Coach's Column with Travis Woodruff - Professional Bike Fit: Will it Make Me Faster?
Question: How important is getting a
professional bike fit done for racing performance? Does the bike fit
change some if I focus on endurance racing vs. shorter xc races? Does the
fit change as my fitness changes?
Answer: These are some great questions so
thanks for asking them. The value of a Ďprofessional bike fití really comes
down to the fitterís level of expertise. Some professional bike fits are much more valuable than others and at
the end of the day you need to be confident in who youíre working with and also
their fitting methodology. There are a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles in
the bike fitting industry today - for which many people pay top dollar. There are also a number of valuable bike fit
related tools that can help a good fitter be more calculated with their
adjustments. Each rider and their ideal fit is unique so be wary of systems
that calls for a specific saddle height given leg length, for example, without
some human consideration along the way. The fitting Ďsystemí should only be
there to assist the fitter, rather than the fitter acting solely as a
technician of the systemís protocol. The human element is the real value of a
professional bike fit.
While the perfect setup is going to be a
little different for XC vs. endurance racing, I would encourage you to find a
setup that you can be comfortable and confident using for both
disciplines. If you look at the efforts
done while XC racing youíll find that a greater percentage of the race is spent
riding out of the saddle, pushing at a higher intensity, or generally riding a
little more aggressively than you might in an endurance race. These two riding styles could call for
slightly different setups, but at the end of the day youíre going to race best
on what youíre accustomed to. So, itís best to keep your setup the same in
training as in racing Ė whether that be XC or endurance competition. Be sure to
discuss what style of racing is your primary focus and your fitter ought to
understand the nuances as they help you dial things in. Itís typical to see XC race setups positioned
a little more forward (saddle) and low (bars) whereas an endurance-focused
setup will likely be a little higher in the front (bars) and perhaps a little
more rearward in the saddle position. An aggressive XC fit that might be great
for 90 minutes is not the best option for 90 miles. Strike a balance that suits your riding style
and the bulk of the events that youíre doing and youíll be set.
As for changing your bike fit as your fitness
improves, this isnít too much of a concern across the scope of a single season.
However, if youíre making big jumps in fitness from one year to the next, your
ideal setup will likely change a little bit too. A fit with a trusted,
reputable fitter once per year is a great way to make sure that everything is
looking good at the onset of the new season. A beginnerís setup is going to be
different than that of a professionalís, so as youíre making progresses itís a
great idea to make sure that your bike fit is improving with you.
Unless your fit is grossly off, donít expect
a professional bike fit to make immediate, huge improvements to your riding.
However, itís the little things that have big impacts over the long term. Minimizing your chance for overuse injury,
maximizing your bikeís handling characteristics, and making sure that youíre
feeling comfortable and confident is what a great bike fit is all about. A trusted mountain bike fitter can really
help you out and send you down the trail set up to perform at your best.
is a USAC Level I (elite) certified coach who holds a B.S. in Kinesiology with
emphasis in Exercise Science. Heís coached riders to five MTB National
Championship wins and has over 10 years of personal racing experience. Since
2005 heís competed as a pro mountain biker and has coached full-time. His
business, Momentum Endurance LLC, is based out of Tucson, Arizona
where he hosts wintertime training camps.