Why Fit is All-important - and a Test Ride is NOT!


Many people ask us why we don't have every size -- of every model -- of bike in our Lab.  After all, don't you have to "test ride" a bunch of bikes to find the "right one?"  Actually, NO!  Here is a Q & A about our Fit-Centric approach and the test ride myth.

1.

Don't I have to test ride a bike before I know if it fits me?

No, you don't!  Our master bike fitting, using the Dynamic Fit Unit, gives you unlimited freedom in finding your ideal riding position -- instead of being limited by a stock setup!  Once we have your ideal bike dimensions, you can narrow your choices to the bikes, models, and "sizes" that fit.  But each bike has to be adjusted to YOUR ideal position to feel right -- no matter how it comes out of the box.  And almost any comparable bike that's adjusted to YOUR ideal position will feel good, because your body will be working efficiently in its best biomechanical position.


2.

But won't I get a "feel" for a bike during a test ride?

Actually, most test rides are of limited usefulness in selecting a bike.  First, how the bike "feels" will largely be determined by the position (and feel) of the "touch points" -- the saddle, handlebars, and pedals.  If the saddle is uncomfortable, or positioned wrong, the bike will "feel" slow or uncomfortable -- even if the frame fits you well!  If the handlebar (or aerobars) are in the wrong position -- which is almost always the case with a stock bike -- you will feel off-balance and uncomfortable...and you'll think the bike "doesn't handle well" or is "twitchy."

Second, there is a HUGE "placebo effect" when trying a new bike.  Yes, the human mind is powerful, and can mislead your body.  If you THINK the bike is going to be fast -- because of its reputation or looks -- it will FEEL fast.  If you think the bike is going to be "stiff," it will feel stiff.

Third, the bike's components (everything outside the frame and fork) will largely determine the feel (and satisfaction) of the ride.  For example, a poor set of wheels can make a fine frame feel sluggish; or the wrong crank-arm length can make the pedaling awkward or painful.  These are items which could be changed after (or sometimes before) purchase.

Fourth, it's rare that a test ride lasts longer than 10-20 minutes, at most.  In that short time, it's difficult (if not impossible) to tell how the bike will feel after an hour (or many more) of riding.  Again, you can easily convince yourself that a bike feels great for 10 minutes; but only a proper FITTING can determine if your body is set up to ride efficiently for mile after mile.

Finally, we're all budget conscious, and you can easily be swayed by price.  It's easy to see how a "sale" bike will seem to "feel better" than another model.  That doesn't mean you have to, necessarily, spend more to get the right fit -- it just means that pricing can affect your test ride experience...and throw off your judgment.


3.

Can't I feel a bike's "ride quality" on the test ride?

Not really.  This is one of the biggest misconceptions in cycling today -- even among elite riders.  Much is written in bike magazines (and online) about how "stiff" or "compliant" different bikes are.  However, studies conducted by Zipp (a top wheel manufacturer) found that the difference in shock absorption (i.e. "compliance") between the stiffest carbon race bike and the most compliant carbon race bike, was equivalent to just 4 pounds of tire pressure.  In other words, letting just 4-5 lbs. of pressure out of your tires, will essentially add the same shock absorption as switching to a "compliant" bike!!  Now think about the test ride: do you know how much pressure is in the tires?  Obviously, your perceptions about bike stiffness can be misleading.  Moreover, the differences between carbon frames are quite minor, despite the hype of the bike manufacturers.


4.

If the test ride isn't helpful, how do I select the right bike?

We like to say: FIT is KING!  There is no better way to select the right bike, than by doing a preliminary DFU fitting, then matching bikes to your fitting dimensions.  We have pre-fitted hundreds of cyclists and triathletes for their bikes; some were looking for basic stock bikes, some wanted custom-cut frames.  Every one of our fitting customers has ended up with a bike that fits perfectly and FEELS awesome!  Many never test rode the exact bike they purchased, yet we were able to recommend the exact model and size -- within the cyclist's budget -- to fit them perfectly.  Many satisfied customers later, we know this system works.


5.

What if several different bikes fit me -- how do I choose the best?

Once you have the right fit, you can choose based on practical bike characteristics, including price, components, value, and even looks.  Many buyers are unaware of the components -- everything outside the bike's frame and fork -- they are getting on a stock bike.  It's important to compare "apples to apples," and make sure you're getting components which fit you and your riding style properly.  For example, many good-fitting stock bikes will have the wrong gear range: if you do a lot of climbing (or struggle on hills), you'll want a bike with a compact crankset and large rear cogs -- even a good-fitting bike will be misery if you can't climb the hills on your ride.  Pre-fitting can also determine the right crank-arm length or handlebar size/shape, so you can perhaps save on replacing those components.


Remember, even pro cyclists change bikes (brands and models) frequently, based on sponsorships.  If there were major differences between brands, you would see one or two brands dominating pro races -- and pros would flock to those brands.  Instead, they realize that all well-made carbon frames are quite similar; and that having the bike fitted to their bodies is paramount.

At SPORTFIT LAB, our approach is to help you navigate the bike-buying process, so you end up with the best bike for your riding -- whether or not you buy from our shop.  That's why our first priority is CORRECT SCIENTIFIC FITTING, so you have the measurements to shop with confidence, and don't have to depend on potentially misleading "test rides" to try and stumble on your next bike.  BEFORE YOU SHOP, SEE US FIRST TO MAKE SURE YOU'RE ON THE RIGHT ROAD TO BIKE SUCCESS!