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What to Expect After a Professional Bike Fit

Changes to your bike fit can happen gradually and inadvertently, until one day you just don’t feel right on the bike anymore. For many, it can be a combination of travel and a slowly wearing saddle. As repeated disassembly and reassembly of bike for trips, the saddle position can incrementally be lowered to accommodate for tight hamstrings and a tired backs.

The most commonly used mantra by Professional Bike Fitters – is that the bicycle is adjustable and the body is adaptable. So, as expected, your body will adapt to the accidental adjustments made over time.

There’s a lot of information out there about why you should get a professional bike fit, and what to expect during a bike fit. But nobody tells you what to expect after a professional bike fit so I'm going to try and address that here.

You may feel “weird” on the bike initially

Whether you feel better or potentially worse on your first post-fit bike ride may depend on the purpose of the fit in the first place. If you went to a bike fitter because you were in pain (e.g., knee or lower back pain) or were experiencing numbness in your hands or feet, the adjustments may correct a biomechanical error that was directly responsible. As a result, you should experience positive, pain-free results immediately or nearly immediately. 

On the other hand, if you go to a bike fitter to make a performance or aerodynamic adjustment, your new position may feel a little “off” at first. The goal of a performance bike fit is to position a rider to produce more power and/or to be able to sustain power for longer. Likewise, the goal of an aerodynamic-centred bike fit is to position a rider to produce power with less aerodynamic drag (or more power with the same drag). These changes to your body position affect the lengths of muscles when they are at their highest tension. They change the neuromuscular coordination of muscle contractions from your toes to your neck. In short, it takes time for your body to recalibrate to a new position – even if you only move your saddle or handlebars 5 millimetres.

It will take time to achieve full power in a new position

An even more nuanced version of “you may feel weird on the bike” is that your first ride may feel fantastic! The novel position may feel great and powerful on Day One… because it’s novel. But then the different muscle usage patterns will lead to premature fatigue as you adapt to the position. On subsequent rides, you may notice you feel fine pedalling easy but can’t sustain prolonged threshold efforts on climbs or on the indoor trainer. As you reconfigure the subtle ways you apply power to the pedals, you should gradually see your power for sustained efforts – and the duration of those efforts – increase.

When should you have a bike fit?

The initial adaptation period is one of the main reasons coaches and bike fitters recommend adjustments to bike fit during periods of lower-intensity and/or lower-volume training. Ideally, you adjust bike fit far ahead of goal events, during a low intensity, generalised endurance training period. This gives you time to adapt to the position in a low-pressure training environment and gradually gain strength and power in your new position. The position doesn’t make you powerful, only adapting to it does. 

Should you make secondary adjustments?

Some Riders are a bit like a “princess and the pea” cyclist. You know the type, the rider who stops mid-ride or multiple times during a ride to adjust the saddle… the one who carries a measuring tape! Yeah, you know who you are!!. Meanwhile, others can eyeball saddle position and ride a century with no complaint. The point is, there will be riders who doubt their newly adjusted position (despite it being confirmed by a professional) because of the weirdness and low power mentioned above. 

Be PATIENT! You may in fact need or want to make secondary adjustments to your fit. Bike fit professionals readily acknowledge that positioning a rider on a bike is part science and part art. There are formulas, but you are more than a sum of your joint angles. The key is to give yourself time to adapt to the new position before making subsequent adjustments. If you are riding 3-5 times per week for a total of 8+ hours weekly, give yourself three weeks before you move anything. 

The exception to this recommendation is if you are experiencing acute, sharp pain in a joint, tendon, or muscle. Or, if muscle soreness continues to worsen after the first week. In either of these cases, get a follow-up appointment with your bike fitter, they should provide this follow up Free of Charge (as we do here at Performance BikeFit). You may also want to consult with a physical therapist.

Proactively train for your new bike position

A bike fit is not meant to be a one-time fix. It is the “adjustment” step of the “adjustment/adaptation” balance. Your next job is to use training activities to adapt to the position. In my case, If your saddle is raised and cleats moved on your shoes to put the balls of your feet closer to the pedal spindle. The result, could be more extension at the bottom of the pedal stroke, which means greater lengthening and tension on my hamstring and calf muscles. Off the bike is to work on hip and ankle mobility exercises will be extremely important to accommodate and adapt to the stretch.

The strength and mobility exercises will help you adapt to your new position will obviously be specific to your needs. However, be sure to talk with your bike fitter about this process so can adequately develop the strength and stability necessary to ride comfortably and powerfully in your new position.

Fit or Fitness, which comes first?

One question I’ve discussed with other bike fit specialists is: Should a cyclist get a bike fit with their current level of mobility and strength; or should they resolve mobility and strength deficits before getting a bike fit? The resounding recommendation is to get the bike fit first. Yes, you may be painfully aware that you have terrible hamstring flexibility or that you lack core strength. And you may know that addressing those things with yoga and stretching and strength training would help a great deal. But fit the bike to the person you are right now, and then do the work that enables you to make further adjustments to your riding position. 

In summary, after a professional bike fit you want to be patient, be diligent, and have faith. Initially, the changes may result in some discomfort and loss of power. A few weeks of easy to moderate hours on the bike and mobility and strength work off the bike should put you right where you need to be. 

Many Athletes have used Performance BikeFit to improve their cycling position. Whether you are a veteran or new to the sport, With over 10 years of Bike Fitting experience Performance BikeFit can help you improve your position and improve your enjoyment of cycling indoors and Out.

© 2024 Performance BikeFit

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