Most of what you'll read in this post is adapted from my Road Bike Fitting Guidelines: The Essentials for Proper Fit. You can receive this by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line simply write “send free report.” That’s it. You don’t need to include anything in the body of the email. This is a PDF document, so you must have Adobe Reader installed.
Why correct frame size is so important
Choosing the right size frame for your body is not only the first step in obtaining a comfortable and efficient position, but also ensures that your bike handles correctly. Generally, a road bike is not designed to be ultra stable, and behave like a loaded touring bike, and at the other end of the spectrum, neither is it supposed to maneuver like a super responsive track bike. Most road bikes are designed to handle in the middle ground, somewhere in between those two extremes.
Although it is true that a bike's front end steering characteristics are largely defined by its trail (definitely a topic for another day), trying to fix an ill fitting frame that's horizontally too long or too short by using a long or short stem, or by moving the saddle too far fore or aft, can compromise the handling characteristics. What do I mean by "handling characteristics?" Well, the bike can feel like it's fighting you when cornering, or may not want to track straight when you're your climbing out of the saddle, or can feel like it's too responsive (i.e. "twitchy"), or can shimmy when descending.
This is part 2 of the The 5 Most Common Bike Fitting Problems. If you would like to view Part 1 first, you can click here.
As a quick recap, the 5 most common bike fitting issues were:
1. Leg alignment issues
2. Saddle too high or too low
3. Poor cleat position
4. Saddle tilted up or down
5. Reach to the handlebars (either too bunched or too stretched out)
I covered the first two problems in the last article, and I’ll address issue #3 this time around – poor cleat position.
Poor Cleat Position – The foot/pedal interface
There is really no way for me to tell whether or not someone has their cleats positioned properly by simply catching a quick glimpse of them out on the road. This is especially true when it comes to the fore/aft position of the cleat. Even when I put a client up on a trainer and can evaluate them up close, I still can’t identify the proper cleat position until I complete a detailed foot and gait analysis. So, why is it that I’ve even included this issue in this Top 5 list?
The shop where I do all my bike fits, Revolution Bike Shop in Solana Beach, is located on one of the most well traveled coastal cycling roads in all of Southern California, Highway 101. I also have a home directly on one of the region's most popular road biking routes known as the Elfin Forest Loop. The bottom line is that I get to see a lot of cyclists each year. Thousands. Based on access to viewing these large numbers of roadies and my experience as a bike fitter, I’ve narrowed down the most common bike fitting issues to the following five:
1. Poor Leg Alignment
2. A saddle that is too high or too low
3. Poor cleat position
4. A saddle that is tilted downwards
5. Excessive reach to the handlebars
I’ll be examining the first two of these issues in this article.
Every cyclist should have some of their key bike measurements recorded. Without this information it's going to be difficult to get your position dialed in should any of the following apply:
Eric Bowen, the owner of VeloFitter, is the author of all articles.