Proper bike fitting is essential to comfort, efficiency and speed on the bike.
I've been bike fitting for 18 years and have helped thousands of riders get set-up on new bikes, or optimize their position of current bike.
Ironically the biggest fitting problems often exist with cyclists who want to go the fastest.
It is easy to fall into the low = fast trap. Slam the stem, put the bars as low as possible and look "pro". But if your goals are a bit broader than looking "pro", if you want to feel strong, comfortable and race FAST read on...
The ideal bike fitting is one that is optimized for all of the following factors:
Finding the balance between these factors takes experience, good feedback from the cyclist and real world trial and error to see what your body can tolerate.
It is true that you can reduce drag (and improve speed) if you can ride in a lower and /or narrower position on the bike, but there is a limit for everyone. If the position is too aggressive your aerodynamics could end up being worse. This will happen if you can't stay in the aero bars or ride in the drops for a road bike for the race duration.
Another possible negative effect of having the bars too low is that your hip angle could be so closed down that you can't generate your full power potential, often this causes other side effects such as rocking of the hips or the cyclist's knees splaying out (appearing bowlegged) which of course results in increased aerodynamic drag. And trust me, if you are a triathlete or duathlete it is not easy to run fast off the bike if your back or hips are tweaked.
A little over a year ago I did a bike fitting on Ross Lenehan who is one of the top triathletes in the region. Ross is an outstanding runner in excellent shape, but he was uncomfortable on his tri bike and couldn't ride for extended periods.
When observing Ross ride, his leg was almost fully locked out at the bottom of the pedal stroke causing his hips to twist down. The reach to the bars / pads was also too which far which caused tension in his shoulders, neck and arms.
During our bike fitting session I lowered the saddle, moved it forward to increase the effective seat angle (resulting in a less acute hip angle), and used a shorter stem to decrease the cockpit reach. All of these things made Ross not only more comfortable but fast. He ended having a great season! Ross earned USA Triathlon All American honors and was the overall winner at the Fitness Challenge in Naples and Captiva Island Tri.
Ross is off to an awesome start in 2017 racing for our new Trek-Segafredo Tri team. He finished 5th Overall at Ironman Florida 70.3 in 4:11 averaging 25 mph on the bike leg followed by an impressive 1:20 half marathon. Ross followed that up with a 4th place overall in the open category of St. Anthony's Tri.
We wish Ross much success! Meet him in the following short video.
Don't hesitate to email If you have questions about bike fitting or want to schedule a fitting. See you at the races!