurate, and gets very good reviews is that it's a marriage of an experienced and intuitive fitter with the tools that rise to the level of the fitter's expertise. End users don't have to choose between a fitter without the proper tool and a tool without a knowledgeable, experienced fitter.

When a bike fit process gets a bad review it's almost always because a substandard fitter bought an expensive fit bike (and rushed through a 2- or 3-day course) thinking it would shore up his inadequacies; or because an intuitive, experienced fitter wasted his subject's time and money because he lacked the tooling, software and calculators that would have yielded a first-rate result.

Having a good fit bike is not enough. The Purely Custom fit bike uses a Skil handheld drill to move saddle and aerobars up and down. In one Road Show host shop's fit studio I found that drill in its case, recharging cord nicely coiled with the factory tie. It had never been used. Nor did the fit bike, is my guess. Many of the studios I went into were obviously not using their fit bikes. No, this process isn't simple. It has in some cases overwhelmed the very fitters in the very stores where I've been hosting customers. Fitters who show up for our 5-day fit school figure out in the first 2 hours this isn't a trivial learning exercise. We send out advance reading so that even experienced fitters are not out of their depth at the end of the first day. It's not easy.

But for a significant number of fitters the light bulb does turn on, and then it is monumentally easy, and these fitters kick themselves for having wasted years. The reason I'm not the emcee of my own Road Shows, or leading the Hoka Polka, or dipping my hand into the raffle ticket bowl — but spending my Road Show weekends in the bowels of the store's fit studio — is to demonstrate to consumers and store personnel that proper bike fit, and precise bike prescribing, isn't alchemy or a black art. It requires practice (as does any skill) but it's data-driven, math-based, and the impact on all parties to the transaction is profound.