Is bike fit beneficial for mountain bikers?

Mtbr talks to a pair of professional fit experts to get their take

Tech
Adam CX

Adam Myerson doing what he does best, ripping turns and rolling fast on his cyclocross bike.

Bike shops across the country offer fitting services starting as low as $50 and reaching as high as $300. The best boast motion capture analysis, saddle mapping, and live tracking. But will this translate to gains off road? Mtbr spoke with two established bike fitters to discuss the potential gains of a professional bike fit for off-road riders.

Adam Myerson is self-taught bicycle fitter who has performed fits for the past 20 years on hundreds of clients, both professional and recreational though his coaching company, Cycle-Smart. Though Myerson comes from a road and cyclocross background, his understanding of what off-road athletes require make him a valuable resource in this discussion.

Todd Schoeni Fitting

Todd Schoeni performs a fit, checking measurements along the way.

Todd Schoeni is a 10-year veteran of bicycle fitting and first began his fit education with Specialized and Dr. Andy Pruitt in 2007 with basic and masters fit courses. Triathlon, TT, and MTB-specific fit courses with Specialized followed. Schoeni also has fit training with GURU/F.I.S.T. bike fit and Dan Empfield from Slowtwitch.com. Most recently he attended the Medicine of Bicycle Fit conference at USA Cycling HQ in Colorado Springs.

For part No. 1 of this two part series, Mtbr discussed the basics of fit and why a mountain biker would want to seek out a professional fit.

Ergon SPD

Getting your cleats in the same position every time is difficult. One trick lots of pros use is the Ergon TPD-1 SPD cleat alignment tool.

Mtbr: Why should someone get a mountain bike fit if mountain biking is primarily based on feel?
Adam Myerson: I’d argue all cycling undervalues feel, but it’s also possible to become adapted to something that doesn’t allow you optimum performance, even if it feels good. A good MTB fit should allow you to do a lot of contradictory things: pedal hard when seated, hover over the saddle while pedaling, provide leverage while climbing, and predictable handling in single track and while descending. For that reason, a MTB fit can vary dramatically from rider to rider based on build, terrain, and preferences.

Todd Schoeni: One person’s feel is different from another person’s feel, meaning, one person might set themselves up close to where their bike needs to be, and one person really might set their bike way off. It’s excellent to have an objective eye (third person, bike fitter, etc.) take a look at you, so you are not in jeopardy of injuring yourself due to a dangerous position. For instance, if your saddle is extremely low, it might feel okay to you on the trail. But you may run the risk of hip or knee issues due to overuse of your range of motion in your joints. It might not sound that bad, but cycling is a sport of repetition. Do something 90 times a minute for hours in a wrong position, and you may see an injury.

MM Velo

Velo Angle is a viable tool for riders looking to transfer fits from bike to bike.

Mtbr: Are there benefits for getting a trail or enduro bike fit? If so, what performance gains are there?
TS: My first inclination is, yes. Now, I know there is a lot of moving around on an enduro bike and not all the traditional thought of bike fit apply here. But let’s just isolate one thing, the starting point. Although you may move around a lot and not be in one position all the time, your starting point matters. I believe a good, properly setup saddle height and reach will be beneficial for getting all your power down to the pedals and allowing you to feel comfortable on the bike. If you have that efficiency and comfort, you can focus on feeling more confident in your handling and going fast.

AM: Again, what feels good should always get a second set of eyes. And an enduro bike is again a situation where you’re asked to do almost opposite things. Deciding how to balance those things is always good to do in conversation and review with a second person who can observe you on the bike, even if you provide a lot of input.

Check out part 2 of this series that takes a deeper dive into the benefits of bike fit for mountain bikers.


About the author: Jordan Villella

Jordan comes from the steep streets of Pittsburgh PA, where he learned to dodge cars and rip single track. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of the cycling industry: from turning wrenches, store design, clothing production and bike park creation. Jordan spends his free time racing cross country and cyclocross around North America, though he has been know to enduro every now and then. His love of cycling is only second to his love of his family and punk rock.


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  • BH says:

    In 50 years of riding (no racing) I’ve never had a LBS fit a new bike, or even offer to. I’m anal & spend a lot of time the first week + with a new bike setting it up the way I like it so I’m fine with my set up & sure a lot of other avid riders are in this group. But I see a lot of people that ride new bikes AS IS – that’s the target group that really needs these services. A riding friend is this way and his new $4,500 mountain looked to be to be a very poor fit, he really did not like the bike. I thought it was too small but did not say anything (but it was a “good deal”). The LBS helped when he took it back but it still looked like a bad fit. He went to a professional fitter (2 trips) who made a number of changes including a different stem & seat post to overcome the frame being to small (his statement), he is much happier with the ride now. Looking forward to Part 2 to see if it changes my mind about being fitted.

    • shawn says:

      If an LBS cannot get you on the right frame size for a mountain bike then they should be doing something else. I would hope the people at the LBS strongly tried discourage him from buying a bike that was too small and he simply ignored their advice. I would feel horrible selling someone a $4,500 item that I knew they would not be happy with, and even worse could be dangerous. Anyone can set saddle height for free with some very basic pointers; just Google it. From there you can do minor experiments with switching spacers around from under to on top of the stem, or trying a longer/shorter stem. Also experiment with seat rail for/aft adjustments and judge how your body feels, how your control of the bike felt after each ride. Spending $300 dollars for a bike fit seems like a real waste for the large majority of people.

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