BF Podcast Ep. 13: The Evolution of Bike Fitting Pt. 2 with Ben Serotta

Photo Credit: Bicycling Magazine, Ben Cieri

Ep. 12 Sponsors: G8 2620 Orthotic Insoles

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The Evolution of Bike Fitting and Frame Design Pt. 2

I’m honored to present the 2nd installment of our interview with legendary frame builder and designer Ben Serotta.  If you’ve been following the news as of late, Ben recently announced the official re-launching of the Serotta brand.  This means that in the near future, the iconic Serotta logo will be gracing some amazing titanium, aluminum, and steel bikes. To connect part 2 of the interview with his recent news, Ben also announced the creation of the Serotta Cycling Service Professionals Network which will be “a first-of-its-kind, peer-reviewed network of service professionals to provide bike fitting, maintenance, and related support services to new, returning and current Serotta customers.” This is potentially a remedy to what Ben mentioned in the pod regarding the consistency across the service and fitting landscape–how is it possible that two bike shops could suggest 2 different sizes and setups for the same rider a week apart? 

In part 2 of the interview, we discuss the cycling industry’s role in fitting, ben’s passion for getting cyclists on the proper fitting ride, bike geometry and frame tolerance accuracy.

THE DIVE: Ep. 13 Topics

The role of the Cycling Industry in Bike Fitting

  • Why there is no regulation of bike fitting in the industry
  • In order to improve fitting, the industry has to be willing to set aside self-promotion
  • Fitting requires support from the bike industry and the medical community to be recognized as a profession unto itself
  • “Bike companies are mostly concerned about selling the next bicycle.”
  • Cyclists would benefit if fitting became standardized across the industry

Bike Geometry and Bike Design

  • “With the exception of a few people, perfect position changes.”
  • “You design a bicycle knowing that perfection is a range for people.”
  • Designing a bike to cover a “range”
  • The focus of the interaction of the cyclist and the bike and why gleaning vast information about a cyclist is important to frame design
  • “You’re riding experience is optimized if you understand the cyclist first.”
  • “A bike is just an assemblage of parts until it’s ridden and then it becomes a bike.”
  • “What makes a great bicycle is what happens when it’s being ridden and that varies based on the individual.”
  • Wanting the best ride for a customer even if it’s not on one of his bikes.
  • On the one hand, it’s hard not to love the idea of somebody being able to just click 3 times and then all you have to do is ship a bike and there’s a lot of that taking place these days but it’s not very genuine if what a bike company professes to do is to deliver the ride experience of your life.  It can’t be done that way.”
  • Ben’s bikes are only fit by him and a small network of fitters he approves

Bicycle Frame Tolerance and Accuracy

  • Same model, same make, same size will have a different weight or range as much as 20% in either direction from part to part
  • People would likely not pay for the increased cost of more precision
  • The variance on high-end bikes
  • While Bike Cad is extremely accurate, builders cannot cut to a 10th of a millimeter 
  • Ben’s view on bike measurements like stack and reach
Photo Credit: Bicycling Magazine, Ben Cieri

I wasn’t deeply interested in bike fitting until I finally came to the realization that I couldn’t promise delivering the best bicycle if I didn’t understand bike fitting better than I did.  And the people selling my bikes needed to understand bike fitting better and so forth. I saw it as an absolute need. I wasn’t driven to be a bike fitter until I realized I had to do that as part of wanting to deliver the best bicycle.

Ben Serotta

Serotta Cycling

Biography from by Ben Serotta

After opening up a small retail and repair shop as an off-school activity in the late 1960’s I traveled to London, England where I apprenticed in building steel bicycle frames. First represented in the 1976 Olympics, Serotta bicycles bore witness to America’s rise as a modern cycling power. Contracted by US powerhouse teams 7- Eleven (1984-1988) and Coors Light (1991-1994), along with numerous smaller national and international programs, Serotta became the dominant US builder of high performance racing bicycles. By 1990 our bicycles had been raced to National, European and World Championship titles in road, time-trial, track, mountain and triathlon events.

Ever driven to raise performance standards, I worked directly with hundreds of elite athletes while developing a unique approach to the human/machine interface, resulting in the company’s two-pronged approach to elevating cycling performance: personalized engineering and a paradigm change in bicycle fitting methodology.

These revolutionary paths inspired the development of a proprietary range of shaped, “size-specific” bicycle frame tubing, dubbed the “Colorado Concept” and the first SizeCycle (an infinitely adjustable stationary bicycle). Like dual cornerstones, these advances became the foundation for the next 25 years of my company’s work. In 1998, Serotta launched a hands-on teaching program for bicycle fitting, which later became knows as SICI (Serotta International Cycling Institute). In turn, SICI graduates have gone on to become integral to the development of more than a dozen other bicycle-fitting organizations. To date, more than 1,500 fitting technicians, coaches and medical practitioners have come from around the world to attend SICI programs and seminars.

In August 2013, in a hostile restructuring by new investors, I was forced to part ways with Serotta Competition Bicycles, and in an instant I’d become separated from many of my friends, business associates and fans. In the time since discovering silver linings from my unexpected disconnect, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with a broad range of organizations from across a wide spectrum of the bicycle industry- from highly customized hand-crafted bicycles made in North America, to the one-size-fits-all world of public bike share bikes produced in Asia. Better still, I’ve had the gift of the opportunity to meet, ideate and create with some incredible people with whom I might never had the chance to work.

In January 2018, I formally and publicly re-entered the bicycle business with the opening of the Serotta Design Studio.  It’s not a 3-click to purchase company, nor will you find my new bicycles mixed in with a line-up in general retailers.  With this new endeavor, I wanted to establish a direct relationship with each cyclist who places her/his trust in us to deliver an exceptionally wonderful product. It’s not that I have anything against retailers as a whole, not at all.  It’s just that I’d rather not dilute the information flow, so that I really know we are delivering the best product for each client.  Besides, it’s more fun and more informative getting the direct feedback.

In a way, ‘The Studio” is both a continuum and a new beginning, building on a great  legacy that’s fed by a fresh and almost limitless stream of new ideas and opportunities.”

I remain as dedicated as ever to improving life experiences through cycling.

Want to learn more about Ben’s current projects?  You can find his work below:

Images Credit, Bear Cieri:


BF Podcast Ep. 12: The Evolution of Bike Fitting with Ben Serotta

Ep. 12 Sponsor - BiSaddle Shapeshifter EXT

Adjust and customize your saddle specifically for your unique body, goals, and needs as a cyclist.  The BiSaddle ShapeShafter BikeFit Edition is the only saddle that offers both front and rear width and shape changes.  Now in our new colorway, black with white logos.

The Evolution of Bike Fitting and Frame Design Pt. 1

I’m honored this week to present the first segment of a 2-part conversation with legendary frame builder Ben Serotta. He willingly devoted hours to our interview and went beyond my list of quirky questions.  Although we certainly discuss frame geometry and design, Ben is also one of the early godfathers of bike fitting with the invention of the Serotta Size Cycle in the mid-80s and in the early 90s, the formalization of one of the first bike fitting schools, the Serotta International Cycling Institute in 1998.  His relentless pursuit to provide the best fitting bicycle, lead to his passion for fitting as he found them to be undeniably intertwined.  He has designed bikes riders on major professional teams like 7-Eleven and Coors Light and for riders participating in national championships, world championships, Olympics and grand tours.

Part 1 of the conversation with Ben focuses on the following great topics

1.) Ben’s history in frame design

2.) Finding the fit–Serotta Size Cycle and SICI

3.) The challenge of bike fitting and bike fitters

THE DIVE: Ep. 12 Topics

Ben’s History in Cycling

  • The Whitcomb apprenticeship with Richard Sachs and Peter Weigle
  • Bike builder or college?
  • “Most people who cycle intuitively realize there is some correlation between how well you can ride and how comfortable you can ride and your position on the bike.”

Serotta Size Cycling and Fit in Frame Construction

  • C.O.N.I – The beginning of measuring cyclists and connecting them to bike sizes
  • New England Cycling Academy and the first Fit Kit
  • Cycling is about movement
  • The contact points on the bicycle and the impetus behind the Serotta Size Cycle
  • “If you are going to do something, just do it really well.  If there’s anything you can do to raise the bar on what’s come before, then there’s an obligation to try to do that.”
  • “I want to know that every bike I deliver is exactly the right bike for every cyclist.”
  • You have to know how to use a tool or it’s just a tool.  
  • “I started making size cycles to sell to the stores we were selling bicycles through. Then I realized that was different than just handing somebody a chainsaw for the first time and pointing them in the direction of the wood.  You have to know how to use a tool. You can have the best tool in the world but if you don’t know how to use it, the results will vary.”
  • One customer went to two different dealers with the size cycle and received 2 different size recommendations.
  • Michael Sylvester‘s influence on Ben’s decision to create bike fitting education

The Challenge of Bike Fitting

  • The more people who understand bike fitting, the more they’ll appreciate it
  • Not all bike fitters are created equal
  • The challenge of bike fitting is a lack of regulation
  • If you want to hang your shingle as a true, top-notch bike fitter, you have to have both the natural ability to read someone as well as this inquisitiveness as well as experience.  Good bike fitters are open to learn with every fitting and learn a little bit with almost every fitting.”
  • People becoming fitters are not screened before entering the profession.
  • “There are lot of good, competent bike fitters, but there’s only a handful of bike fitters than can universal do an excellent bike fitting on anyone that comes in.”
  • The average fitter has a difficult time defining the line of their own competence.
Photo Credit: Bicycling Magazine, Ben Cieri
Photo Credit: Bicycling Magazine, Ben Cieri
I started making size cycles to sell to the stores we were selling bicycles through. Then I realized that was different than just handing somebody a chainsaw for the first time and pointing them in the direction of the wood.  You have to know how to use a tool. You can have the best tool in the world but if you don’t know how to use it, the results will vary. Ben Serotta

Serotta Design Studio

Biography from by Ben Serotta

After opening up a small retail and repair shop as an off-school activity in the late 1960’s I traveled to London, England where I apprenticed in building steel bicycle frames. First represented in the 1976 Olympics, Serotta bicycles bore witness to America’s rise as a modern cycling power. Contracted by US powerhouse teams 7- Eleven (1984-1988) and Coors Light (1991-1994), along with numerous smaller national and international programs, Serotta became the dominant US builder of high performance racing bicycles. By 1990 our bicycles had been raced to National, European and World Championship titles in road, time-trial, track, mountain and triathlon events.

Ever driven to raise performance standards, I worked directly with hundreds of elite athletes while developing a unique approach to the human/machine interface, resulting in the company’s two-pronged approach to elevating cycling performance: personalized engineering and a paradigm change in bicycle fitting methodology.

These revolutionary paths inspired the development of a proprietary range of shaped, “size-specific” bicycle frame tubing, dubbed the “Colorado Concept” and the first SizeCycle (an infinitely adjustable stationary bicycle). Like dual cornerstones, these advances became the foundation for the next 25 years of my company’s work. In 1998, Serotta launched a hands-on teaching program for bicycle fitting, which later became knows as SICI (Serotta International Cycling Institute). In turn, SICI graduates have gone on to become integral to the development of more than a dozen other bicycle-fitting organizations. To date, more than 1,500 fitting technicians, coaches and medical practitioners have come from around the world to attend SICI programs and seminars.

In August 2013, in a hostile restructuring by new investors, I was forced to part ways with Serotta Competition Bicycles, and in an instant I’d become separated from many of my friends, business associates and fans. In the time since discovering silver linings from my unexpected disconnect, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with a broad range of organizations from across a wide spectrum of the bicycle industry- from highly customized hand-crafted bicycles made in North America, to the one-size-fits-all world of public bike share bikes produced in Asia. Better still, I’ve had the gift of the opportunity to meet, ideate and create with some incredible people with whom I might never had the chance to work.

In January 2018, I formally and publicly re-entered the bicycle business with the opening of the Serotta Design Studio.  It’s not a 3-click to purchase company, nor will you find my new bicycles mixed in with a line-up in general retailers.  With this new endeavor, I wanted to establish a direct relationship with each cyclist who places her/his trust in us to deliver an exceptionally wonderful product. It’s not that I have anything against retailers as a whole, not at all.  It’s just that I’d rather not dilute the information flow, so that I really know we are delivering the best product for each client.  Besides, it’s more fun and more informative getting the direct feedback.

In a way, ‘The Studio” is both a continuum and a new beginning, building on a great  legacy that’s fed by a fresh and almost limitless stream of new ideas and opportunities.”

I remain as dedicated as ever to improving life experiences through cycling.

Want to learn more about Ben’s current projects?  You can find his work below:

BF Podcast Ep. 11: Fitting Aerodynamics with John Cobb

Ep. 11 Sponsor - BikeFit Education

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Fitting Aerodynamics and John Cobb

On the pod this week, I interview John Cobb. He is a pioneer & innovator in the bike industry since 1972 and is considered part of a handful of legendary figures that helped shape the bike industry. He is often referred to as “Mr. Wind tunnel” and has been a proven pioneer in the area of cycling aerodynamics to help position riders better in order to gain speed and comfort.  He’s designed or been involved with the design for virtually every part of the modern bicycle. His stories are almost as legendary as he is and John provides many of them throughout the podcast.

We focus on aerodynamics since John was one of the first to ever put a human inside a wind tunnel.  How he convinced the kind and intelligent people of Texas A&M to use the wind tunnel for cyclists vs. their usual car testing is quite amazing.  Regardless, John was relentless in spending his own money and time with some of the early pioneers of the industry to study the impact of aerodynamics on cyclists.  This lead naturally to bike fitting as he analyzed position changes and it’s aerodynamic impact but also the tradeoff regarding aero vs. comfort.

The Podcast breaks down into 4 major topics but as you’ll notice, I let John’s brilliant mind meander down the rabbit hole in any direction as only he can bring the most amazing stories to life.

1.) Coaching and bike fitting symbiosis

2.) Bike fitting

3.) Aerodynamics

4.) Crank length

THE DIVE: Ep. 11 Topics

  • Getting into the cycling business when a friend offered him bikes as a form of payment
  • History in cars, not bikes
  • John Cobb’s history before saddles
  • “You’re my last resort.  If you can’t fix me, I’m gonna quit biking,” says the cyclist. “I’ll take that responsibility,” John replies.

Coaching and Fitting Symbiosis

  • “Finding a good coach is like buying shoes, just cause somebody’s a good coach doesn’t mean they are a good coach for you.  So you have to be willing to make the change.”
  • “You have to build trust to really help someone”
  • Many people will not be honest about what they can do on the bike.  It’s the fitter’s responsibility to establish trust to truly help someone.

Bike Fitting and Aerodynamics

  • How John designed helmets for Rudy Project
  • Getting caught in the hype of aerodynamics
  • What makes a bike fitter great is experience.
  • John fitting athletes with real-time feedback out of the back door of B&L cycles in Hawaii
  • The journey of fitting for free around the country
  • The importance of age group athletes vs. professionals
  • Allow cyclists to self-select to find the right position.
  • The crossover between running form and bike fitting
  • John’s experience with pressure mapping software
  • In fitting, it’s important that the cyclist can’t see what the technology is doing

Crank Length

  • John’s work with Dr. Jim Martin
  • Case studies of crank length changes
  • “God did not command everybody to use 172.5 length cranks.”
  • The pinewood derby
  • The speed of aerodynamics
  • Crank length is a tuning tool
  • Crank length’s connection to chainring size

Everyone says your seat height is too low or your seat height is too high…You can take the 10 people that are the most gifted fitters in America and all 10 of them will come up with a different seat height for you.  There’s just not a math answer to that. People that use math, just purely math to set things, all they are doing is putting you in a position that is safe–that you’re not probably gonna get hurt. You’re probably not going be fast but you are not going to get hurt.  For a bike retail store that’s a good deal, but for somebody who wants to go win races, that’s not the right way.

John Cobb

Speed and Comfort

John Cobb has been an avid cyclist since 1973, going through the steps of recreational cycling, touring, road racing and getting involved in the new sport of triathlon in 1981. Triathlons were particularly interesting to John and he began to focus more on that area as he developed skills in fitting and designing bikes. John opened his first retail bike shop in 1981, always having a focus of making his customers faster and more comfortable. He began testing human riders in 1984 at the Texas A& M WindTunnel and soon developed a reputation and a following for delivering the fastest bikes and riders around the world. John has always had a natural curiosity and an ability to see something in his mind and then be able to actually build it with his hands to test his theories. He has designed frames, wheels, cranks, helmets, saddles, handlebars, clothing and virtually every other part of modern bicycles, having many, many designs and products that lead the way today. John has always been willing to explore the outer limits of different sports and his continuing research will hopefully help riders for many years to come.

Want to learn more about John’s current projects?  You can find his work below:

BF Podcast Ep. 10: Size Cycle or Fit Bike with Chris Balser

Ep. 10 Sponsor - BiSaddle ShapeShifter EXT BikeFit Edition

Adjust and customize your saddle specifically for your unique body, goals, and needs as a cyclist.  The BiSaddle ShapeShafter BikeFit Edition is the only saddle in the world to offer width and shape changes.  Now in our new colorway, black with white logos.  

Size Cycle vs. Fit Bike

Chris Balser, otherwise known as the bicycle fit guru, joined the podcast this week to discuss the ongoing debate on how to define the dynamic units pictured in most fitting images found on the web, social media or in shops around the world.  Chris is clearly a specialist on this because he already composed an article on his blog a few years ago titled, “Fit Bike? or Size Cycle?”   He conducted trials testing the fits between a fit bike and a trainer and measured client outcomes.  Through this podcast, Chris aims to answer the question of whether the dynamic fitting bikes on the market currently are better for actual bike fitting or does the true value reside in using it as a pre-bike purchase sizing mechanism.

Interestingly enough, in Ep. 10 Chris goes well beyond the discussion of what it should be called and expertly explains his experience with bike fitting technology and it’s the accuracy when fitting the unique human body to a bicycle.

The podcast is broken down into 3 sections where Chris discusses the following:

1.) The Accuracy of 3D analysis systems

2.) Size Cycle or Fit Bike

3.) The bike fitting placebo effect

THE DIVE: Ep. 10 Topics

  • Journey Into Bike Fitting
  • “I may not have it, but there’s always a solution to a problem.”

3D Systems Review

  • 3D marker accuracy, the attempt to change the world of bike fitting
  • Morphology’s impact on 3D marker accuracy
  • What are the dots actually showing you?
  • The detail of the fit is in the person
  • The abandonment of symmetry protocols
  • Attempting to create symmetry may create more problems than it solves
  • Other reasons of why L/R power may not be even–a look at body symmetry
  • The dots (3d motion capture) don’t tell you enough about the human body

Size Cycle or Fit Bike?

  • There is a tremendous amount of variability between what constitutes getting fit on a fit bike and riding outside.”
  • Testing the fit bike on his own clients vs. the trainer
  • “The trainer does not represent real life, it represents a trainer.”
  • The fit bike fit tendencies
  • Stabilizers in bike fitting–the impact of a sizing stem
  • The nervous system response to a fit bike
  • Center of gravity on a fit bike
  • Size Cycle is necessary for new bike purchasing
  • Chris’ protocol for finding proper stem length
  • The accuracy of transferring measurements from fit bike to bicycle
  • Imperfections in the bicycle and the impact
  • Fit bike position vs. actual bike position

The Bike Fitting Placebo

  • If the fitter says the fit is great, is the fit great?
  • “My knee still hurts” but your bike fit was “perfect”
  • Fitting is trial and error
  • “Test everything against what you think is accurate”
  • “Anything better than shitty is great”
  • Bike shop fit focus
  • Independent fitters should provide a great product and should have exceptional outcomes
  • The value of your service should match client expectations
  • Always have a genuine interest in the client and be honest about your limitations

I don’t think you can be fit as well on a bicycle as you can on a fit bike. There’s this holy grail of position that occurs when you get positioned on a fit bike and it’s impossible to replicate.  I think it’s impossible to replicate because the nervous system isn’t acting the same. You can relax more on a fit bike than a regular bicycle.

If you’ve even been fit on a fit bike, you know the moment when you’re like, Oh my god, that’s perfect.  It happens and it’s powerful. It really is the holy grail of positions. The problem is it’s not real.  A fit bike is not a bicycle.


Chris Balser

Bicycle Fit Guru

Chris Balser started his bike fitting journey in the late 80s by tinkering with the fit of kids he was coaching on the Pedro’s New England Junior Mountain Biking Team.  After moving to Pittsburgh in the early 90s to pursue a doctoral degree in psychiatric and alcohol epidemiology, racing elite mountain bikes and opening his own bike shop, Steel Mill Cycles, Chris was dealing with chronic knee pain.  A specialist at the University of Pittsburgh diagnosed him with severe chrondomalica and informed him that he would never run or race again.

Instead of quitting, Chris decided to utilize the University of Pittsburgh database to delve into the research of the body, his injury and began a lifelong learning process in becoming a great bike fitter.  In fact, Chris still researches the human condition regularly and is currently researching how a human functions more like a primate on the bike.  

He utilized Fit Kit at his shop in Pittsburgh and eventually moved to Minneapolis where he started the fit program for Erik’s Bike Shop.  After working there for about 10 years, Chris could not endorse the new program adopted by the shop and he left to create his independent fitting business Bicycle Fit Guru in 2008.  

Chris went on to invest and study new technology in bike fitting.  He developed a 27-marker, 860-operator integrated 3d/ EMG program for cycling assessment protocol in 2012 and developed a biofeedback protocol to reduce counterproductive pedaling technique.  He also developed a symmetry protocol and a fit bike that would simulate “real world” conditions for BTS Bioengineering in Italy.   

Chris’s extensive research, consultation, and development of technology led him to discover that those tools of bike fitting do not render the accuracy required to match the individual unique human condition as well as the function of the body on a bike in “real world” conditions.  

Through this process, he also became a yoga instructor, continues to ride his bike, fits over 800 cyclists per year, fits cyclists from around the country to solve issues and spends time with his wife and two kids in Minnesota.  To learn more about Chris’ bike fitting and life journey, see his personal bio.

To learn more about Chris’s bike fitting services or to contact him for a bike fitting, please see his website below:

BF Podcast Ep. 9: Does Crank Length Matter with Dr. Jim Martin

Ep. 8 Sponsor - Festka

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Does Crank Length Matter?

Renowned cycling researcher Dr. Jim Martin from the University of Utah joins the podcast this week to discuss the implications of crank length on cycling. Dr. Martin’s research was originally motivated by examining kid’s standard crank length and attempting to find the optimal solution. Although his research on this topic was published in 2001, many people have strong feelings about specific crank lengths and how it affects cycling. Dr. Martin provides a colorful and detailed picture of the science behind crank length as well as multiple examples from his long career of working with national and world level athletes.

THE DIVE: Ep. 8 Topics

  • Custom-built equipment in the University of Utah Lab: Inertia load cycling system for maximum power testing, a biomechanical system with force sensing pedals, and an isokinetic bike.
  • “If you only have store-bought equipment, you can only do store-bought research.”
  • The importance of leg flexion in cycling
  • The negative impacts of poor leg flexion: blood flow, aerodynamic impact, and hip impingement.
  • Who should ride on shorter cranks?
  • Maximum power impact on crank length
  • Pedal Speed vs. Cadence
  • Muscles need to relax during the cycle
  • Cadence’s profound effect on muscle relaxation
  • Cycling is concentric but may provide an eccentric effect
  • Pedaling is not a sophisticated technique–regardless of crank length, the muscles still respond to the same motor control program
  • Looking at muscles individually vs. the whole in cycling
  • How much of a crank length change is required to experience a “difference.”
  • Short cranks make you feel taller
  • Dr. Martin’s thoughts on Bike Fitting
  • A crank length suggestion for national and world champion track cyclist Robert Forstemann
  • A reduction in crank length requires an increase in gear ratio.
  • Cycling effect on diabetes study
  • One leg cycling
  • Cycling inefficiency
  • Future research in ACL reconstruction and one leg cycling to restore symmetry
  • PRs with Birkenstocks
  • Dr. Martin’s favorite track cyclist

The interesting thing about crank length is how amazingly sensitive people are to crank length.  Most will know immediately that their cranks are different.  Where I think it goes wrong is, just because you can tell there’s a difference, does it make a difference?  All our work shows it [crank length] does not compromise power or efficiency.

Dr. Jim Martin

Dr. Jim Martin Biography:

Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, within the College of Health at The University of Utah and a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in biomechanics and muscle physiology. His research areas include neuromuscular function, biomechanics, physical activity, and performance modeling. Applications of these areas range from optimizing elite sport performance to facilitating physical activity in desk-bound office workers. He is an author on 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals and three book chapters which have been cited over 2000 times. He has been an investigator on research funding totaling approximately two million dollars. He is the sole inventor on one patent and a co-inventor on one other. He has served as a consultant to several sports organizations including the USA Cycling, Australian Institute of Sport, the English Institute of Sport, Canada’s Own the Podium, High Performance Sport New Zealand, and Oracle Team USA where he has worked with World and Olympic Champions. He holds a Bachelors’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Masters and Doctoral Degrees in Exercise Science.  Dr. Martin’s publications can be viewed on his Google Scholar Profile.  When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, cycling, and woodworking.

Find out more about his research or contact Dr. Martin via the University of Utah website. 

Read More about the Research Referenced on the Podcast:

Determinants of maximal cycling power: crank length, pedaling rate and pedal speed.

Effects of Pedal Speed and Crank length on Joint Powers during Submaximal Cycling

Biomechanics of Counterweighted One-Legged Cycling

Effect of Crank Length on Joint-Specific Power during Maximal Cycling

More Great Episodes

BF Podcast Ep.8: The Independent Bike Fitter with Sean Madsen

Ep. 8 Sponsor - G8 Performance

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The Independent Bike Fitter

In Ep. 8 I spoke with Sean Madsen who is the owner of the Denver Fit Loft in Denver Colorado.  After running the Specialized BG Fit program for 5 years and fitting some of the greatest cyclists in the world (Peter Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali, and Tom Boonen), Sean decided to embark upon his own project to provide custom bike fitting for Denver area cyclists. After 5 years of running the BG Fit program, he noticed that on average only 10% of the thousands of people he trained implemented fit effectively in their business.  Sean attributes this to the fact that the majority of bike shops’ primary task is to sell bikes and bike-related inventory and provide bike service.  While bike fitting is a service, many of the trained fitters were also managers, owners, mechanics, salespersons…etc.  He expressed that fitting gets “pushed down on the priority list” when a shop needs to pay bills, move inventory and employees have multiple responsibilities.  As a result, he created his own independent bike fitting business to implement the strategies he formerly taught but without the capital investment of bicycles and bicycle equipment.

Sean also spends significant time on the pod defining different types of bike fitting and why it’s important that these exist: foundation fitting, custom fitting, and pre bike purchase sizing.  He also offers advice to bike shops and fitters on finding success with fitting and sizing in the current marketplace.

Of course, we also traverse plenty of other great topics in cycling and fitting.  Take a look at the rundown below:

THE DIVE: Ep. 8 Topics

  • Sean’s background with BG Fit and studying with Dr. Andy Pruitt
  • Why custom fitting is not functioning well in many bike shops
  • The benefits of an independent bike fit studio
  • The appropriate level of fitting at a bike shop
  • Sizing vs. Fitting
  • Pre Bike Purchase Sizing
  • The adjustable bicycle and the adapable human body
  • PTs and bike fitting
  • How often a cyclist should get a bike fit
  • Advice to bike shops to be successful with fitting in the current sales landscape
  • Foundation bike fit vs. custom bike fit
  • The length of a bike fit session
  • How to discern whether someone needs a custom bike fit vs. a foundation bike fit
  • Mountain bike fitting
  • Marketing in bike fitting
  • Fitting is rider education
  • How bike fitting is currently devalued by some who offer it

Fitting is a full customization of the bike to the rider and to get to that true customization you really have to understand the rider.  You’ve got to understand their goals, history, experience, anatomy, range of motion, stability and you have to know how all of those things relate to that rider. It’s only through understanding the rider in total that you’re going to be able to address their issues effectively and precisely.  To get to that level and to really understand the rider takes education, a lot of experience and a lot of practice.

Sean Madsen

Sean Madsen is a world-renown cycling biomechanics expert who has worked with over 12,000 athletes of all abilities during a career spanning 20 years. Early in his career, Sean honed his skills at the prestigious Boulder Center for Sports Medicine where he studied under the founder of modern bike fitting, Dr. Andy Pruitt PA EdD.  Sean then moved to California to create and grow Specialized’s Body Geometry Fit program where he taught thousands of fitters worldwide. He is one of the foremost experts in aerodynamic testing, working with over 200 athletes in the wind tunnel and over 100 more in velodrome validation testing. Sean has worked with some of the best cyclists and triathletes in the world, including Peter Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Boonen, Javier Gomez, and Jan Frodeno. Making the best of the best a little faster is fun, but creating ways to help the everyday rider become a life-long cyclist and enthusiast is the most rewarding. Most of all, Sean is a passionate cyclist who has dedicated his life to showing others how riding a bike can change your life.

You can contact Sean or find out more about his practice by visiting the Denver Fit Loft website.

BF Podcast Ep. 7: The Crossroads of Coaching and Bike Fitting with Hunter Allen

Ep. 7 Sponsors

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The Crossroads of Coaching and Bike Fitting

I was honored this week to have the opportunity to interview legendary coach, CEO of Peaks Coaching Group, co-founder of Training Peaks software, co-founder of WKO software, co-author of Training and Racing with a Power Meter and co-author of Cutting Edge Cycling, Hunter Allen.  Yes, this is still the BikeFit Podcast so why did I interview a coach? As a matter of fact, Hunter strikes a chord with many bike fitters and cyclists who recognize the crossover between the two practices.  In fact, many BikeFit Pros are coaches as well as fitters.  For those pros, it’s important to mention that for any cyclist to reach their goals, a proper and full fit allows them to reach their potential and it (bike fitting) can be ruled out as a factor hindering performance (Hunter talks about this in the pod).

In the first part of the podcast, Hunter discusses his history in coaching and racing, the updated, 3rd edition of his book and challenges that coaches encounter regularly.  We then traverse into the land of fitting and discuss Hunter’s own fit, his philosophy on how fitting and coaching overlap and his feelings on Q-factor in the cycling industry.  Finally, we discuss the pros and cons of new technology in coaching and the overlap into virtual bike fitting.

Through this podcast, it’s clear that Hunter is incredibly passionate, enthusiastic and wants every cyclist to achieve their goals.  It’s not hard to understand after listening to him for a few minutes why he’s accomplished so much in his career.

THE DIVE: Ep. 7 Topics

  • Hunter’s history from pro cyclist to coach to software founder to author
  • The lack of coaches in the past and the influx today
  • Technology in coaching
  • The challenges for coaches in a tech-heavy, data-driven environment
  • Inside the new changes to “Training and Racing with a power meter, 3rd edition.
  • Power in MTB training vs. road bikes
  • Examples of his coaching with professional mountain bike racer Jeremiah Bishop
  • Where coaching and bike fitting crossover
  • Should cycling coaches also be bike fitters?
  • Why bike fitting is important
  • Virtual bike fitting
  • Coaches referring clients to professional fitters
  • Q-Factor and Stance Width on the bicycle
  • The impact of Pedal Extenders
  • Adapting the body to the bike or the bike to the body
  • Coaches collaboration with bike fitters
  • Fit changes with age
  • Shorter crank length
  • Leomo Type R system in coaching and bike fitting
  • Human asymmetry’s effect on coaching and fitting
  • Interpreting and using data
  • Testing in the real world vs. indoors
  • Hunter’s dream bike


In order to produce the most power, in order to be the most economical on a bicycle, you’ve got to have a great bike fit.  

Hunter Allen

Found and CEO, Peaks Coaching Group

Widely known as one of the top experts in the world in coaching endurance athletes using power meters, Hunter Allen is the founder of Peaks Coaching Group, co-founder of TrainingPeaks Software and has been instrumental in developing and spreading the power training principles. Hunter has traveled to over 20 countries and taught thousands of cycling coaches and riders the principles of power training. Hunter is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach, was the 2008 BMX technical coach for the Beijing Olympics and has taught the USA Cycling Power Certification Course since 2005. A former professional cyclist on the Navigators Team, Hunter has been coaching endurance athletes since 1995, and his athletes have achieved more than 2000 victories and numerous national, world championship titles and Olympic Medals. Hunter is known as the “Coaches Coach” and frequently has coaches from around the world consulting with him to learn more about the latest in cycling and triathlon training principles. He is a sought after consultant for many endurance-oriented tech companies and has worked with numerous companies to develop products for the cycling world.

Hunter’s goal has always been to teach athletes how to maximize their training and racing potential through professional analysis of their power data. This goes hand in hand with his philosophy that a power meter helps athletes discover their true strengths and weaknesses, quantitatively assess their training improvements, and refine and maximize the focus of their training. Hunter firmly believes that power training can add a whole new dimension to your cycling. By using a power meter, you literally have a second-by-second training diary that allows your coach to not only see exactly what you do on your rides but also plan your training using the dose-and-response method. Hunter’s power training method has built success at all levels of cycling and endurance sports, and he has trained such well-known professional and Olympic athletes as Jeremiah Bishop, Daniel Lloyd, Sue Haywood, Gawie Combrinck, Tomas Gil, Donny Robinson, Mike Day, Arielle Verharren, and Dan Fleeman.


A former professional cyclist for Team Navigators and has raced for over seventeen years, including BMX, MTB, and Road. He raced in Europe, South America, the USA, and Canada and has over forty road victories to his credit. Considered a great all-rounder, he was able to learn a wide variety of race tactics and skill necessary to succeed at the professional level, an FTP of 410 didn’t hurt either…For the past twenty years, PCG has been a leader in the industry in the field of power training for endurance cyclists of all levels. Hunter has mentored, taught over 100 coaches within PCG during this time and still spends his day working with the coaches of PCG. This unique opportunity has given Hunter the ability to review thousands of power files and racer profiles and develop an artful science of power training and coaching. During this time period, he also co-developed TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, co-authored the book, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” with Dr. Andrew R. Coggan, co-authored the book “Cutting Edge Cycling” with Dr. Stephen Cheung. “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” book has been translated into 8 languages and sold over 120,000 copies.
As a coach, Hunter makes sure to look at each athlete as a whole person. He excels at designing custom programs designed to maximize each rider’s potential. He believes we are human beings working closely with other human beings, and it’s important to him to work hard to find your strengths and weaknesses and to help you improve your skills, then develop a realistic plan that works for life. It is important that a coach learn as much as he can about you as an athlete and as a person in order to better develop a plan for success. He has now coached over 700 athletes and still learns something new from each one.
Hunter holds a B.A. in Economics from Randolph-Macon College and lives with his family in Bedford, Virginia, with his wife Kate and three growing children, Thomas, Jack, and Susannah. He is also a certified yoga and tai chi instructor, and a certified personal trainer. In his spare time, he enjoys driving, racing and tinkering with fast cars, hunting, fishing, and of course cycling!

BF Podcast Ep. 6: What is Bike Fitting with Happy Freedman

Ep. 6 Sponsors

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BikeFit Podcast listeners receive custom geometry, a $340 value, for free!  Just contact Festka via their website and be sure to mention the BikeFit Podcast!

BikeFit Training provides the tools to become a competent bike fitter or take fitting to the next level.  See our upcoming training dates.

Ep. 6 What is Bike Fitting? A fitting conference within a conference at the Philadephia Bike Expo.

In Ep. 6, I was invited by renowned bike fitter Happy Freedman from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City to join a talk with a group of fitters from around the country where he attempted to answer the question, “What is bike fitting?” In our conversation, some of the visiting fitters from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Tennesee, Kansas received the opportunity to share their thoughts and ask Happy questions about fit. He describes the current state of bike fitting, where he feels the focus should be, and the future of fitting.

The episode occurred in a large atrium of the Pennsylvania Convention Center at the Philadelphia Bike Expo.  It’s wonderful to see that the expo is supporting bike fitting through a few symposiums and also Happy requesting fitters around the country to help cyclists enjoy their ride more and meet their goals through bike fitting.

Happy provides some incredible insights into bike fitting from the wealth of knowledge he’s gained through over 40 years of experience.

The dive in Ep.6 by topic:

  • The definition of fitting
  • Bike Fitting as a real estate grab
  • Creating a history and definition of fitting prior to the point where a national certification exists
  • How to serve all communities with different types of fits
  • Teaching the skills of recognizing one’s own body in space and it’s application to bike fitting
  • Mobile
  • The rider as a the dynamic source in the fitting
  • Fitting for a cockpit or range vs. a single spot on the bike
  • The goal of bike fitting: efficiency vs. watts
  • How cyclist history influences fitting
  • The role of airflow (elasticity of intercostals)
  • Aero vs. breathing
  • The future of bike fitting
  • The big picture: rider’s needs vs. bike needs
  • Fitting for an injury
  • Fitters can’t fix everything–referrals
  • Size Cycles in fitting
  • Coaching requirements vs. fitting requirements
  • A millimeter does not make that much of a difference

Fitter’s who asked questions or commented in the episode:

Happy Freedman is passionate about bicycling and creating a synergy between the cycling and medical communities, advancing the science and art of bike fit, to help riders of all abilities to achieve their performance goals. He has been instrumental in developing the first multi-disciplinary, hospital-based, state-of-the-art bike fitting program of its kind here at Hospital for Special Surgery, where he has worked in a range of capacities for over ten years. He works in close cooperation with physical therapists and investigators in the motion lab, and the new bike fit program will advance performance, clinical bike fit evaluations, and research.

Happy has presented on bike fitting at the International Cycle Fit Symposium in London and numerous events throughout the US. He is a founding faculty member of the Medicine of Cycling Conference held annually at USA Cycling in Colorado Springs, where he presents both on bike fitting and on medical emergencies in cycling. He is on the advisory committee of IBFI, the International Bike Fit Institute, and was formerly faculty at the Bike Fit school, established by Ben Serotta. He is an experienced cycling coach, including over ten years for the Columbia University D1 Cycling Team, as well as having been a certified coach and official for the United States Cycling Federation.

Happy focuses on fitting the cyclist, not the bike, to address the individual needs of the rider, and collaborates with staff in Performance Services to develop an evidence-based protocol for bike fitting.

Tel: 646.797.8005
Fax: 212.774.2089

BF Podcast Ep. 5: The Foot is a Microcosm with G8 Performance CEO David Lee

Ep. 5 Sponsor: Festka

Frames made from the combination of the best carbon and graphite industrial fibers used in the spacecraft industry, handcrafted with tube-to-tube connections, Ti drop-outs, and modern finishing materials.  Festka produces state of the art bicycles in 24 different sizes as well as custom geometries and sizes.

BikeFit Podcast listeners receive custom geometry, a $340 value, for free!  Just contact Festka via their website and be sure to mention the BikeFit Podcast!

In Episode 5, I connected with CEO and founder of G8 Performance, David Lee.  While there is, of course, some inherent bias as I need to mention that BikeFit is the North American distributor of G8 insoles, the conversation with David is not a sales pitch but rather an exploration of the often ignored and overlooked extremity of the body: the feet.

David transitioned from an investment banker to a member of an elite special forces unit in the US Army to the eventual company owner and relentless advocate for the promotion of foot health.  He focuses on on the foot as a microcosm of its own rather than the belief that the “foot is just a lever.”

We discuss the dangers of current footwear, how they significantly impact and injure the feet, the brain’s connection to the feet, and the imperative need to promote movement and blood flow within the foot during any type of athletic activity.

The Dive: Ep. 5 Topics:

  • Foot movement during force expulsion
  • How the use of modern running and cycling shoes affects nerve receptions and muscle atrophy
  • The Golden Ratio 1:1.618 as seen in the pyramids and the Mona Lisa.
  • Cycling shoes are worse than running shoes
  • The foot as a lever vs. its own piece of complicated machinery
  • Calf and Achilles issues in cycling
  • The foot is an ecosystem–an ant mound.
  • The foot has the highest concentration of nerve endings in the body
  • Comparing insole types
  • Foot function and movement in the shoe
  • Rehabilitation possibilities of an insole
  • G8 benefits
  • The connection, or lack there of, with brain to foot based on insole
  • Foot correction affects other parts of the kinetic chain
  • The lifecycle of an insole
  • Benefits of a flexible orthotic
  • Bike fitting and injury prevention should start with the foot

David references a number of scholarly articles in the podcast.  Please see the links below for more information:

David Lee’s approach to the health of feet is simple: to reduce injury and increase athletic performance for everyone, whether you are a professional athlete, a weekend warrior, or someone who simply likes to go for a social walk or a bike ride.

David has long understood what it means to have issues with foot pain, numbness, calf cramping, and shin splints, suffering from these since he was a teenager. These issues were exacerbated for him during his time as a soldier in the US Army from 2003, where he worked and trained with US Elite Special Forces, and throughout six deployments, where the pressure and stress on his feet and legs were unparalleled. 

After leaving the army and returning to Australia, David sought solutions to his foot issues, at one time importing an adjustable orthotic device from the United States. This had its limitations, so he ultimately decided to develop his own product – and from there, G8 Performance was born.

David has been active within the performance orthotic industry since 2010, owning G8 Performance since 2012. Unlike other insole and orthotic solutions which merely provide a “band-aid” approach to foot issues, David’s business seeks to actively address the core problems which cause pain in the feet and which can be referred into the legs, ankles, knees and even the hips. He also wants to change the way the industry approaches feet – both in the cycling and sporting arena, as well as in everyday life.

David’s vision for the future is to bring “podiatry to the people” via outlets that prescribe customized foot solutions and which consider the function of the foot within a shoe – regardless of whether it is a cycling shoe, an athletic shoe, or even everyday footwear. With improved dynamic foot health, athletic performance is enhanced and injuries are reduced.


Contact David

G8 Performance


BF Podcast Ep. 4: Watch and Listen: The Tools of Bike Fitting with Jerry Gerlich

In Episode 4, I spoke with professional fitter and elite trainer, Jerry Gerlich.  When we connected for our pre-meeting, I sincerely wanted to describe Jerry as the “MacGyver” of bike fitting with his cavalcade of intricate and sometimes odd tools and his solution-focused philosophy that endeavors for answers in non-traditional formats, but as we traversed his bike fitting journey, two main topics arose: watch and listen.

The pod will describe it, but Jerry went from investing in the leading technology in fitting back in 2005 to now where his assessment and treatment relies heavily on the ears and eyes.  He listens to the sound of pedaling, the cadence and the rhythm of the chain.   He intently observes the cyclist; the patterns, body movement and global functioning on the bike.

Jerry also possesses the uncanny ability to describe the experience as if you could feel it yourself as if you could see fitting through his eyes.

Inside Episode 4 of the pod, Jerry delves into a range of important topics:


  • Jerry’s history of bike fitting and use of the Velotron
  • What looks good in the bike fit studio doesn’t always feel the same in real life
  • Using Duct Tape to augment arch support
  • Sock movement’s guide in fitting
  • Global functioning across the bicycle
  • Jerry’s unique tools (image to the right)
  • Customizing G8 Insoles (cheese grater, toe nail clippers and heating plastic)
  • Teaching the cyclist how to ride (feedback loop)
  • Proprioception in Cycling
  • The worst first approach to fitting
  • How the cyclist feels vs. how they look (stability).  Which one is more important?
  • Stability and symmetry
  • The journey from high tech to low tech: moving away from the numbers
  • Listen to the bike
  • Incline and decline testing in fitting
  • Fit expectations vs. the functional reality of a cyclist.  Why you should not attempt to emulate the position of a pro cyclist
  • Preconceived ideas could lead to unintended consequences
  • Small changes make big differences
  • Big Changes make small differences
  • Shoes are the most important part of bike fitting
  • What to look for and ask when trying to find a competent fitter

Jerry Gerlich has worked with cyclists and triathletes since 1990, gym clients since 2001 and delved into the world of endurance auto racing in 2015 with effective ergonomic suggestions, functional movement remediation, and foot correction techniques.  His knowledge, experience, and truly unique techniques combined with a passion for improved function, posture and performance have improved the lives of hundreds of local, national and international clients.  Jerry’s training includes a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin, personal trainer certification the American Council on Exercise, advanced conditioning through the C.H.E.K Institute, Powerplate USA, Trigger Point Therapy, Heartrate Zone Training/Cycling certifications with Sally Edwards along with dozens of continuing education courses since 2001.

Jerry is one of the few “Steve Hogg Approved” bike fitters worldwide and one of two in the United States.  Because of the stringent acceptance requirements, less than 10% of applicants get through the door to train with Steve in Australia. Steve’s patented fitting techniques are challenging to learn and more challenging to execute across a wide variety of clients.  Some have compared these techniques to effectively tuning musical instruments by ear.  Less than 30% of those allowed in for training make it through the process successfully.  Steve was so confident with Jerry’s bike fitting, assessment, and movement remediation skills, that he was referring U.S. clients to Jerry three years prior to training him.  All of Jerry Gerlich’s comprehensive fitting sessions come with free follow up consultations and a money back if not happy guarantee.

Jerry also has experience helping golfers, skiers, equestrians, musicians and auto racing drivers with improved comfort/function and achieving new performance heights.  Clients have ranged in age between 15 and 94 with many of them arriving from different states and countries. Testimonials can be found on the Castle Hill Fitness Ergo Lab and Steve Hogg’s bike-fitting websites.

Contact Jerry

Castle Hill Fitness


BF Podcast Ep. 3: Paul’s Corner–Saddle Height and Saddle Selection

Part 3 and the final part of our series on saddle height in bike fitting continues with an interview with the founder of BikeFit, Paul Swift. We refer to these regular episodes as “Paul’s Corner” where he not only weighs in on our previous podcast topics but expounds upon what he perceives in the world of cycling and specifically with bike fitting.  

Today’s riveting topics cover the following:

  • The range of saddle height and the variables that affect it.
  • Challenges to setting up proper saddle height.
  • Rider variability
  • The art and science of bike fitting
  • “T-r-i” which is the same as “try” but we were thinking of our triathletes
  • The Saddle Changer’s impact in finding the right saddle.
  • Saddle discomfort
  • Saddle shape and selection
  • Sit bone measurement
  • The BiSaddle
  • and much more…

Paul Swift is an 8-Time US National Track Cycling Champion and a gold medalist at the 1998 Goodwill Games.  After retiring from competitive cycling, Paul founded BikeFit and Bikefit Education to share his passion for cycling. Paul is a Master Bike Fitting Technician, a certified USCF sport coach, and a former member of the USA Cycling Board of Directors. Paul specializes in training bike fitters to correctly deliver comfortable and consistent fits to any type of rider.

Paul is a product designer or creator of the following:

He has trained over 1000 bike fitters and cyclists around the world.  Currently Paul’s Level 1 BikeFit Pro training course is taught in over 12 different counties and in 6 languages.  He is also the co-author of the BikeFit Foot/Pedal Interface manual When the Foot Meets the Pedal…

He continues to innovate in the bike fitting and cycling world with revolutionary ideas and products.  

If you have questions for Paul or interested in taking one of his courses, please contact him via e-mail: [email protected]

BikeFit Education

Episodes You May Like

BF Podcast Ep. 2: The Science of Saddle Height with Dr. Rodrigo Bini

Part 2 of our series on saddle height in bike fitting continues with our episode this week The Science of Saddle Height. Our guest Dr. Rodrigo Bini joins us remotely from Latrobe University in Australia.  

While last week, our guest Tom Wiseman focused on pelvic stability as the indicator of potential saddle height problems, Dr. Bini delves into the research that supports saddle height change.  We talk about some of the following great topics:

  • The amount of saddle height change needed to show statistically significant values in force or oxygen uptake
  • Knee angles
  • Static fitting knee angle vs. dynamic fitting knee angle
  • Should I throw out my Goniometer? Spoiler Alert – No
  • Technology in Fitting
  • Much much more… 

If you missed last week’s episode, you can listen to it here.

Rodrigo Bini, PhD, is a Lecturer and researcher in Exercise and Sports Biomechanics at La Trobe University – Bendigo Campus in Australia.

Currently, Rodrigo is an associate Editor of the Journal of Science and Cycling and the Human Movement journal. He also is a member of the Editorial Board of the Sports Biomechanics Journal, the Journal of Sports Sciences and the European Journal of Sport Science.

Rodrigo is also one of the editors and authors of many chapters in the book Biomechanics of Cycling, published in 2014. Rodrigo has published over 60 articles, the majority involving studies on sports biomechanics and he pursues particular research interests in the application of muscle mechanics principles in sports actions, with special attention to cycling and running.

BF Podcast Ep. 1: Establishing Saddle Height with Tom Wiseman

Saddle height is an often debated topic in cycling and there are multiple methods used to establish it.  Due to the massive amount of information about saddle height, this is our first of 3 episodes delving into this ubiquitous topic.

Professional bike fitter and BikeFit Pro Tom Wiseman of Cycling Solutions joins us for a candid conversation on how, after over 1250 bike fits completed, he establishes saddle height, the definition of pelvic stability, the importance of fit in the process, and identifying factors of improper saddle height.

Full Written Transcript Below

Tom Wiseman initially studied fitting with Michael Sylvester, then at the Serotta International Cycling Institute.  Next, he completed both Level 1 and Level 2 courses with BikeFit, established a mentorship via Curtis Cramblett to achieve his Level 3 status with the International Bike Fitting Institute and also studied special topics in fitting with specialist fitter Happy Freedman.  He is also a Level 2 USA Cycling coach and a fantastic mechanic.  Tom’s business, Cycling Solutions, provides comprehensive bike fitting, coaching, and bike service to the Akron, Ohio area.

Listen to more BikeFit Podcasts

Full Transcript of BikeFit Podcast Episode 1


Tom Wiseman, thank you so much for being on the BikeFit podcast.  I’m excited to have you here today and we’re going to talk about all things saddle fitting.

Tom Wiseman 

Thank you so much, Damon, I appreciate you having me on the show.


To get started, I’d love to hear just a little bit about your background, how you became a fitter.  What is your story?

Tom Wiseman

So I began fitting in 2011.  A good friend of mine had tried to complete the Race Across America and after 2200 miles or so, unfortunately had to withdraw from the race for a variety of reasons, including his position on the bike that was poor.  And at that time as a member of his crew, I wanted so desperately to help him and I had such limited knowledge at that time that I felt like I was doing him a disservice and simply I was present but not active, so I made it a point at that point in my life to say I’ve been in bike industry for 20 years and I know a lot of stuff, but there’s obviously a whole bunch I don’t know and I made it a point that fall and winter to both become a bike fitter and become a USA cycling coach.  And from there on, I really didn’t look back.  I just poured myself into it.  It really excited a whole new passion for cycling for me.  That’s 8 years ago now and I can’t tell you the change it’s been in me as far as my practice is concerned. 


Phenomenal.  How many fits have you done in the last 8 years just to kind of give that background to those listening?

Tom Wiseman

I just recently had to calculate this and count up some things.  As a level 3 International Bike Fit Institute member, you have to accrue 1200 fittings.  I knew I was getting close over the last year, but I didn’t know how close and I had stopped counting for that very reason, but I’m up over 1250 at this point, somewhere in the 1275 range, with this week’s fitting, probably somewhere closer to 1280, so every day it gets a little bit closer.


Well, that’s fantastic because I have a minimum need of a fitter to be on the show to have at least 1200 fits, so you just made the cut off.

Tom Wiseman

Well, thank God for that.


With that experience, I definitely want to get into today’s topic and clearly since you’ve been doing for a while and done so many, I know that you’re the right person to ask about this also because you just did some research on it as well, but let’s get into it, let’s talk about saddle height and let’s go with the function of saddle height.  How do you as a fitter determine saddle height for a cyclist?  What tools do you use? What is your process?

Tom Wiseman

When it comes to saddle height for me, that has evolved some over the past number of years and especially since doing in the past year, I worked with Curtis Cramblett on a mentorship program that focused strictly on saddle height.  And through that process, I really started to focus more on stability of the pelvis as a definitive guide to saddle height.  That’s the primary thing I’m looking for when looking at saddle height.  I mean I also use some other things like flexibility, range of motion, a person’s preference.  You’d be surprised how often that simply plays a role.  They feel like they’re overreaching.  They feel like they’re under-reaching.  And sometimes that mental block or hurdle is difficult to get over, so sometimes we’re doing some coaching as far as teaching them why and how they pedal the way they do and why the saddle influence is that, but I would say primarily what I’m looking at is pelvic stability.


When you’re looking for the pelvic stability, you said the sum of it is you’re working with the cyclists, some of it are you making adjustments to their seatposts based on that stability and how do you see that?  Can you describe that?

Tom Wiseman

Typically, I’m viewing this from the back.  I’m getting better at seeing it from the side, but it’s easier for most people to see it from a rearview of a cyclist.  If you’ve ever ridden in a group ride and you’ve been riding behind somebody, you can tell when a person’s pelvis is unstable either it rocks or rotates over top of the saddle, some people will see it as bobbing in the saddle, so there’s different visual clues that you can see.  But what I usually do is I take a person saddle height up past where they’re stable.  Oftentimes if I’m just shooting in the dark, so to speak, and we’re simply trying to establish a starting point, I’ll take their saddle height up 2 or 3 centimeters or past where they currently are because oftentimes a person’s saddle height isn’t terribly off, sometimes it is of course, but most of the time, it’s at least somewhere where they’re comfortable enough to pedal their bike for the distance that they’ve been covering up to that point, but I usually take it up pretty significantly till they’re obviously unstable and usually a person will immediately say, “Oh my gosh, this is a drastic change and I’m not comfortable here.”  Then we’ll simply start lowering it down until their pelvis calms down and they become more stable on the seat.  Then I make a note to myself that that’s the high point in their saddle stability position.  Sometimes and not often, I will also go to the low end of that range and generally speaking, it’s about 15 millimeters of height that a person can pedal stable and powerful while still remaining comfortable on their bike.


There’s a range, there’s not an absolute.  If you’re talking to someone and they’re like, well, my saddle height needs to be exactly this many centimeters or this many inches, that’s not true as you found.

Tom Wiseman

It’s true for certain people.  Some people have much more adaptability than others.  I have some clients that you move their saddle just a couple of millimeters and they can notice that.  You can have other people, you can move their saddle 2 centimeters and they don’t notice a definitive difference.  It’s the micro adjuster and the macro absorber mentality.  Some people are very sensitive to movement change and some people are simply not, but generally speaking, I think there’s usually a small window of room and height that a person can pedal effectively and comfortably.


Let me go backwards a little bit.  You initially said you went through an evolution to get to this point where you’re looking at pelvic stability, what was your evolution, how did you originally start measuring saddle height and how did you get to where you are now?

Tom Wiseman

I think most fitters start off their experience of learning bike fitting from a formulaic or a systematic approach, so they go to a fit school of some sort and somebody teaches them a method to establish saddle height.  I’m sure in your research recently you found that there’s a whole bunch of different methods from the 1970s on, the Italians had their way of doing things, Andy Pruitt has his way of doing things, Steve Hogg has his way of doing things, I mean there are so many different approaches to how saddle height is determined.  And depending on the person in the application, little bits and pieces of each one of those methods is very effective.  What I learned how to use as far as determining saddle position and saddle height was I started off with a flexibility based and flexibility driven saddle height determination.  I was taught originally by Michael Sylvester who owns a studio up in Portland, Oregon.  He basically teaches that at the bottom of the pedal stroke when the foot is the farthest distance away from the pelvis, you stop the pedal stroke and you rotate the knee back until it’s locked, so you’re looking to stack up the bones of the leg to the pelvis and you want the heel or the calcaneus bone of the foot to be just slightly 1 to 2 centimeters below the first metatarsal head or ball of the foot, at bottom of the pedal stroke.  This when you relax the knee, the knee now has good action at the bottom of the pedal stroke for most people and think middle of the bell curve as far as fitting, this will work really well for a whole bunch of people as long as they don’t have significant issues or have drastically misshapen legs, which we often run into where long femur, short femurs, long feet, there’s a whole bunch of factors that can get you outside of that bell curve.  But generally speaking, that was a great way for me to learn and learn to see how people are or are not stable and that’s how I kind of came to stability as a result of not finding success with that method of establishing saddle height.


I see, so you notice people still being unstable by using that method and thought there has to be some other ways to do this.

Tom Wiseman

Exactly and going to other fitting schools, there are some educators that talk about looking at knee angle as a guide to establishing saddle height 27 to 37 degrees as a general rule of thumb for knee angle to determine a height of the saddle that a person will be effective.  My immediate question to that was, okay, so what determines whether you’re at 27 degrees or whether you’re at 37 degrees?  Because if there is a range like that, what’s going to make you go and drive you to either end of that range?  And I’ve had two big sources of feedback regarding that.  One is on the flexibility front.  If you are more flexible, you can handle a longer knee extension, of course, less flexible, less knee extension.  But what I found is usually a bigger driver for that is simply the stability aspect.  And I found in my experience in the past couple years that many people simply don’t have the flexibility or the foot control to be able to handle a knee angle better than 37, 38 degrees, so oftentimes we’re looking at a knee angle that’s somewhere like 40 degrees and you would think that would be a very low saddle height or what the school taught, but that’s where their pelvis stabilizes, that’s where they have control of their legs, they’re able to spin more smoothly and the pelvis calms down and they can apply power more evenly.


If you focused just specifically on a number, for example, you would see somebody that was potentially unstable and so you would say, “Okay, do I either focus on this number or do I focus on how the individual feels and their response in the way you see them? 

Tom Wiseman

I’m glad you brought that up.  I have concentrated on the number and what I found is that if a person is unstable because they’re hypermobile, so let’s just take for instance, you’ve got a woman that’s a yoga instructor and she is extremely flexible, but when her legs start moving and her pelvis is planted in space on a saddle, she loses control of certain joints as a result of having a great deal of flexibility.  Because she is flexible, you would think, oh, she’ll be at the high end of that range.  But when in reality, she can only control those joints when the range is a little lower and now she can control those muscles through the entire range of motion.  I started looking more at – okay, let’s go to both ends of that spectrum and see where their stability is.  And it was weird that some people you would think that would be at the high end of that were actually at the low end of that as a result of that instability.


Yeah, that’s interesting because I would think counterintuitive.  I would have a different thought of how that would end up than what you actually found.  Realistically…

Tom Wiseman

It was really an eye-opener for me because it was completely counterintuitive and backwards thinking from what I was logically coming to as a result of the research coming up to it.


I think that where it comes in, I’ve heard the term, every individual cyclist needs to be fitted individually, you take them for what they present to you versus this idea of what something tells you they should be. 

Tom Wiseman

Well, I would certainly agree with that.  When I’m talking to people about bike fitting, one of the things that I strongly believe in is if you’re spending an hour a week or more on your bicycle, you can benefit from a bike fitting.  Even the most recreational cyclist often doesn’t think about the long-term effects of a poor position.  They’re like, “Well, I only ride.  You know I go out and ride for an hour a week with my wife and I only cruise around the neighborhood, it’s not that big of a deal.”  Well, an hour can be as much as 5000 pedal strokes and 5000 pedal strokes once a week, every week, that’s a lot of pedal strokes over the course of a year or 5 or 10 and that massive repetition in a poor position will do joint damage.  It’s just that simple.  A lot of people simply don’t think about the fact that your body has to adapt and it can only adapt so much before something gives up, so that injury prevention becomes very important to some people.  When you bring it up in those terms, they’re like, “Oh, I never thought of it that way.” 


In your practice though, do you see people on the end of the spectrum where they’ve already reached that damage phase, I think one thing from a BikeFit end, we encounter a lot of people who are in pain, they’ve reached this point of, “Hey, I used to ride this way for a long time and now this is horrible pain,” which I would assume is thousands and thousands and thousands of pedal strokes and boom, now we can’t do we used to do.  Do you see people across that spectrum or as a lot of the clients you see, hey, I’m in pain, help me? 

Tom Wiseman

I would say the majority of the people that I see are dealing with some sort of pain.  They’re in some type of recovery program from either an injury or surgery or they’re simply not comfortable.  They’ve got saddle pain issues.  They’ve got numb hands.  I mean there’s always a reason one of the questions I ask in my interview processes, everybody comes to me for a reason for a bike fitting, what do you want to get out of your bike fitting today?  What’s your purpose and reason for being here?  Over the years, I’ve gotten a slew of different answers for that as you can imagine, but I would say the majority of times, I’m seeing people that are simply exhausted what they know to do, so they’re looking for an expert to be able to get them onto their bike for a longer period of time at a higher intensity to be able to do what they want to do for the length and duration they want to. 


But you’re also saying that seeing a professional like yourself as a fitter prior to the point where you feel like excruciating pain could potentially help prevent an injury from happening.

Tom Wiseman

And I think that is the truly untapped portion of the cycling market.  Recent studies have shown that only 7% of cyclists are being fitted.  When you think about how many people are actually out there cycling and we’re only doing fittings for 7% of those, that’s a very small piece of pie.  If you think about the number 7%, those 7% are usually people that are injured or unhappy.  There’s a huge portion of the cycling community that can benefit from our services, but simply either one aren’t aware of what we do, aren’t aware of the benefits even if they aren’t in pain and don’t know the long-term ramifications if they don’t come and see us.


Right.  I think that’s you found some of the reasons why we created the BikeFit podcast, but that we digress.  Let’s go backwards and connect, but that was a great moment there to talk about the importance of fitting.  Let’s connect that injury point and injury prevention to this next piece, which is – well, I am a cyclist, I’d like to know from you how do I recognize that I have improper saddle height, you didn’t see it.  If you said you saw it when you’re in a group ride from behind, but that’s an occupational hazard.  You go on a group ride as a fitter, you see all kinds of things, knees, legs, back, I mean I’m sure you see things that drive you crazy.  But if I’m…

Tom Wiseman

Right.  Sometimes I wish I could ride with my eyes shut, sometimes… 


Doesn’t happen, but let’s say individually, I’m a cyclist and I don’t know, right.  I haven’t gone through the schools of thought.  I haven’t gone through this process.  I haven’t done the research.  How do I know my saddle height is incorrect?

Tom Wiseman

This is a great question because most people don’t know what to think of and look for in their own personal body’s awareness of itself in space in order to recognize that their position may not be optimal.  I’ve gotten this question a few times recently and I find that very interesting that you asked it that way.  The main thing that I ask people to think of and look for when they’re riding is simply what is their pedal stroke feel like?  Do they feel like they’re chopping their way along?  Are they simply concentrating on the push phase of the stroke or are they more circles in the aspect of the way they’re pedaling?  Some people describe it as the circle and square, are you pedaling in squares, are you pedaling in circles?  If you feel like your pedal stroke is not smooth, it can be a number of things causing that, but most of the time, saddle height or saddle position in space can be a primary driver for that type of thing, so that’d be the first thing to look for.  The next thing I would think about is when you’re climbing relatively mild hill, 3 to 6 degrees, so you’re pedaling in a slight incline and you’re trying to catch somebody, so you’re putting some power down at a level that on a scale of 1 to 10, I would put somewhere between 7 and 8, so you’re pedaling pretty hard, you’re trying to keep up and when you’re doing that, are your feet comfortable?  Do you feel like you can apply that power for a long duration of time or is it something that you can only do for 15 or 20 seconds before you have to stop and sit up, that would be another indicator because you should be able to apply 7, 8 level power for a good few minutes, think in coaching terms, you should be able to apply power at your VO2 max for somewhere between 3 and 7 minutes.  If you can’t, position can play a very, very important role and not being able to do that especially if you’re a fairly fit cyclist.  Those are the things that I usually tell people to think about and then I always go into the whole conversation, feel free to come in, I’ll make an assessment, we can talk about it.  If a fitting is the right thing for you, we can move forward with that. 


The general answer is there is one, do a couple activities to test that and two is talking about preventive measures, going to a fitter and having somebody see you or having a consultation could obviously help as well.

Tom Wiseman

Oftentimes, I can even talk to somebody over the phone and just through like describing that situation to you in this podcast, I do the same thing in a phone conversation and then 3 days later I get that phone call back from them and they’re like, “Yeah, I did move my seat down, I am more stable, I feel better, I’m smoother, but now I feel like because I’ve moved my seat down, I’m too far forward and I feel cramped.”  Because yes, they move their seat down and because of the angle of the seatpost, their seat is actually moved forward and now they are cramped because that’s just one piece, one contact point of the puzzle, you’re technically holding onto your bike in five places, two feet, two hands and your pelvis and you move one, that affected everything else, so that’s one of the reasons why saddle is very important, but it’s just one piece in this big puzzle. 


A single change as you said could affect multiple factors, so even though you’ve made the change to feel a little bit better, now you’re recognizing something else is different, so it’s helpful to look at this full picture versus just a single change.  I think a lot of people on cycling do the DIY, type in the Google search say how to set my saddle height and then find out well, now my knee hurts even though I changed this, so I feel more stable, but now I’ve got this ancillary problem.

Tom Wiseman

Exactly.  That’s exactly the type of things we’re dealing with is these people, almost anyone and everyone nowadays is going online to find out information.  There’s so much information out there on fitting and the problem is even fitters can’t fit themselves.  I struggled with this after having hip surgery last fall, my position was, one position last spring as a result of having a hip that was messed up.  Then after surgery and recovery, now my position is drastically different, and I had to go get another fitting this spring in order to be able to ride effectively and comfortably this summer.  I tried and I got it better, but when you have a set of eyes that can step back and look at things that I can’t see even with good motion capture equipment, it’s a wonder that fitters don’t have the same problems that everybody else does because there’s not enough good fitters to go see in some towns.


Well, my understanding with fitters was so busy, they actually can’t go out and ride because they’re busy fitting people, so that makes it difficult too.  It’s the hairstylist idea, right?  You’re a master hairstylist, do you cut your own hair?  It’s unlikely.

Tom Wiseman

It’s unlikely.  It’s the cobbler’s son has no shoes.  But I’d like to think that a lot of fitters do get some writing in.  It’s one of the things that makes us very aware of our bodies.  I talked with Happy Freedman about this just recently that one of the things that has allowed him over the years to be the great fitter that he is, is that he’s spent a great deal of his youth and adulthood riding bikes and racing bikes and that awareness that he developed of how you control a bike and why you go into terms the way you do is made him a much better fitter because now he understands that without putting enough weight on the front wheel in order to get that front wheel to dig, you can’t effectively make turns.  And by having a position above the bike that allows you to do that more effectively, suddenly, the fit in that aspect becomes very important.  Without being able to ride and learn that on his own over top of the bike, you would never be able to just see somebody over the top of the bike and say, “Oh, well, that’s what’s going on there,” so I think we learned a lot from actual riding.


You did a paper you talked about you did a mentorship and really dove into saddle height, so the history of saddle height, multiple methodologies from saddle height called the Backside of Bike Fitting Saddle Position, I love the title, what did you find from that?  What was interesting from that, that you’d like to share?

Tom Wiseman

Oh, well, it was very educational.  I can’t stress that enough.  Anytime that even at the very beginning of the paper, I said that any bike fitter worth their salt should be able to establish saddle position.  Most people think oh, saddle position, how hard is it?  You know that’s a great quote from Steve Hogg is, “It can’t be that hard, we should all be able to do it.”  The fact the matter is there’s so many different ways of establishing saddle height that you can get lost.  I mean there’s dozens, literally dozens of methods and some methods are better than others.  Some parts of some methods are better than others.  Some methods don’t work for some people and some other methods work only for some people too.  There’s a great deal of information out there and each method has its merits.  I think that’s the most important thing I learned from the whole experience was that not everybody’s method is the only one, it’s not the end all be all, so to speak.  There are little gems within each style and method and approach that is worth learning about because it’ll change the way you look at a saddle position.  Oftentimes, I belong to several groups and we often talk about you see this picture of a bicycle, you see a picture with somebody on their bicycle and you’re like, oh, their saddle is too high or their saddle is too low.  Well, all you’re getting is a still picture of them on their bike.  You don’t know anything about that person.  You don’t know anything about the kind of riding they do.  You don’t know anything about their medical history.  You don’t have enough information to say whether or not that saddle position is good or bad.  You just know what it is.  To you, it looks god-awful uncomfortable.  But for them, it may be perfect.  That’s one of the things that I really took from this experience was that you can’t just go with a picture.  You’ve got to learn a whole lot more you got to ask the questions.  You got to dive into it and get the information required to make an educated decision and not pull up too soon or make a judgment without the proper background.


Right, which also goes back to this idea of this individual nature, right, what one person sees and says that looks high may not necessarily take into account any of the other factors which makes that person potentially comfortable in that position, let alone it being a static picture. 

Tom Wiseman

Right.  After going through, 12 months of digging and reading and there was some stuff that was not relevant, I dove into all kinds of other things that I didn’t even put into the paper everything from leg-length discrepancies to fore-aft position and knee over pedal spindle.  There are so many things that establish a seat’s position in space where the rider can be that saddle height, just nail it down to saddle height alone was very difficult because there are so many other things that influence it, reach to the handlebars, saddle to handlebar drop, stability of the feet, proprioceptive feedback from the foot.  All of these things can play a role in how a person interacts with their saddle, how much arch support they actually have?  Some people with and without arch support can literally interact with the exact same saddle in the exact same position two completely different ways.  Now with saddle pressure mapping, we’ve proven that and 15 years ago, that information simply wasn’t available.  We’ve evolved in bike fitting with the science that we’ve used to drive it to be able to make definitive decisions on, it’s not all about the saddle, it can be so many other factors.


Well, let’s go into a couple of those because I want to talk about this idea that people are looking at this DIY method to find something online to figure it out.  A couple of methods, which you talked about and I’ve seen are, one where it’s like the heel drop which you talked about earlier or just a formulaic, right, starting with adding a formula and multiplying it by a variable like Greg LeMond had a formula where you’re multiplying your leg length by a certain amount.  Do those get a good starting position for someone in your experience or is that a place where someone shouldn’t start if they’re just setting up on their own before they’ve contacted a fitter, which they should do?

Tom Wiseman

Well, I think a lot of people use those type of methods in order to find a great starting point, even fitters do, so for instance, when I’m putting somebody on the sizing bike and I don’t have their previous bike as an example to take a measurement from it in order to establish saddle height, I’ll take a measurement of their inseam and multiply that by 0.883, the Greg LeMond method and I’ll establish a saddle position.  It’s a good starting point.  It at least gets some pedaling and it’s not so drastically far off that, oh my god, it’s terrible at least most of the time.  Sometimes you may find that even right out of the gate, they’re not stable at that position and I’m not one of those fitters that just leave them there.  I’m one of these.  I’m a strange fitter in this aspect.  I take care of the big things first.  If I see that the reach is too far or the saddle height is too great or too less, not enough, suddenly that that is a significant driving issue into what’s going on in the fit.  I’ll work on that to start with, even though I know I might want to start at the foot and work up.  If that’s not the primary issue that’s having a problem at this moment, that’s not where I’m going to start.  If they’re having trouble breathing, I may start up with the handlebars and get a handlebar position established so that they can relax their upper torso, their pelvis will relax.  Next thing I know, suddenly their feet don’t have a problem anymore, even though the foot was the primary thing they were complaining about.  It’s a matter of identifying what the drivers are and then moving through those things in order to make progress as you go.


You find that in your process, because one of my questions was how much time you spend on it, saddle height specifically, but you find you’re kind of looking for what is the major problem first, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that you look at saddle height or the foot first?

Tom Wiseman

Correct.  I like to describe it in terms of a person that’s fixing a hole in a wall.  You got a wall in your house.  It’s a beautiful piece of drywall and it’s got a bunch of holes in it, some holes are bigger than others.  Let’s just say for instance, you go through and you fix all the big holes, suddenly the small holes don’t look so bad, but once you get all those holes fixed, some of those small holes may become the big holes and then you have to dive into those.  But oftentimes, I can find that in the course of a fitting, I take care of some of these real big issues and some of those small underlying driving issues that the person complained about go away as a result of fixing the big issues, so take care of the big stuff, oftentimes the small stuff takes care of itself.  If it doesn’t, you just keep driving down through them until the person can ride at the duration and the intensity they want to for whatever they’re trying to achieve.


Can a person’s saddle height, a person you’ve seen or let’s just say generally change over time?  Like in other words, there’s this idea maybe that okay, I set this and now I’ve got three different kinds of bikes and they’re all going to have the exact same saddle height because this is my height, but could that change for somebody?

Tom Wiseman

Well, saddle height is different for a number of reasons.  One of the things I didn’t include in my paper for the mentorship was I collected data on people’s height at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day, so I took five people, I took measurements of their height and I found that some people would vary as much as three and a half centimeters in height over the course of a single day, pretty dramatic.  Well, then as a matter of talking to people, Happy Freedman says, “Well, now you’re measuring saddle height measure for the navicular drop.”  The navicular is a bone in the arch of the foot that often collapses as a result of instability in the foot over the course of the day.  Naturally I’m like, okay, well, I’ll start measuring foot next thing I know, I’m finding out that some people in my group of people that I’m taking measurements for, their arch collapses during the day instead of their spine compressing during the day.  It’s a matter of where does that height change and how will that affect their position on the bike?  If a spine compresses, the reach might change.  If the foot collapses, the saddle height might change.  Do they do the riding and racing in the afternoon?  Do they do it in the morning?  Will that affect saddle height?  You most definitely consider it will.  That’s one aspect of it.  Another thing is those three different bikes may all be for different disciplines.  If you’ve got somebody that’s racing cyclocross, most likely they’re going to be getting on and off of that bike, great deal, their saddle height might be a little bit lower in order to more easily facilitate jumping on and off of it.  If you’ve got somebody that’s a crit racer, that saddle height might be a little bit higher.  For some people, it might actually be significantly lower because this is a person that’s mobile over top of that bike and they’re simply sliding all over that saddle.  I want them to be using that entire thing.  If they can’t, then that limits what they can do going in and out of turns, accelerating and decelerating and cornering at high speed.  I would say absolutely, the saddle position may change and that doesn’t even include injuries, other factors that may play a role in how saddle height might change over time.


Yeah, I wondered if age had something to do with it, if even aging affected saddle height, let’s say it’s set correctly for this specific discipline for the needs you have as a cyclist, okay, this is what I do, I want to do this Gran Fondo, but if age has a factor in changing that.

Tom Wiseman

I think age on its own is not a factor, but I think other things that may be related to age can play a factor like spinal compression and like arch drop, even pelvic rotation, so if you think about when the pelvis is on the saddle and if you’re in a fairly upright position and your pelvis is rotated back or posterior rotated, the hip joint is in a certain position and if you rotate that pelvis forward, you get into a more aero position, the pelvis rotates forward in that joint changes position and the position may not be as comfortable because that joint’s in a different position in essence making the leg longer.  If that’s the case, then a saddle position may need to change based on what position they’re riding in.  If they’re doing long Gran Fondo type rides and they’re sitting more upright, that saddle height might be different comparatively to if they’re doing very aggressive riding and their pelvis is very posterior/anterior rotated, rotated forward, their position maybe much more aggressive.


Right, like a triathlete, right?  The amount that your hips are rotated at that position, how that would affect them? 

Tom Wiseman

Yeah and that’s a whole another animal altogether.  They’re usually very up and forward and much more anterior rotated, so they rotate much farther forward.  They’re seated on a portion of the pelvis that is very far forward.  The pubic rami or something that, most people have trouble sitting on to begin with and that position, I found that there are some people that they want to ride there, but they can’t ride there comfortably especially for long distances, so it becomes a big challenge in saddle position and saddle choice at that point, finding something that is the best of both worlds and able to allow them to ride for that duration and intensity that they want to cover. 


I got to go backwards.  I got to go back to this thing that you just mentioned previously talking about your height changing throughout the day.  Your height changes throughout the day between your spine and your arch and those two places and when you fit someone, you’re doing a snapshot in time, how do you accommodate for that kind of difference, especially since it varies by the individual?

Tom Wiseman

One of the phrases that I love in bike fitting is that a bike fitting is simply your position at this moment on this bike. That may change 2 weeks from now, that may change 2 months from now, it depends on so many factors will influence how and why you sit the way you do that my establishment of position in during this 2-hour or 3-hour bike fitting is only this snapshot in time.  Some people are adaptable more than others.  I can change your bike significantly in a short period of time.  I can change a person’s body significantly over a longer period of time, but they have to be a willing participant in making those changes.  Oftentimes, I’m literally working with that person for weeks afterwards in order to increase their flexibility in their weak areas, increase strength in their weak areas, sometimes changing the way they pedal, so that their interaction with the bike is more efficient because they simply have developed so many bad habits over the past few years that we’re trying to break them in order to increase their efficiency, so those things as far as like their position changing because of their height changing on a daily basis, I’m looking for a neutral saddle position when I think of that 15-millimeter space in the air where that saddle is going to be in above their crankset that position, I’m trying to find the closest to the center of that and it may drop so say for instance, oh, I’ve got a big MS 150 ride coming up this week and a lot of recreational riders do 75 miles up and 75 miles back the next day.  I suggest for some people if you go really hard, you do the hundred miles on the first day and you wake up in the tomorrow morning and you’re sore and you’re having trouble walking down the stairs to get your bike, you may want to consider dropping your saddle height a centimeter to get started with your ride because all the muscles of the lower extremities are tight and that tightness is going to limit your interaction with the bike.  And by lowering the saddle, you’re making the muscles contraction smaller, shorter, making things a little more comfortable until you warm up, then maybe at 20-25 miles, you stopped, you put your saddle height 5 millimeters, you ride the rest of the ride.  These are things that many people just don’t even think about.  It’s not something that’s considered.  Let alone be able to consider it and accept the fact that a bike fitter is going to be able to convey that in an understandable fashion during the course of a 3-hour bike fitting. 


It sounds like you’re fitting level, what you’re doing, what you’re providing for people is more than just the snapshot and even the neutral of the day.  You have an ongoing relationship, you are helping them to meet their needs of what they do, but also you’re almost coaching them, I would say in a sense from just being a bike fitter to the knowledge of the general person, every cyclist is just I go in and get my bike setup, but it sounds like your relationship goes much beyond that.

Tom Wiseman

Well, as a USA cycling coach, I pride myself in applying what’s necessary for that person for them to achieve their goals.  Even in my company name, Cycling Solutions, my whole premise is that I want to guide that person to their goals in whatever cycling they’re trying to achieve and that’s different for everybody.  Even my coaching approach is very individualized from the person that’s looking to just improve their fitness to the person that’s trying to be a crit racer to the person that’s trying to Race Across America, we go into why and what they’re trying to do and what things we can do as a team in order to make that goal more achievable for them, so it’s very individualized, absolutely.


But they connect, right?  It sounds like your practice as a coach even affects as part of the way you fit, even if it’s not an athlete of yours, it sounds like you treat fit like that process or maybe that’s your personal philosophy that you believe fit is this ongoing, not only am I adjusting you to the bike, but I’m going to train you in how to ride.

Tom Wiseman

I believe that’s correct.  My approach is never a one-and-done type of situation and I stress that very heavily during the fit process is that if what I apply to you and what we try to do with your bike today will work for some people, but not necessarily for others and your adaptability may not allow you to be happy on this position that we’ve established today once you get out and you put 35 miles on it.  If that’s the case, I would rather have the opportunity to get you back on the stand whether it be 2 or 3 times whatever it takes in order for you to be happy than for you to be disappointed at all.  The key is that I don’t learn anything as a bike fitter unless somebody tells me I’ve done something wrong.  If I try something and it’s ineffective, I want to know about it because I want to know that if it didn’t work and I want to be able to try something different in order to find out what does work for you.  That allows me to think of things to apply, they’re not necessarily inside the box methods.  This goes back to my belief that formulaic or methodized fitting is not necessarily the best approach for most people because the fact is there are so many things that make us individuals that we simply have to look at things that are outside of the norm to apply to a solution in order to get a person to be happy on their bike.  If you weren’t willing to go the steps necessary in order to find out what those things are, you have an unhappy person at the end of the day.  Frankly, my goal is I got people paying me for bike fittings, I want them to be happy, I want them to come back, I want them to tell their friends, I want them to tell everyone they know that’s unhappy on their bike that, “Hey, Tom took care of me, Tom got me happy, I would say go see him, he’ll take good care of you.”


It also helps from the business name, right, Cycling Solutions sounds a lot better than Cycling Formulaic Methods that might work.

Tom Wiseman

Absolutely, I would agree.  That’s awesome.


Tom, I cannot thank you enough for being on the BikeFit podcast.  We appreciate your insight and I can’t wait to talk to you again about another topic.

Tom Wiseman

Well, thanks for having me and it was a great time and I look forward to the next subject.

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