Limits
By Austin Parker
on 8.29.13

If you’ve ever spent time in a local bike shop, you’ve heard the salesmen, repair techs and riders talk about getting the perfect “fit”; talk to a cycling or triathlon coach and they can wax all day and night about optimal hip and knee angles. But what does that mean for you? What exactly is a bike fit? As a weekend warrior or casual rider the main concerns should be comfort, injury prevention and efficiency. Getting those extra 5 watts from a more aggressive posture, well, let’s save that for later.

It turns out a few sessions with a good fitter can accomplish quite a bit more than just turning you into a speed demon. Many of today’s fit systems are built primarily around rider comfort, and for good reason. Most people fall within a very narrow range of body types, so when when it comes to fitting, tweaking just a few crucial components means the difference between a comfortable day in the saddle and walking around like a hunchback. Seatpost height, cockpit length, stem length and height are some of the basic measurements. Changing each of these affects the angles of your joints, and in turn affect how your body interacts with the bike.

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Those coaches who had you worried about exactly where your knee extends for a perfect pedal stroke? They’re on to something. Your body type may not fit the so-called “perfect” fit for every biomechanical angle (don’t worry, even the pros don’t often fit, and some of them don’t even come within a close range of accepted norms), but with a relatively painless analysis of your riding style, you can prevent injury, find a comfort zone for long rides, and even develop more power for those nasty climbs on your Saturday group ride. We’ve broken down five of the most popular fit systems and algorithms you might run across in your search for the perfect bike.

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limits-promo-logoThis article is part of a new original series, LIMITS, dedicated to exploring the physical and mental borderlands of human capability. And beyond.