Finding Your Bike Fit

So far, I think this has been the hardest part of triathlon for me and often I feel that there is something wrong with me the way I struggle to find a comfortable bike setup. The fact that I still haven't found quite the comfortable ride I am looking for probably calls into question whether I should even be writing a page on bike fit. So, I write this for those of you that are struggling as well in hopes I may have figured out something you have not.

How do I know my bike fits?

When I decided to invest in my first road bike, it was the first bike I had purchased for myself in over 20 years. I went to a few shops and road several bikes for 10-15 minutes (All the shops advised I take them out for a good long ride, but, who has time for that? Definately a rookie mistake.) and settled on a Cannondale Synapse 105. Based on my weight and height a 54cm was suggested and I was put on a trainer for fitting. With each adjustment I was repeatedly asked "how does that feel?" and I did my best to answer, but, the only honest answer was, "I don't know". Frankly, if you are not used to a road bike, nothing feels quite comfortable and you have nothing to compare it to. Just like you might be very comfortable on your mattress at home, but, then one day you are at the furniture store and decide to lay down on a high end mattress and in an instant, your mattress at home isn't so comfortable anymore. So, where is all of this going? Knowing you are comfortable on a bike is quite the same only much more complicated. You need to try as many bikes as you can, in as many positions as you can on as many rides as you can to really know what comfort feels like. Unfortunately, very hard to do with your first road bike when all you really want to do is get out there and ride. So, what's the answer? Get something, anything, but don't invest too much. Ride it A LOT! Don't be afraid to make adjustments on your own and don't be afraid to go back to your local bike shop to keep tweaking your fit. In time you will learn what your preferences are which could lead to another bike purchse in your future now that you really know what you want.

For the record, I am still struggling with the fit on my bike after visiting multiple fitters. I am at the point where I think there is a better bike out there for me, but, not quite ready to give up on this one.

A Tale of Two Bikes

After two seasons with my road bike, I realized that it really wasn't meant for trail/hybrid riding and is limited to 28mm tires, so, decided to invest in a cross bike for better handling on trails and as a commuter bike. This time, spent much more time researching, riding and comparing bikes and wound up with a bike that I absolutely love to ride, my Cannondale CAADX 105. I haven't even had a full bike fit on it and find myself extremely comfortable. Is it the bike, size, fit, geometry, larger tires? I don't really know for sure, maybe a little of each? All I know is that I always love riding it and I feel like whatever I am thinking the bike does. It feels like a natural extension of my body. But, I wouldn't have been able to know it was comfortable when I bought it without the 1000's of miles I had ridden the previous years to know what comfort felt like. So, why not make this my race bike? Although comfortable, I am not quite as fast on it. So, I am still in search of that bike that feels great AND gives me the extra speed to make a long ride tolerable or keep up with my ocassional weekend bike group. Here are my two bikes.

Cannondale Synapse 105
Cannondale Synapse 105 - Love/Hate relationship. Growing more attached to it with each race though.
Cannondale CAADX 105
Cannondale CAADX 105 - Love/Love relationship. Never a bad ride on the trails.

What Do Shoes Have to Do With It?

Here is yet another area where I seem to be a slow learner. When I bought my road bike I was anxious to get riding so insisted on the lowest priced shoe settled for the 1 option a the bike shop where I bought the bike. BIG MISTAKE! I suffered with them for an entire season and contributed to the development of plantar fasciitis. Once again, I had no idea what a bike shoe should feel like or what it might feel like after 50 miles of riding. Initially I thought 10-12 miles would be all I would be riding. To make a long story short, after much research, visiting many bike shops, ordering and returning many pairs of shoes, found the perfect ones for me. Giro TRANS™ E70 HV (High Volume). You can read more about bike shoes on my bike shoes and pedals page.

Sometimes Pain or Discomfort Goes Away With Time

This is especially true if you are new to biking, increasing distance/intensity or ramping back up after a Winter break. Certainly any new ache or pain should be monitored closely, but, sometimes it is your body adjusting to the new stresses and will reslove as you build your strength and endurance.


Take your time! Research, research, research! Buying a bike can be a whole lot of fun. Most bike shops are extremly friendly and are more than willing to let you take as many bikes as you want on rides as long as you want. Enjoy the process and enjoy the experience and hopefully you will fall in love with your first bike purchase.