About ten years ago when I bought my first road bike, I had a cursory "fitting" where they set me up with the correct saddle height and position and sent me on my way. Four months later, after my first century ride, I thought, hmmm I know cycling can be a challenging sport and thus produce discomfort, but maybe my sits bones shouldn't feel permanently bruised. I later realized that said bike fitter sent me on my way with a men's saddle which was way too narrow and not fully supporting my hips. Thanks a lot, lady! (Yes, she was a woman!)
Saddle width is just one of the many things a bike fitter has to consider. Our local fitter, Pedro Dungo dials people in to their bikes all day every day. So I had a few questions about what he calls his craft.
Alexis: What is the biggest mistake that you see in bike fitting?
Pedro: I wouldn't say it's a mistake. Everyone has different techniques. Usually what happens is, they'll put them in something conservative, not really set up for optimal power. They don't ask enough questions. I think that's they key of a proper bike fit -- asking the proper questions.
Alexis : So you ask someone how often they ride, where they ride, what their goals are?
Pedro: Usually when I look at the bike, I say, you know this is an endurance bike, or an aggressive bike? As a fitter, if someone walks in with a Tarmac and is a brand new rider, there is a point of judgement: how do you set that person up? Do you want to look cool? Cycling is 60% cool, 40% practical.
Alexis: Now there's a quotable quote. So how often should someone get fitted?
Pedro: It depends on the rider and what her goals are. If the goal is riding 3,000 miles in one year, the goal is to be comfortable and we'll see you once or twice a year. But then if the goal changes, and you don't ride for six months, we have to go back to square one.
Pedro: When you're not on the bike, muscle memory is lost, muscle gain is lost. It's like a reset. And it's good to have a body reset. I treat a fitting as a detox.
Alexis: So when you're in better shape, you can have more of an aggressive fit, more of a differential?
Pedro: Yeah, there's a meme going around of a steer tube and the amount of spacers. It starts at 25 and as the age goes up you see more and more spacers, because your flexibility isn't what it used to be.
Alexis: Unless you do something about it, like Pilates.
Pedro: Yeah, bro-lates!
Pedro: You know the funny thing about cycling culture, is now you do see people working on core strength. Ten, fifteen years ago it wasn't a thing. But now you see it all over, with pro athletes and pro cyclists. Now they're in the gym as much as they're outside.
Alexis: So what's with the old school tools, like levels? Why don't you use lasers and stuff?
Pedro: Lasers are great. Sometimes I use them, but I've used the same method and it works for me. I feel like if I used all lasers, I would just be relying on them. But it's a craft. It's like an architect who likes to draw instead of using CAD. Some people like to draw because they can get more detailed.
Alexis: Are there any rules of thumb? Any hard and fast rules?
Pedro: Optimal fit means not hyperextending, stretching, tearing. It's getting that correct balance when you are standing, or sitting on the bike. It's all about body type, flexibility, the bike, where they're riding.
Alexis: Right. Well you see all those pros in the tour with that super aggressive fit, big differential between their saddle and bar height.
Pedro: The funny thing is, no one sees it but sometimes they'll pull over before a climb and swap bikes. There's always a reason for different types of bikes. Every day cyclists like you and I don't have a car following us with multiple bikes.
Alexis: What is it that makes you faster with that geometry?
Pedro: Putting more weight in the front of the bike. But it really depends on the person.
Alexis: Got it. So your job, your craft is looking at the riders, her goals, her bike, her body type, and making it all optimal through various adjustments.
Pedro: That's it.
Alexis: Cool. Well, where can people find you?
Pedro: San Francisco is home base, I'm in LA and NYC a few times a year, and always at fittedbypedro.com
Alexis: Thanks, Pedro!
Pedro: Any time, homie.