Neal Ross started bicycle racing in high school and has been competing as a professional triathlete for the past two years. He’s ridden all over the United States, completing trails in the deserts of Utah and Arizona, has peddled up 14,000 feet peaks, and has toured along the unpredictable surfaces of the Barrier islands on the East coast.
Ross spends a large amount of free time on his bike and loves all types of environments, whether it be the road for training or the mountains for some fun and exploration, but one thing that never changes is his desire to ride a bike that is the perfect fit. M&F sat down with this experienced cycler and sales lead at LEOMO to learn more about the bike fitting process and why it might be a game changer for all who saddle up.
“I’ve been working for LEOMO for nearly three years and it’s been a dream job for me,” says Ross. LEOMO is a company that has built a solid reputation, using technological innovation to push the boundaries of motion. As such, they are the official training partners of the Movistar team, and the Australian Ironman triathlete, Adam Hansen. The company also offers one of the most innovative bike fitting systems available, using precise data points to create the perfect positioning. “I’ve always wanted to work in the endurance sports or cycling industry in some form and I was lucky enough to find a company that really welcomes my opinion and provides opportunities for growth,” he continues. No matter which company or outlet you choose to get advice on bike fitting, the desired aim is to improve your levels of performance and comfort, in order to smash PR’s and stay in race shape.
So, what is bike fitting and what elements are measured?
“Bike fitting is the process of adjusting a bike to optimize comfort and performance,” says Ross. “There are many factors in a bike fit, but the major elements start with a correct frame size, saddle height, and handlebar positioning. Finer elements then include saddle fore and aft adjustments (to make sure that the saddle does not sit too far backwards or forwards), cleat positioning (in relation to the pedals) if the rider is using clipless shoes, finding the correct crank arm length ( to aid with power, comfort, and aerodynamics), as well as fine tuning the stem and handlebar system. These are just a few examples and there are many more finer details that can be optimized.”
How important is a bike fit to the overall riding performance?
“For performance, a correct bike fit is just as critical as executing your training sessions correctly,” says Ross. “You could leave so much on the table if you’re constantly shifting positions due to a poor fit. Finding the right saddle and ensuring it’s in the correct position is one of the more important elements of a good fit. The wrong saddle height could leave a rider reaching for the bottom of the pedal stroke, creating a dead spot or it could create discomfort at the knee joint. A poor saddle position can also create excessive hip rock or rotation which, over time, can become really uncomfortable.”
Is bike fitting only suitable for advanced or professional cyclists?
“Absolutely not,” says Ross. “A good fit is suitable for anyone who wants to optimize their bike for a comfortable and enjoyable ride. Even a lower-end bike, that someone may have found on a used marketplace for a few hundred dollars, can be adjusted to ensure that it is fitted correctly. A good bike fit ensures you’re engaging all the right muscle groups throughout the pedal stroke. If you’re over recruiting certain muscle groups due to a bad fit this can lead to overuse injuries or imbalances over time, so if you’re someone that’s only cycling for health and general fitness this is still pretty important. Almost any bike can be fitted. Bikes are such modular systems, so parts can be exchanged or adjusted to suit the rider’s needs.”
How often should we check the fit of our bike?
“Once a bike has been initially fitted correctly, that doesn’t mean it’s good to go for its entire lifespan,” advises Ross. “Our bodies tend to change as time goes on, so it’s important to get checked for a refit once every year or so, to ensure that you’re getting the best riding experience. Our bodies change over time whether we notice it or not and our bike fits should reflect that. Individuals can lose or gain flexibility in certain muscle groups or some bike components wear out over time and a refit can address these issues.”
Where can you take your bicycle to be fitted?
“There are dedicated bike fitters who have their own studios or some bike shops might have a fitting service that they offer,” says Ross. “However, LEOMO has recently launched a remote bike fitting service where we ship you our TYPE-S device with our wearable motion sensors. Through a series of tests, we can now help you find the correct saddle position in the comfort of your own home. It’s a really convenient service especially for people who don’t have a fitter near to them, or who are unable to access a fitter.”
How is LEOMO innovating the process of bicycle fitting?
“Some traditional fitting methods entail a specialist, with a highly trained pair of eyes, with little or no equipment. Others may have an adjustable bike that measurements can be pulled from,” says Ross. “These are some of the fitting methods that I grew up around, and I have a good amount of respect for these industry experts. But with LEOMO’s system, we can obtain precise data points that allow us to analyze positional changes. Our proprietary motion performance indicators, what we call “MPI’s”, include measurements such as a dead spot score, pelvic rock and rotation, and foot angular range data, all contributing to a precise bike fit. LEOMO’s technology also lets you test positions outside, in real world conditions, which has a really unique value especially in competitive sports for example.
What kind of improvements have you observed in people who get their bike properly fitted?
“Some of the most common issues we tend to resolve are in relation to hip instability or poor pedaling mechanics,” explains Ross. “Looking back at some of the fits conducted, we’ve had a number of riders who have had dead spot scores, or lulls in the pedal stroke where power isn’t being applied. We’ve got those scores down from the upper teens or twenties right down to single digits, which is a pretty massive improvement. We’ve also seen pelvic rotation scores (how much the hips rotate from side to side) cut in half. Excessive hip rotation can lead to friction in unwanted areas, so this is a pretty critical component to fix for a comfortable ride.”
Ultimately, whether you are trying to reduce the time of your PR, or just want to get out and pedal in the fresh air, a correct fit could prove to be a game changer for cyclists’ of all levels. “Bikes are meant to be fun, so how they fit can play a huge role in your comfort and enjoyment,” says Ross. “If you’ve previously been a person who maybe felt that a bike fit isn’t necessary, it’s time to find out what you’ve been missing out on.