If you ask any experienced triathlete what’s important when starting out one of the first things they’ll tell you is to get a proper bike fit. It sounds like common sense, but I think you’d be surprised how many people (including myself) sort of ignore that advice.

When I picked up my road bike I asked what size bike would fit me and based on my height I ended up with a 56cm. As I started looking in to Tri and TT bikes I got mixed answers sizing. What it comes down to is getting a proper bike fit.

I’m going to be riding a one of Felt Bicycles TT bikes this season. Luckily Running Away Multisport is not only a Felt dealer, but they also have one of the coolest fit systems around the GURU DFU (Dynamic Fit Unit).

 GURU Dynamic Fit Unit

I met up with Fit Specialist Brian, who went over every detail of what was going to happen. After taking my measurements and outfitting the DFU with a set of Felt TT handlebars, Felt seat and a pair of SpeedPlay pedals it was time to clip in and get fitted!

 

What makes a fitting on the DFU different is that the unit is equipped with motors that allowed Brian to adjust the seat and handle bar position while I was riding. At no point do you have to get off the bike during the process. At the front of the machine are two laser levels to give your fit specialist an easy way to determine if your knees are in alignment (mine were not).

Brian determined that it may be an issue with the cleat placement on my shoes as well as the length of the stems on my pedals. As it turns it out was a little combination of both. After a few adjustments Brian began setting the seat and handle bar positions for optimal aerodynamics as well as comfort. He explained that while having proper aero position is important, if you’re not able to stay in that position for 70% of your ride then the bike isn’t set up correctly for you.

By making several small adjustments and comparing them much like an eye exam (which feels better #1 or #2), we found the most comfortable aero position to provide the most efficient ride. 

 And as if a specialist standing next to you watching your every move isn’t enough, the DFU utilized a video camera and laser pinpoints at your ankle, knee, hip and shoulder to precisely dial in your fit!

 

Brian was able to play back the video from my fitting showing those pin points and explain not only what range he was looking for but why it was important. He pointed out that I have some unwanted rotation in my hips and then told me a few ways to correct it including exercises and foam rolling.

 

The whole process only took a couple of hours and in the end Brian determined I would have no problem fitting on a Felt 54cm bike. Right now the team at Running Away Multisport are building my new ride to the exact measurements from my fit!

Brian said I’ll have to come back a few times between now and Ironman Wisconsin for some small adjustments, but for right now I’m fit perfectly!

A big thanks to Brian for helping me out (and taking all these pictures!)

One thought on “Triathlon 101: Get a Bike Fit

  1. Phil, a very well-written article and some excellent advice. Much has been written on bike fit and its importance. You’ve made this easy for most to understand.

    The key to efficiency on a bike is comfort – I like Brian’s comment about being able to stay in a position 70% of the time, as that is critical to maximizing your efficiency. Simply put, if one hasn’t developed his/her riding style and is all over the place in terms of position, no fit is going to bring desired results. Some people drive themselves (and fitting experts) crazy with never-ending position changes and tweaks when they should really be focused on training.

    For amateur athletes – particularly triathletes – there is a tendency to attempt to control external variables – bike position, bike aerodynamics, equipment weight, etc. These variables can all make small improvements in your results, but none more than your conditioning, training, and continual development. You are the engine – the bike, the running shoes, and the wetsuit are all just tools to prevent you from wasting the energy you create.

    Whether cycling for triathlon, road racing, or fitness, a proper fit is key to not only efficiency, but enjoyment (which is the mental edge to keep going). But every athlete needs to be honest with his or herself about fitness level, flexibility, and the power to stay above 25mph in the bike leg of a tri.

    Each of these factors determine whether one will benefit from a time trial or tri-specific bike or not. One can’t benefit from aerodynamics at a slower speed and the aero position is irrelevant if you can’t stay in it long enough to achieve a higher speed.

    It sounds like you’ve found a shop that you’re comfortable with for providing you the level of expertise and service you desire for the level of development you’ve achieved. That’s great!

    I would caution beginners on putting the cart before the horse by spending too much money on equipment and fit. Bicycling doesn’t have to be limited to riding all-out in a straight line as part of a competition, so don’t buy a bike that limits you to races and training.

    Build bike handling skills, stamina, and power on a bike that you can also enjoy riding with friends and family – particularly if you’re not at the elite level of competition. There’s no such thing as wasted training time on a road bike – whether it’s an easy ride with the kids on a rest day or a hammerfest with the local cycling club.

    Above all – don’t buy a bike online – you may never get it to fit properly! Spend the extra money to develop a relationship with your local bike shop – he will likely be there to save your butt one day!

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