Yesterday I received a client who’s circumstance turned out to be the perfect example of why an holistic approach to bike fitting is always necessary. Most fitters, most of the time, interview riders to some degree, but it’s the quality of the interview which will shine a proper light on things which impact the rider on their bike.

This means that bike fitting is not just about rider position, but also about understanding what got a rider to this particular point, where they’re sitting in front of you, the fitter, and asking for a solution. Fitting is about understanding habits, history, tendencies, technique, and a number of other potentially contributing factors. If a rider arrives at a fit with a problem, it’s the fitters job to understand the full picture, and from that work out the probable cause(s) of the issue. And if it’s not possible to know what exactly the cause was, it’s still important to understand the rider’s habits so that those can be changed, if necessary.

Case in point was my client yesterday, who arrived with a debilitating pain at her lower/left back, just above the glute. It was only with an understanding of a number of different facets about her, her life and habits, that the likely cause of the issue became apparent. She herself reported having the issue on both her bikes, bikes which were set up quite differently and used at different times, in different environments. An interview was necessary:



- She was commuting 20 miles per day, 4 days per week, on a singlespeed

- Her position on that bike was very bad, adding a huge amount of tension to the suffering lower back (saddle too far back, bars too far forward)

- The gearing on her singlespeed was too high, creating excessive effort while pedalling, once again hurting the afflicted muscle

- Core/upper body strength was weak, limiting the support she needed to push such a hard gear

- Left leg appeared to be overextending compared with the right

- She commuted with two very heavy panniers, adding at least 20kg to the bike

- Just before she first experienced the lower back pain, taken a one-year break from riding, then dived straight back into the same original routine without the necessary acclimatisation.


As we can see above, there were numerous contributing factors. These could be broken down into the following categories;


- POSITIONAL – her position on the bike was hurting her

- DAILY ROUTINE – repetitive daily ride keeping her in a state of pain with no relief

- GEAR RATIO – one hard gear leaving no choice but to “muscle through”

- PHYSIOLOGICAL – bad core strength meant her upper body couldn’t deal with the stress

- ASYMMETRICAL – her left leg was overextending due to being shorter

- UNKNOWN EXTRAS – heavy baggage did nothing but exacerbate the problem

- HISTORY – a one year break from cycling in the past caused stress to occur when she started cycling again.


A bikefitter’s job is to position riders, yes, but also there to guide riders through better riding habit, technique, gear selection, and give them an increased awareness of contributing factors which might have gone unnoticed. This is why an holistic approach is absolutely necessary, especially when a rider has a problem which needs solving.

As a final thought, it needs to be understood that an holistic approach needn’t just be the domain of fitters. Riders themselves should allow their own attempts at solving issues to include as many angles as possible. Almost anything can contribute to a person’s condition, from backpacks, to questionable desk habits, to inappropriate choices and bad technique in the gym. Question everything and change if necessary.


Ronan Descy



Ronan DescyComment