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Coach's Column - Professional Bike Fit: Will it Make Me Faster?

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |January 21, 2014 2:44 AM

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.

-TJ Woodruff


Travis Woodruff 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.




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