Getting a bike fit is an investment in yourself and your riding. It allows you to be in the optimal position on the bike for your anatomy as well as physique. How you value it though can depend, as raising the saddle a little and adjusting your bars ever so slightly might not seem like it should cost much. When you can’t ride because of an overuse injury and have to spend even more money on rehabilitation, that fit suddenly becomes much more worth it.
Valuing something is always dependent on how much you need it and what your opportunity costs are. Bike fits get placed in a category of “yeah it would be nice but is it really worth all that money?” Their value is always increased retrospectively when riders realize that they should have gotten a fit after all. They can vary in cost but getting it right is always worth it.
Levels of Bike Fits
There are varying levels of bike fits that depend upon the fitters experience and expertise level. Each level will go up in cost but also will have increasing value. Finding the right level of fit for your riding needs is key.
Your local bike shop is going to be your biggest fitting resource as they are likely to have the personnel who have been around bikes enough to know how to position someone on a bike. They can adjust, with a bit of margin for error in the general sense, the height of your saddle, how far back it should be, and the height and reach of your handlebars. Most shops will include this general fit with the purchase of a new bike. On its own they will charge around $50 for this service as it does take a bit of time and know how. This is your best option if you are looking to ride for fun and aren’t doing long rides or racing as this puts higher demands on, well everything.
General Coach/Fit Enthusiast
The next level of bike fitters are going to be the ones who can more accurately assess what a local shop can tell you as well as other areas of specificities such as knee and hip angles as well as where your foot should be positioned on the pedal. Typically they have been around cycling long enough and are in a position of trying to achieve optimal performance so they know the ideal positions to produce the most power as well as endurance.
Depending on experience level, they may be able to do some of the stuff a fit specialist can do so if you can find a good coach who knows what they’re doing they can be a great valued option. Typically when working with a coach or other similar individual they will give you a discount on their fitting services since you are already paying for coaching. If not they will typically charge $100 to $200 because they have enough experience to know the ins and outs but may be lacking some of the higher end tools.
At this level of fitting on a bike the fitter either has decades of experience or has taken classes to know the ins and outs of body anatomy and how to find the correct position for each cyclist they fit. They are going to be able to do what a local shop and coach or fit enthusiast can do but to an even higher degree of accuracy. Furthermore, they are going to be able to asses you for flexibility and other potential discrepancies that can affect your pedal stroke. This includes correcting things like leg length discrepancies, knee tracking issues which can be corrected with shims under the cleat, and other specific issues that aren’t going to be properly corrected for with anyone without the proper know-how. A fitting specialist is going to cost roughly from $150 to $300 because of their expertise and larger tool kit that can get your position pretty well dialed on the bike. The range in price is going to depend largely on the fitters experience level.
A bike fit guru is someone who not only has taken classes on becoming an expert bike fitter but also has years of experience dealing with all sorts of fit related issues. A solid fit guru can assess a rider and know where they are potentially having problems and how they will be placed on the bike before a pedal is turned. Once the rider is on the bike they can see intricate details to how and why something is doing what it’s doing, say a knee diving in toward the top tube. Fit gurus also will have one of the latest fit tools such as the Retul Fit System or Guru Dynamic Fit Unit which are high tech tools using computer software and exact measuring devices to measure your position on the bike as well as your bikes exact measurements. Furthermore, they will most likely have lasers that can project a straight line that can determine knee tracking as well as foot, knee, and hip alignment. This level of expertise does come at a price however typically starting at around $300 and ranging up toward $500.
The cost of a bike fit can seem expensive at any level but when you compare it to what you’re getting out of it as well as what you’re saving, you’re actually getting a lot.
Value of Comfort
It’s hard to put a monetary value on being comfortable on a bike but riding and being uncomfortable is only going to lead to riding less to not at all because it’s not enjoyable. A good fit will have you as comfortable as if you were walking down the street.
This is where the real value in getting a proper fit comes in to play as if you can’t ride due to an overuse injury it is likely going to take a while to bounce back from. On top of not being able to ride, you could potentially need treatment such as physical therapy to revamp a bad tendon or other strained body part. Depending upon the injury, this can easily cost as much as a fit and on top of it you still need a fit to correct the misalignment in the first place. If you just get back on the bike after you have recovered you are just going to re-injure it.
Monetary Gains from Performance
This is an area that is more reserved for the racing cyclist who is at a high enough level to make prize money. Simply, a good fit is not only going to put you in the ideal position to pedal but also to be the fastest on the bike. This added power and efficiency can contribute to increased performance and thus results, which can have bigger payouts.
Additional Bike Fitting Costs
One additional note to costs in a bike fit to be aware of is the added costs on top of the original fit fee to make any changes on your bike. Things like a different length stem or cleat shims or wedges are going to cost more as the bike fit covers exactly that, the fit on the bike, not the additions needed for your bike. Typically a fitter has access to well-priced equipment that you can purchase to get your position dialed.
A bike fit is a costly investment whether using a local bike shop or a fit guru, but its benefits are going to be well worth it in the long run. Just make sure that when you get a fit you write down all of the exact measurements of your bike and that you keep them in a safe place so you can refer back to them in the future when needed. Bike fits are something you should do early in your riding days at the lower end of the scale and as your riding improves or if you have specific anatomic differences you should seek out a higher end bike fitter. They all will help improve your position on the bike to make your riding more comfortable and enjoyable.