If you are reading this blog, chances are you have been thinking of getting a road bike or have already gotten a road bike. As a cyclist, it’s imperative to familiarize yourself with the differences between bike fitting and bike sizing. These terms are used by bike shops and professional fitters for the following reasons:
- New bike purchase
- Pain or discomfort
- Desire to increase power and efficiency
Often bike fitting and bike sizing become intertwined, but they are completely different. With that said, fitting a road bicycle works best when you start with the right size bike or at a minimum, a bicycle that is close enough to your right size. As a result, both contribute to a comfortable, powerful and efficient ride.
Sizing a bicycle is not as complicated as you may have been led to believe, in part due to the reality that a good bike fit actually has little to do with the bicycle per se. Yet, we will touch on that part more in the fitting section.
Bike sizing is the process of taking the measurements of an individual and applying those specific measurements to match a person to the correctly sized bike frame.
Depending on where you go to get measured (or if you are doing this at home), you may find that shops, fitters, or a multitude of websites provide you with numerous ways to discover the correct bike size. One of the earliest methods was a formula applied by French Coach and former pro cyclist, Cyrille Guimard based on the inseam. Greg Lemond later used and popularized this method of multiplying the inseam measurement by .883 to determine saddle height and frame size.
A similar methodology remains in use today by some bike shops who will measure your inseam and have you stand over a bicycle top tube to obtain the proper frame size. If you use the ubiquitous Google search method, you’ll likely find a chart that suggests the best size for you based on a few measurements like you were purchasing a t-shirt or a hat (you are less likely to experience an injury from hat or t-shirt which is why bike fitting is vital).
Other sizing resources or formulas will use multiple measurements to match you with the perfect frame. Considering the plethora of options with seat posts, stem lengths, riding positions and cycling disciplines, it’s vital that the shop or fitter ask you about what type of riding you’ll be doing to pick out the correct frame. This goes without saying that this process should be completed in order to ascertain your frame size before fitting.
Bike FittingOnce you’ve completed the sizing process, fitting a bicycle comes down to the contact or connection points between the cyclist and their bicycle and adjusting those moving parts on the chosen bicycle. These five connection points are the right and left foot, the pelvis, and right and left hands. Even if your bike is not the correct “size,” as long as you get the connection points in the ideal place, you can still achieve a good and comfortable bike fit. That being said (as we mentioned previously), we do recommend starting some of the ideas above in the sizing section before fitting.
A proper bike fit has more to do with the saddle, handlebars, brake levers and hoods, stem and, most importantly, shoes, cleats, and pedals.
We will discuss in further details on bike fitting in our next blog article.