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"Modern" bike fit - is it worth it?

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"Modern" bike fit - is it worth it?

Old 08-18-19, 04:04 PM
  #1  
therks
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"Modern" bike fit - is it worth it?

I have been researching getting a fit and it seems most of the shops are using a Retul, fit GURU, or other adjustable bike frame to "dial in" the perfect bike geometry. There is also talk of shimming the pedal cleats. That is, of course, an extra fee. Most of the fitters in the NYC area are charging between $350 and $450 for a fit - about 2 hrs. Leaving the city I can find it for about $200 depending on how far I want to drive.

Has anyone had their cleats "shimmed"? Is this snake oil?
Has anyone done a dynamic bike fit on one of the adjustable stands?
- Was it worth the cost?
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Old 08-19-19, 05:08 AM
  #2  
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I have two 1/2 degree shims under one cleat. I did this on my own because one knee was tending to brush the top tube. Obviously, that knee was not tracking straight up and down. That same knee occasionally experiences some discomfort, (mild pain). Additionally, I inserted an arch lift under the foot bed in the shoe. This mostly cured the inward flopping knee and reduced any discomfort to nearly zero. Just a few days ago, I carved away some of the foam under the foot bed and today the knee is complaining a bit. Whether a shim under the cleat is called for depends on what you may be experiencing. I believe you can experiment on your own with shims because it is easy to do or undo for minimal cost.
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Old 08-19-19, 08:33 AM
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If you have a structural difference in leg length, then shims under one cleat correct for that. Most people don't have major leg length discrepancies. I know that in the past, I'd go into my chiropractor, and he'd see a leg length difference. Then he'd adjust me, and the difference had disappeared. That apparent discrepancy resolved as I did more core exercises. My current chiropractor never notices a major difference even before adjustment.

I've had bike fits done for custom bikes. You most likely want to do one. If you're working with a one person builder but you can go into their shop, many of them will fit you there. Otherwise, you'll have to pay at a bike store. A larger custom builder with a dealer network may price the fitting into their sales price - Seven Cycles definitely does. If your issues are foot related, then I think that may be a separate area of expertise, and not all bike fitters may be intimately familiar with this - can anyone offer any better opinions, though?

Outside of that, I had some nagging knee pain. I worked with a shop that did bike fit plus athletic training and physical therapy. They identified that the issue was because I had my saddle too high. My fit was otherwise spot on. They suggested strengthening exercises. Knee pain is almost completely resolved. I'm not sure how many bike fitters have that expertise.

If it's only a matter of bike position, then I suspect many of us can work that out for ourselves over time.
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Old 08-19-19, 10:16 AM
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Why do you want a pro fit? There's nothing automatic about a bike fit helping your cycling.
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Old 08-19-19, 01:31 PM
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I shimmed because I get "hot foot" on the outside edges of my feet. One of the many things I tried and probably helped the most!

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Old 08-20-19, 07:02 AM
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Thanks everyone. @Carbonfiberboy - I am in the research phase of trying to buy a bike "the right way." My current road bike was bought used, and it has served/fit me well enough over the years but it hasn't been my "primary" ride until recently. I was primarily a mountain biker. I'm looking at getting more into road and perhaps tri riding since I moved to NYC and a 22 year old Bianchi is due to be given a bit of a rest. I used to have really great trails not that far from my house in NJ... not so much anymore. I know nothing about proper road bike sizing other than what "feels" like it works well enough for up to an hour or two ride. Since I'm going to spend more time in the road saddle I want to make sure I get as close to a properly sized bike to avoid making a huge/costly mistake right out of the gate. I also don't want to spend a bunch of money that doesn't need to be spent... hence, asking opinions from folks who have more experience presumably than I do.
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Old 08-20-19, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by therks View Post
Thanks everyone. @Carbonfiberboy - I am in the research phase of trying to buy a bike "the right way." My current road bike was bought used, and it has served/fit me well enough over the years but it hasn't been my "primary" ride until recently. I was primarily a mountain biker. I'm looking at getting more into road and perhaps tri riding since I moved to NYC and a 22 year old Bianchi is due to be given a bit of a rest. I used to have really great trails not that far from my house in NJ... not so much anymore. I know nothing about proper road bike sizing other than what "feels" like it works well enough for up to an hour or two ride. Since I'm going to spend more time in the road saddle I want to make sure I get as close to a properly sized bike to avoid making a huge/costly mistake right out of the gate. I also don't want to spend a bunch of money that doesn't need to be spent... hence, asking opinions from folks who have more experience presumably than I do.
So go here: https://www.competitivecyclist.com/S...ulatorBike.jsp
take your measurements and enter them into the calculator. That'll get you close.

See my post in DIY Bike Fit, right below your thread. At the bike shop, pick a bike which has measurements close to what the calculator says. Have the shop put the bike on a trainer and do the operations I suggested. Hopefully they'll swap stems and saddles for you. Then go for a ride, see how it feels.
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Old 08-27-19, 12:40 PM
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I can't say if any a dynamic bike fit, Retul, or cleat shims are "worth it" as those are very personal decisions in terms of the money you're willing to part with. But let me just chime in on an overall bike fit experience that I've had.

So I've purchased three bikes in three months (got into cycling hardcore, was bitten by the bug). You can see them all in my signature.

First bike was a fitness (FXS6) and, a six weeks later, I bought a road bike (SuperSix). Both from the same LBS. They helped to ensure that I had the right frame, that the seat height was correct, and also helped me install SPD cleats and set up the angles of the cleats in my shoes. I thought this was very good service. I had heard about a full bike fit, but that was an additional $95. So not quite to the level of a full dynamic bike fit but they said to allow an hour for it. I passed, since I was trying to be fiscally conservative.

Fast forward six more weeks to when I bought my Giant TCR. I had fully been bitten by the riding bug, and had also gotten a bonus from work. So I splurged because the test ride convinced me it was superior to the SuperSix in every way. The guys at Giant Santa Monica included the bike fit, it took probably about 75-90 minutes (I didn't time it). A lot of observing me riding, measuring limb angles and lengths, stretching, then adjusting the bike, rinse and repeat. After about 5-6 cycles of this he had me at my most comfortable (same frame on a trainer stand). Then they cut my seatpost and made all the adjustments to the new TCR.

It was a small miracle in terms of comfort, ride improvement, and power transfer. I instantly felt faster and more comfortable than my SuperSix. Sure, some of it was a kick-a$$ bike but some of it was the fit as well. They gave me my fit measurements in case I ever bought from another bike shop and wanted to have them set it up to that spec.

A couple of weeks went by and my TCR felt miles better than my SuperSix, to the point where I never rode the SuperSix. Then the other day, feeling a bit punchy, I decided to experiment on the SuperSix and try to get it as close to the fit measurements as I could. I knew that even if I screwed it up, I'd not be out of commission since the TCR was always there.

I flipped the stem which lowered the handlebar a couple of cm. Then I slightly changed the angle of the bars to more closely match (visually at least) the TCR. I adjusted the saddle height (which, credit to the original LBS was fairly close, within a cm or so of the fit result), and moved the saddle forward a bit to match the reach. It wasn't perfect, but it was a lot closer.

I then rode it. The Cannondale felt like a different bike. Don't get me wrong, I still prefer the TCR, the geometry, power transfer, and comfort still exceed the SuperSix. But whereas before I would have said the SuperSix was 60% of the bike the TCR was, now I'd say it was closer to 75%-80%. Just the small changes to the fit made it feel much better to ride! Whereas before I was thinking of stripping it for parts (and keeping the Di2 transmission to transfer over eventually to an aero frame), I now will keep it intact for the time being as a backup road bike until I go with a new frame maybe in a year or two.

So I'm a big believer now in bike fitting, at least the mid-level fit that takes an hour or so to do.
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Old 08-28-19, 06:43 PM
  #9  
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I have gotten 3 fits. One was free from a bike shop - that almost injured me. He also put me on a saddle that I told him was terrible on the spot. He didn’t believe me until I came back demanding a saddle that I figured was good on my own. But this was a free fit. Fair enough.

One was by a guy who was supposedly one of the best in the area. He did not use automated systems but he also didn’t charge much. He fixed one issue that had recently cropped up from my personal experimenting but not the nagging knee and IT pain that had plagued me for a while.

One was a $300 fit with automated assistance. He (correctly, in my opinion) prescribed me arch support and and cleat wedges. Unfortunately, the arch support turned out to be absolutely unusable because the heel padding was so thick that it defeated the heel cup. This, however, did not fix all my issues. I needed wide shoes, which should have been extraordinarily easy to determine, but I had to figure that out on my own, despite pleading no less than 5 bike shops to help me with my problem. Not one measured my actual foot to see my shoe size.

I also bought the “custom orthotics” from Retul thinking these would have a thinner heel but nope. Same issue. And the insole is mushy to boot.

Now, with wide shoes, a Specialized power saddle, cleat wedging, a setback and low saddle position, and shorter cranks (4 out of 5 of these adjustments were determined by me), I am closer than I have ever been to pain-free cycling. The low end Lake shoe I bought has too much padding and a very insecure heel cup so I might get a different shoe, and try more than 1 degree of wedging since I still get mild hotspots on the outside of my feet.

I would say, study bike fit as much as you can on your own, and experiment on your own. Bike fit right now is more of an art than a science, despite what all these companies might have you believe. bikefitjames is a good resource. Understand what the difference is between being conservative and being aggressive. You can go with a VERY short crank and not have any pain or discomfort. If you go with a long crank, you could blow your knee out. You can slide your cleats back all the way to your midfoot with few issues. Put them closer to your toes, and watch your foot and knee stability plummet. You can put your saddle quite far back and low like a beach cruiser and not experience too much pain. Set it too far forward and high, and you’ll get saddle sores, hip movement, calf over-recruitment, foot instability, numb hands, and quad issues.

If you’re not experiencing pain, discomfort, or extreme fatigue anywhere, don’t touch your fit. Seriously.
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Old 09-06-19, 03:05 PM
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Thank you everyone for the feedback!
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Old 09-06-19, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by therks View Post
Thank you everyone for the feedback!
I will say do NOT use any fitter that purely relies on a computerised bikefit system.
I have had 2 or 3 of these before I knew better.
All of these left me sitting much higher than I do now, and all of these left me riding with pain.
You need someone who listens to you, and who will look at you on your bike and make changes frm what they observe.
I will also say that I have tried that Competitive Cyclist calculator and found it a waste of time.

Every computerised system I have used put my saddle a good 3cm higher than I currently sit.
Have a look at Steve Hogg's blog. There is some great info there, and he may also have a recommended fitter in your area?
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Old 09-06-19, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by CarloM View Post

...........................and moved the saddle forward a bit to match the reach. It wasn't perfect, but it was a lot closer.
This may be part of why you don't get the same "power transfer".
Adjusting reach needs to be done at the bars.
Moving a saddle forward and aft impacts the muscles being used while pedaling (quads vs hamstrings), and your power as a result.
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Old 09-06-19, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by sumgy View Post
This may be part of why you don't get the same "power transfer".
Adjusting reach needs to be done at the bars.
Moving a saddle forward and aft impacts the muscles being used while pedaling (quads vs hamstrings), and your power as a result.
Understood. But one of the measurements that they gave me was from tip of saddle, if you drop down straight to the ground, to center of bottom bracket/crank. I'm also closer in that measurement because I think the saddle was too far back on the SuperSix from, I'm going to guess, lack of setup due to no fit being performed after point of purchase. So while yes, you're right, there's more refinement to be done, this one adjustment did bring me closer to the fit of the TCR.

It's academic now, because the SuperSix has been stripped of it's wheels and is sitting on a wall-hanger (to get it off the floor and reclaim some living room space) until I can move it's Di2 drivetrain and saddle to whatever aero frame I decide to go with. The Aeolus Pro 3 wheels have also been converted from QR back to TA so I can swap them out with my Black Inc Thirties on my TCR whenever I want a change of pace. The aero frame I will eventually buy will have TA so that's the ultimate destination for those wheels.
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Old 09-06-19, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by CarloM View Post
I can't say if any a dynamic bike fit, Retul, or cleat shims are "worth it" as those are very personal decisions in terms of the money you're willing to part with. But let me just chime in on an overall bike fit experience that I've had.

So I've purchased three bikes in three months (got into cycling hardcore, was bitten by the bug). You can see them all in my signature.

First bike was a fitness (FXS6) and, a six weeks later, I bought a road bike (SuperSix). Both from the same LBS. They helped to ensure that I had the right frame, that the seat height was correct, and also helped me install SPD cleats and set up the angles of the cleats in my shoes. I thought this was very good service. I had heard about a full bike fit, but that was an additional $95. So not quite to the level of a full dynamic bike fit but they said to allow an hour for it. I passed, since I was trying to be fiscally conservative.

Fast forward six more weeks to when I bought my Giant TCR. I had fully been bitten by the riding bug, and had also gotten a bonus from work. So I splurged because the test ride convinced me it was superior to the SuperSix in every way. The guys at Giant Santa Monica included the bike fit, it took probably about 75-90 minutes (I didn't time it). A lot of observing me riding, measuring limb angles and lengths, stretching, then adjusting the bike, rinse and repeat. After about 5-6 cycles of this he had me at my most comfortable (same frame on a trainer stand). Then they cut my seatpost and made all the adjustments to the new TCR.

It was a small miracle in terms of comfort, ride improvement, and power transfer. I instantly felt faster and more comfortable than my SuperSix. Sure, some of it was a kick-a$$ bike but some of it was the fit as well. They gave me my fit measurements in case I ever bought from another bike shop and wanted to have them set it up to that spec.

A couple of weeks went by and my TCR felt miles better than my SuperSix, to the point where I never rode the SuperSix. Then the other day, feeling a bit punchy, I decided to experiment on the SuperSix and try to get it as close to the fit measurements as I could. I knew that even if I screwed it up, I'd not be out of commission since the TCR was always there.

I flipped the stem which lowered the handlebar a couple of cm. Then I slightly changed the angle of the bars to more closely match (visually at least) the TCR. I adjusted the saddle height (which, credit to the original LBS was fairly close, within a cm or so of the fit result), and moved the saddle forward a bit to match the reach. It wasn't perfect, but it was a lot closer.

I then rode it. The Cannondale felt like a different bike. Don't get me wrong, I still prefer the TCR, the geometry, power transfer, and comfort still exceed the SuperSix. But whereas before I would have said the SuperSix was 60% of the bike the TCR was, now I'd say it was closer to 75%-80%. Just the small changes to the fit made it feel much better to ride! Whereas before I was thinking of stripping it for parts (and keeping the Di2 transmission to transfer over eventually to an aero frame), I now will keep it intact for the time being as a backup road bike until I go with a new frame maybe in a year or two.

So I'm a big believer now in bike fitting, at least the mid-level fit that takes an hour or so to do.
Yes, a good fitting bike is that important and that much of a revelation. But not all super fits are achieved by "experts" and high tech equipment. My story:

I raced an OK club level racer my first year. My 4th season on the bike. Did OK. The next year I worked in a shop and really stepped up my training and focus. In May, our mechanic, very wise but not a racer, said I should buy last year's Fuji Pro in the basement. I did. Set it up with most of the adjustments mid-way. Copied my last bike's seat height. Did my training ride the next day very easy since I was making a big change in crank length mid-season. Hit my best ever time! 2 minutes came off next ride and kept falling all summer. I put in performances in races that I never believed this body could do. Also rode long distances easily on a bike that was pure race, very upright and it never got uncomfortable. (300 miles and 3 races in 3 days. Two 175 mile days.

Since then, I've tweaked stuff and gone to longer reach to the bars so I do not have to bend my arms 90 degrees to be aero, but these are just tweaks. That bike was very close to perfect.

Ben
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Old 09-06-19, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by CarloM View Post
Understood. But one of the measurements that they gave me was from tip of saddle, if you drop down straight to the ground, to center of bottom bracket/crank. I
These types of measurements might be useful if everyone had the same leg length, thigh length, lower leg length, foot size etc etc etc.
But nobody is average.

Basically saddle position should be set so that you pedal using your hamstrings and quads in unison and so that at the end of your ride you should not feel that neither your quads or hamstrings are more sore. Saddle height should be set so that you are balanced and so that you are not reaching or rocking.
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Old 09-06-19, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by sumgy View Post
These types of measurements might be useful if everyone had the same leg length, thigh length, lower leg length, foot size etc etc etc.
But nobody is average.

Basically saddle position should be set so that you pedal using your hamstrings and quads in unison and so that at the end of your ride you should not feel that neither your quads or hamstrings are more sore. Saddle height should be set so that you are balanced and so that you are not reaching or rocking.
I think you misunderstand me. What I meant by "the measurements he gave me" was the result of my own personal fit with him on my TCR Advanced, not some generic set of numbers based on height and inseam. See my post, #8 on this thread. I was attempting to transfer my personal fit measurements, which he gave me on paper, to the SuperSix which I had previously purchased from a different LBS that did not spend 90 minutes giving me a fit (rather, about 5 minutes seat height + 5 minute cleat adjustment since I bought Shimano shoes from them).

The real way to do it would be to bring the SuperSix in to the Giant store that did my fit, and ask them to adjust everything to the spec, which would probably involve them modifying the number of spacers in the stem, maybe ordering a new stem to bring in the reach, etc. etc. But since my TCR is now my daily driver, the SuperSix has been relegated to a super cool art-deco piece on the wall until I get my aero frame, it's not worth the hassle. Especially since at some point I'll probably resell the frame on eBay or CL.
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Old 09-11-19, 09:11 AM
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@Carbonfiberboy @CarloM - Thanks for all the info. I did go ahead and do the Competitive Cyclist calculator. I'm having some trouble interpreting/converting the results into something I can use. My top contender for a bike is the Cannondale Synapse. The Synapse (and many other bikes) are available in a few stem lengths straight from the manufacturer. How do I convert my results into stack, reach, etc., so I can make sure the shop orders the closest fit bike? Do you have a conversion site for measurements you use?<br />(Photobucket is wonky right now, so I am posting measurements while I figure out what's going on)<br />Inseam - 34<br />Trunk - 27<br />Forearm - 14<br />Arm - 27<br />Thigh - 24<br />Lower Leg - 22<br />Sternal Notch - 59<br />Total Height - 72

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Old 09-11-19, 10:02 AM
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If you're going into a reputable bike shop, trust their guys to order you the right overall frame size, usually based on your height and inseam. Your stack, reach, etc. is all adjusted after you get the bike. It may involve ordering a longer/shorter stem, raising/lowering handlebar angle, seat height adjustment, cleat angle adjustment, etc.

The only time it gets a little tricky is 1) if you're between sizes, and/or 2) you have atypical measurements (like a long torso for your height, or long legs for your height). But talk to the reps in the shop (even if it's an online shop, chat with them over the phone). A bike is too important a purchase to rely solely on online tools, especially if it's your first time.
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Old 09-11-19, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by berner View Post
I have two 1/2 degree shims under one cleat. I did this on my own because one knee was tending to brush the top tube. Obviously, that knee was not tracking straight up and down. That same knee occasionally experiences some discomfort, (mild pain). Additionally, I inserted an arch lift under the foot bed in the shoe. This mostly cured the inward flopping knee and reduced any discomfort to nearly zero. Just a few days ago, I carved away some of the foam under the foot bed and today the knee is complaining a bit. Whether a shim under the cleat is called for depends on what you may be experiencing. I believe you can experiment on your own with shims because it is easy to do or undo for minimal cost.
I have the exact same problem. Can you point me in the right direction for the shims you used? I assume you put them to raise the inside of the foot?
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Old 09-12-19, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by CarloM View Post
If you're going into a reputable bike shop, trust their guys to order you the right overall frame size, usually based on your height and inseam. Your stack, reach, etc. is all adjusted after you get the bike. It may involve ordering a longer/shorter stem, raising/lowering handlebar angle, seat height adjustment, cleat angle adjustment, etc.

The only time it gets a little tricky is 1) if you're between sizes, and/or 2) you have atypical measurements (like a long torso for your height, or long legs for your height). But talk to the reps in the shop (even if it's an online shop, chat with them over the phone). A bike is too important a purchase to rely solely on online tools, especially if it's your first time.
Thanks CarloM. While I want to trust the bike shop, I also want to be an informed customer. If I'm between two frame sizes I would like to be able to go in having a conversation about the pluses and minuses of each one. My experience so far with buying a bike at a shop is that they have leaned heavily towards what they already have in stock. I started seeking this info to get smart and not just blindly trusting the shop. Is there no good way, other than a dynamic fit, to see how I match up to various frame sizes with the various manufacturers?
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Old 09-12-19, 07:08 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by smashndash View Post
I have gotten 3 fits. One was free from a bike shop - that almost injured me. He also put me on a saddle that I told him was terrible on the spot. He didn’t believe me until I came back demanding a saddle that I figured was good on my own.
Mine wasn't free but the first seat that was suggested to me felt worse then sitting on a 2x4. It was ok on the trainer during the fitting but in the real world I only made it 3 minutes and had to turn around. I've used many seats over the years and consider myself pretty forgiving in that area and never had something that bad.
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Old 09-12-19, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by therks View Post
Thanks CarloM. While I want to trust the bike shop, I also want to be an informed customer. If I'm between two frame sizes I would like to be able to go in having a conversation about the pluses and minuses of each one. My experience so far with buying a bike at a shop is that they have leaned heavily towards what they already have in stock. I started seeking this info to get smart and not just blindly trusting the shop. Is there no good way, other than a dynamic fit, to see how I match up to various frame sizes with the various manufacturers?

So here's the problem. You could go to several big bike makers' sites and see what their online calculator says. Canyon, Trek, Giant, etc. all have recommendations based on your height and inseam. Those are the most important to gauge your frame size.

Now the problem is: all of their frame sizes that suit you will vary. For example, I am an S in a Giant TCR. A 52 in a Madone. A 51 in a Cannondale. And for Canyon I am an XS in their Endurace but an XXS in their Aeroad.

You see the issue? All your height and inseam is going to give you is a ballpark. And then it's up to your LBS or your fitter (and they don't have to be one and the same) to dial it in the rest of the way.

You're not going to be "X" size for all makes and models. It just gives you a starting point. Which is why at some point you have to trust the LBS. I agree with your approach. Go in informed. But also do your research for your LBSs (I am hoping you live in a city with more than one) and see what previous customers have said. And trust what you see and hear. I'm a pretty decent judge of character when I meet people face to face. I can walk into a highly rated LBS, but if I feel the guy is BS'ing me, or just trying to make a sale, I pass. The reason I bought from Giant Santa Monica when I had no intention of buying anything at that time, was the friendliness and general concern for helping me get to where I want to be cycling-wise that Willie the salesman displayed when we talked. He never tried to sell me a bike while we talked cycling for a half hour. He knew I had just bought one (I had told him as much). So of course I asked to test ride one of their bikes...and the rest is history. My daily driver is the TCR.
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