Frame Fitting

If I did bike fits I could charge like a 50 bucks to show someone this picture.

If you’ve been to any swanky bike shops lately you may notice the newest craze in upper end retail cyclery.  The exclusive fit session.  Back in the day the sales dude looked at you and said, “Yeah you’re probably a 58.”  Then he’d get a 58 down for you to try out.  You could go to a different shop with a younger sales dude and he’d bike like, “Yeah I think you’re a 54.”  The point being that you got on a bike adjusted the saddle height and rode.

Elite pro cyclist would never ride an off the shelf bike back in the day, and many of them had frames built by hotshot torch jockeys like Dario Pegoretti in custom sizes to their exact measurements.  Those days are over for the pros but now even us lowlife recreational riders can get the custom fit treatment for a small fee to their shop.  That is if you think several hundred dollars is a small fee.

Most shops actually have a wide range of fitting options available, some using the traditional plumb bob and level, others using lasers, 3D imaging, and lots of big words.  Kozy cycles in Chicago offers the Specialized BG fit, which like everything Specialized makes is full of buzzwords, marketing speak, costs too much, but probably works really well.

So here’s the thing, I would gladly pay for a custom super laser 3D fit, if I thought it would fix the saddle sore problem that has creeped back into my life this week.  I think it came from riding too far and too low last Saturday, but I tend to get saddle sores in the early season no matter what and have had good luck with them getting better and going away as the summer progressed.

Just for kicks tonight I took my measurements and entered them into Competitive Cyclist’s fit calculator to see what they recommended.  My wife helped me with these measurements and I’m pretty she wasn’t putting scientific accuracy at the forefront of her mind, but instead getting finished and going back to bed, so there could be large errors here, but it appears that my own judgement in fitting matches their formulas pretty well and seems to indicate my 58cm CAAD9 is about right for a less aggressive fitting bike.

The French fit is their most laid back fit and features nearly level bars and saddle, this is pretty close to my bike’s measurements, but I’ve shortened it up about 2 cm and raised the saddle almost 5 cm higher than their BB-Saddle measurement.

I think getting a custom fit at a bike shop is probably a good idea if you’re dealing with pain, but it so easy to take some measurements of your bike and make some adjustments yourself.  Measure from the center of your BB to the top of your saddle and the nose of the saddle to the handlebars and you’ve got your two most important measurements.  Make small changes and pay attention to what you’re body tells you, something that feels mildly annoying in a few minutes will feel like agony after a few hours.

Remember pros ride with their bars 10cm below their saddles because someone is paying them to ride fast.


About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Rants, technology (geek), training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Frame Fitting

  1. I think i saw you today in Rado i said Hey while trying not to get run over by a tractor and a pick up truck and watching a lady picking something up out of the weeds at the north end of the bike path in Rado, did you ride the bike path back to Hburg?

    • Matt Gholson says:


      Yeah that was me, Mom and Dad, we the Cedar Point Loop. I thought you looked familar. We took the rail trail into Eldorado but rode the highway back to muddy then the rail trail from there.

      We’ve got a Thursday night rail trail ride in Harrisburg if you’re ever interested. 5PM

  2. Steve says:

    I tend to see things from your perspective. Riding a bike shouldn’t be so complicated that it requires mathematical formulas to find one that fits you. It has been said that the bicycle is the last invention which the common man actually understands. If so, then lasers should not be required to get the thing set up properly.

    You also touch on the issue of comfort vs. racing positions, which I also side with you on. I say this despite the fact I current own a Madone. Just because a pro sets his bike up a certain way does not mean you should copy it. Racing professionally is a decidedly different activity from going on a weekend ride with family and friends. You should know what your goals are and buy the bike which best suits those goals, then it up to fit your own particular needs. I believe the road bike industry has sold us a bill of goods and there are way too many racing-style setups on the road today at the expense of touring styles. Just my opinion.

    • Matt Gholson says:

      As usual a bastion of common sense.

      Some racer types rarely ride farther than 2 hours or about 40 miles, comfort isn’t that big of a deal to them, but there is a reason, the “comfort” road bike category as sprung into existence.

      Bikes with taller headtubes weren’t really needed years ago when you could easily move your quill stem up and down 10cm with the turn of a bolt.

  3. I just got a new bike the one i was sure i wanted they did not have so had to orde,r could not decide if i needed a large or med, Dans comp bike shop said they had no prob ordering both for me to try, went with the large now how long before i get used to the very small and not very padded seat? Oh yeah Matt there is no way i could keep up with you or anybody u ride with but would like to meet you sometime, where do u start the Thur ride? i have weird coal miner hours and change shifts every 7 days so hard to make to many rides at normal times.

  4. 6 FT tall, Got a GT Transeo 2.0 because nobody wants to see me in spandex and i do like donuts!

    GT’s Urban Sport rigs enable riders to get their speed fix without the indignity of sporting spandex or without having to wear clothes that’d make Spiderman jealous. GT’s Urban sport rigs are engineered to be nimble and quick, yet comfortable and, of course, reliable. GT Urban Sport bikes are ideal for cruising to the donut shop or avoiding rush hour traffic to-and-from your 9-to-5. Suburban is such a dirty word.

  5. I recently added a new saddle to my commuter. Another Selle Anatomica. Love that saddle. It’s different from the Terry saddle I had on there, so measurements weren’t totally helpful. I kept moving it a little at a time until one day I got back on and felt that “oh yeah” feeling. Whatever bike you ride, when it’s right you know it. When it’s not, just a couple of hours and you’ll know it in spades.

    • Matt Gholson says:

      My Selle Anatomica broke after two rides, but I didn’t get the clyde model so ti was my fault. The B17 was the most comfortable saddle I rode until I started getting constant saddle sores from it.

  6. Bout how long do u think it takes your sit bones to get used to a smaller seat? how do i know if im just not just used to the seat yet or i need a different style?

  7. Matt Gholson says:

    that is a question I’ve actually been trying to answer. I think something in the 145-155mm range is good for bigger guys and newer riders who are carrying more on their rear. 130mm wide saddles are way to narrow for most riders.

    As Miles said, when you’re on a saddle that works for you you’ll know.

  8. Okay i put the seat that came on my GT Vantara on the Transeo dont know bout sizes but i do know its bigger and brought instant relief does not look as cool as the little seat but what the heck the cool kids are gonna point and laugh at me anyway!

  9. Matt Gholson says:

    When I bought my CAAD9 a few years ago it came with a San Marco saddle that was around 135mm wide and had a surface that felt about like rubber. It was by far the worse saddle I’ve ever ridden. Was going to destroy it but gave it to someone instead. They probably hate me now.

    the size is the width of the widest part of the saddle. Not really as important as they make it out to be.

    Best to think of saddles in 3 categories. Skinny racer saddles, medium touring saddles, and large hybrid saddle. More you sit upright the larger the saddle you need.

    • Steve says:

      All very sound advice, to which I would add that any new saddle will require time to get used to, especially if you are new to cycling in general. Bottom line: your butt is going to hurt until you put some miles in. How many miles varies per person. I would give any saddle 100-300 miles before I began to think we weren’t going to get along.

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