Bike Fit: Optimise your Bike Position for High Performance and Injury Avoidance

Tested by Nik Cook, tester for The Bike List

If you spend any significant time on a bike, not ensuring it's fitted correctly is a recipe for poor performance, discomfort and potentially injury. Unfortunately many how-to cycling books skim over this area, prescribe one size fits all generic formulae or ignore it completely. Look online and you'll find confusing and contradictory advice. A professional bike fit can be a solution but these can be expensive, vary massively in quality and, even with the most expensive and impressive kit, if the fitter isn't experienced it can be a waste of time. Fortunately, this book by Phil Burt, Head Physiotherapist and British Cycling and Consultant Physiotherapist for Team Sky, is a comprehensive, definitive and very readable guide from arguably the best in the business.
With Sir David Brailsford giving a glowing cover endorsement and forewords from Chris Boardman and Sir Chris Hoy, there's no disputing the authoritative clout that Phil carries. However, writing in the first person, Phil's tone is engaging, interesting and not at all patronising. For what's ostensibly quite a dry subject matter, it's a really good read and, spiced up with anecdotes of his dealings' with some of the world's top riders and some inspirational photographs, working through it is definitely a pleasure rather than a chore.
In the ten chapters, Phil takes you step by step through the processes that'll set you on the path to finding your ideal bike fit. Having explained the history of bike fitting and the pros and cons of the various methods available, he then looks at the anatomy of cycling. There's some technical information to take in, including a fascinating EMG (electromyography) description of muscle recruitment during cycling, but it's always clearly explained and definitely helps your understanding of the importance of a correct bike fit.
Phil then moves on to the meat of the book and, having explained that any fit is a compromise between power, comfort, aerodynamics and injury avoidance, describes that each point of a fit has a range of values which he refers to as the Bike Fit Window. Working through the saddle, bars/stem and pedals/cleats, he evaluates the different methods for fitting these areas and gives practical advice on how you can find your personal window.
Fit isn't just about measurements and numbers though and Phil stresses the importance of considering your cycling goals. The fit demands of a circuit racer will be significantly different to a sportive rider and, using the examples of Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift, he explains how some riders can tolerate big changes to their fit and others can't. By considering all these points, he shows how your fit should evolve and isn't just a static set of stats.
The next chapter on common fitting problems, aches and pains is worth the price of the book alone. Whether it's numb feet or an aching back, Phil has seen them all and provides easy to follow diagnostic steps to get to the root of your problem and then practical solutions to try.
Different cycling disciplines have varying fitting criteria and issues and, whether you're a time trialist looking for some aerodynamics tips, a mountain biker or the parent of a growing young cyclist, Phil covers all of these specialist areas. He even delves into the murky world of UCI regulations and manages the impressive feat of explaining them in an understandable way.
Off the bike work for cycling is an area of some controversy but, with a flexibility, strengthening and foam roller routine, Phil blows away some of the myths propagated by the fitness industry, including the pervasive and enduring one of core stability. The routines contain his best bang for your buck movements and importantly don't take hours to work through. Unlike the routine that Bradley Wiggins had been given by T-Mobile which Phil reckons wouldn't have left him any time to actually ride his bike.
With some case studies he highlights some common issues and shows how the fitting knowledge you'll get from the book can solve them. His myth busting chapter is a personal favourite, covering topics including pedalling, the core, cadence, oval chainrings and cleat float. You can almost sense some of the quacks and pedlars of snake oils associated with cycling quaking in their cleats.
Lastly, there's space for you to fill in your fitting data, a helpful glossary and a seriously impressive bibliography.
This book fills a real gap between the poor DIY fitting advice commonly available and expensive professional bike fits. With Phil's background and experience, I knew it was going to be an authoritative and informative work but, even with my own background in Sports Science, feared it might be an overly technical and theoretical tome. Thankfully my fears were completely unfounded, it's a genuinely enjoyable read, the advice is clear and easy to apply and it should be part of any cyclist's library.

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