Fit for Your Bicycle
most critical element in selecting a bicycle is the fit.
Start by finding a quality bike shop and get measured by a
trained bike technician. Fitting tools such as a Serotta
Size Cycle (you'll need to wear your bike shoes and cycle
clothes for the fitting) may be available. If you can't
find a shop with a Size Cycle, then have the technician do
a fitting using some type of
you are on a fitting cycle, and even when you are on your
bike confirming the fitting, the bike technician will
check a number of spots critical for good alignment.
For example, with your crank parallel to the
ground, a plumb bob from the front of your knee should
line up with the leading edge of the pedal.
spending about 45 minutes on a fitting cycle, with plumb
bobs hanging from my nose, knees, shoulders and other body
parts, I learned that certain frames worked for me while
others did not. For example, neither a Pinarello nor a
Trek had the right dimensions for my body, but the Serotta,
Colnago, and QR worked for me. I opted for a Serotta, and
love the bike. The important thing is that I was able to
make a decision based on my precise needs and dimensions.
Through the fitting, I was able to fine-tune and
coordinate saddle-stem-handlebar-aerobar positions, and it
has paid off in both cycling efficiency and comfort.
get caught up on particular frame manufacturers and
preferences until you have gone through the fitting
process and know which frames will work for you. For example, Trek used to be known for an unusually long top
tube and from the fitting I learned it was the wrong bike
different manufacturers measure their frames in different
measuring seat tube length (which is the most common size
reference, such as when you read about a 56cm bike, or a
59cm bike), some manufacturers measure from the bottom
bracket to the top tube, others from the bottom bracket to
the top of the seat tube.
So again, the issue is the geometry of the
particular bike, and not some preconceived notion of the
right size bike for a person.
triathletes use road bikes adapted for triathlon
conditions. This includes the addition of aerobars.
Aerobars are critical - they make a huge difference in
comfort and aerodynamics.
When doing your bike fitting, make certain the
technician knows you are going to use aerobars, because
this will impact the stem length and the saddle position,
along with other alignment elements.
final note on frame size: Your body size is a critical
factor in selecting the material for the frame.
Many riders find smaller frames made of aluminum to
be uncomfortably stiff.
(The older Cannondales were known for their stiff
frames, so the Cannondale riders tended to be large folks
- you would rarely see a smaller person riding a
Cannondale in a stage-race length event.
I’m 5’6”, and I found that a Cannondale in my
size had such a stiff frame that it felt like my fillings
were shaking out of my mouth.
They’ve improved and now even have a series of
compact frames for smaller riders.)
can often negotiate a package deal with a bike shop, and
bear in mind they will often swap components on a bike
that is already made up. That can be particularly helpful
if you are looking for a more custom set-up, such as a
time trial handlebar with aerobars and bar-end shifters.
The same goes for chainring and cassette sizes. Depending
on your strength and the courses you ride, you might want
to consider a 39-52 chainring combination. If you are very
strong and you ride and train in a flat area, consider a
53-42 or even 56-42.
the groupo issue (complete component groups such as
Shimano Ultegra), the industry slogan is "Shimano
wears out and Campagnolo wears in." The Shimano will
probably feel better than Campy on the test ride; the
Campy will shift better six months to a year later. (I bet
I can start a lot of controversy with this comment.)
have used Shimano SPD, Time and Speedplay pedals, and
highly recommend the Speedplay but are used with success.
Years ago, when I was first starting out, a friend in the
business lent me Shimano M535 pedals and shoes. They are
mountain pedals, very resilient, but very heavy (and look
awful on a sleek road or tri bike). On the other hand, for
my first season, they were free, and that is a hard price
frame sizing, the most critical issue with any pedals is
getting a thorough, professional fitting. Go to a good
bicycle shop and work with an experienced salesperson. A
proper fitting is not only critical to effective power
transfer, but also to prevention of injury. Clipless
pedals affect the stress on the knees and ankles, because
they limit the rotation and placement of your feet on the
pedals. Get a full fitting - several items must be in
correct alignment. The
cleat should be under the ball of the foot (fore and aft
position) to transfer the power and stress through the
ball of the foot, while maintaining the knee in the proper
position. Also, the cleat must be positioned so that the
foot is in the correct lateral position on the pedal
(close to the center line of the bike, which is known as
the Q factor, without rubbing a chainstay or putting
excess pressure on your knees). The cleat and pedal
combination changes spacing between your foot and the
pedal bed, and therefore you have to check that your
saddle is at the correct height for your leg extension at
the low point of the crank rotation, and that the leading
edge of the knee is over the ball of the foot when the
pedal is parallel to the ground.
While you are getting the cleat fitting, you can
also probably get the bike technician to check out and
adjust your position on the aerobars.
of inexperienced technicians!
was in a hurry to replace worn-out cleats once, and did
not go to my regular shop. When I got on the bike, I found
I couldn't unclip my shoes. The bike technician had
installed the cleats backwards and reversed the left and
right cleats! (Fortunately, I was able to reach down and
loosen my shoes so I could get my feet out and leave the
shoes on the pedals.)
good cycling shoes, Speedplays provide a very stable
platform, even when standing on the pedals. Speedplays are
best known for their wide range of rotational movement
(less stress on the knees and ankles). Also, they are very
lightweight, work from either side for ease of clipping
in, and look cool! Speedplays clip in on either side; Time
and Look both clip in on one side only.
critical issue is the fit of the shoe - Time makes a good
line of shoes, and they work perfectly well with Speedplay
pedals. Avoid shoes that require lacing – a velcro strap
is idea for triathlons.
These shoes are not as convenient as SPDs for
walking - you do tend to tip back like a drunk penguin,
but if you are not walking far in them, it is worth the
clipless pedals are absolutely fantastic for increasing
cycling efficiency. They are also extremely comfortable,
and it is very easy to forget you are clipped in. Everyone
falls once. When my cycling coach warned me, I dismissed
the problem, thinking, "Hey, I'm a smart guy. I'm not
going to do something so stupid as to forget to
unclip." Third day out with the pedals, I was a bit
distracted pulling up to a traffic light, and just as I
stopped moving, over I went. I looked like Arte Johnson on
the show Laugh-In,
who always fell over on his tricycle. P.S. - A few weeks
later a friend bought clipless pedals. I shared with him
the warning, he said, "Sure. How stupid do you think
I am? I'm not going to forget about the pedals."
Twenty five miles into the ride, while stopped at a
traffic light, I reminded him of that statement as he
brushed himself off after his fall. You've been warned.