Bicycle Fitting

Let's look objectively at how some parts of the the bicycle business deals with fit. One model is "Here's what we have and it's ON SALE. We can raise the seat if you want but it's only ON SALE today so you should buy the size we have."

The wrong way

I have a major problem with buying a bike that isn't fitted to the rider. Whenever you're looking at a purchase of truly "durable goods" (that is to say, a bicycle should last at least 5 years no matter what and often a 20 year life is reasonable) suitability is paramount. Even if you "save" $10 (and if you check out bicycle "sales" you'll often find that the cost of advertising raises prices above the normal level) will you get as much use from a bike that's uncomfortable? Changing even the handlebar, stem, tape and saddle will eat up any "savings" if you do the work yourself and service charges make my argument stronger.

Another wrong model

How about another model? "We fit bikes for only $80 (or $50 or $100 or whatever)." I don't think that' s right. When did you ever pay extra to buy shoes that fit? Some clothing stores still charge to take up slacks, but not many! Next door to our shop is a hat store. How many $80 hats would they sell if "fitting charges" were extra?

We can help

If you have owned and ridden a lot of bikes and you know what you are doing we will sell you a frame or bike in whatever size you wish. If you are not comfortable and want to do something about it, I am very happy to work with you to compile a good comfortable fit. This is NOT formulaic which leads us to. . .

Fitting "systems"

Many well-meaning people, and a few hucksters, have tried to write computer programs and publish data tables to prescribe "fit". My beef with these "systems" is there's not enough listening involved. Someone measures skeletal points and recommends a top tube length, stem length and a seat position. If you are an evenly proportioned young male in competition, this may be valid. If you are unusually leggy or stumpy, female or a doddering over-40 like me, these tables may be useless. And that list includes a MAJORITY of cyclists! I have personally been "fitted" with several "systems" none of which came close to my preferred rising position. I've moved the bulk of my classic parts from one frame to another for about 40 years, changing stems with each frame. I know where my hands want to be and that's quite a where any "fit system" to which I've been subjected recommended. Moreover, I like my 39cm 3ttt handlebars. They just feel right. Modern charts tell me I'm wrong but it takes some chutzpah to tell me I'm wrong about riding my own bike which feels right!


The forgotten art is really important in fitting bikes. I want to know why you are not comfortable. I will make suggestions and I will insert a different bar and stem so I can see your body's change of position but I want your opinion. This is not to say there are no objective standards. I believe the ball of your foot should center over the pedal spindle. I will look at KOPS (knee-over-pedal-spindle) as an affirmation of your saddle position but I won't insist on it. It's a guideline, not a rule. By the way, we stock a lot of stems. Handlebar width too is interactive. I'll make a suggestion based on your skeletal shoulder width but there are those who prefer narrower bars (I do) and those who like wide ones. That's OK. To say there is a "correct" width borders on hubris.


I have been misquoted as being "against" gel seats. That's not true. My feeling is that if you are positioned well on your bike, your weight should be supported at the ischiae- ("sit bones") and if you have any significant pressure in the middle of the saddle something is awry and it's usually not the sddle itself.. Exchanging a firm saddle for a gooshy one to alleviate this is an upside-down analysis. I want to know WHY there is pressure in the middle of the seat and I want to make it go away. If you prefer a gel seat, fine. That's OK with me and we stock a lot of them. Let's just not pretend that riding on a bag of Jell-O has fundamentally helped anything. It may be OK for a few miles to breakfast but when you're out for real miles the pressure in the wrong places will irritate with or without the gel.

Let's talk!

Bring your bike and your shoes. We look at you on your bicycle so I can see you in profile. We will start with your shoe and cleat position, we will get your saddle positioned fore and aft and set the height and then we will look at the bars and stem and where you are comfortable. This involves no mysteries, no formulas, no data tables but it will take 15 minutes to an hour and we will talk a lot while moving things around. I do have Paul Swift's fitting system here if you want a second opinion and we will look at that too if you wish. I don't charge for this service and so you may have to wait a few minutes if the shop is busy. I am available by appointment before and after shop hours if that's more convenient to you.

Here are Peter White's opinions about fit. I think he covers the issues well.

Here is a formulaic fitting system that's interactive.

Another man's opinion

I think this is well considered, even if I don't agree
It seems odd to me that you would criticise a shop for professionally fitting a bicycle and charging for it.The fitters time is not absorbed in the sale of that bicycle. After the many hours it often takes to sell, assemble, and mount accessories on the bicycle I believe retailers should charge for profesional fitting. The bike that is sold fits, I look at fitting more like tailoring the rider to the bike and the bike to the rider. At our store the client was sold the correct size bike so we know it fits, we are looking to optimize the riders comfort and efficiency and this takes time and knowledge which can not be given away with an already discounted product as I have yet to sell a higher end road bike for the proper suggested cost.We charge $75.00 for fitting which also includes the labor to switch stem and bars, pedals or seatpost if needed. If some or all of those components are changed it is a very good deal. I believe shops that give away this service are contributing to the reason the bicycle industry pays horribly bad and has high employee turmover. If you have a skill such as bicycle fitting it should be charged for. Thanks for reading.

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