Bike fit is tailoring. It’s the process of taking something stock, off-the-shelf, and altering it to fit your body perfectly. A nip here, a tuck there and voila! The new garment fits like a second skin. You look fabulous, you feel magnificent, and all eyes are on you.
Now, we all know how it usually works. You head to your local clothing store, pick something out, you’re between sizes, it’s big in the boobs and small in the waist, it’s too long or too short, you debate possible weight loss, and end up with something that looks vaguely like a sack of potatoes. Yeah, because if you’re like me, you’re not a size 8 and you’re not a size 10, but rather, a perfect size 9 (which doesn’t exist except for juniors).
So back to bike fit. I remember my first “real” bike fit (not the stand-over-the-frame-and-it-works type of fit that was common in bike shops in 1999). This was a two-hour session that involved tape measures, and levels, and goniometers and someone who asked questions about my history and my goals. This was many years after I’d been riding a frame that was too big, handlebars that were too wide, and a saddle height and stem drop that didn’t reflect my current flexibility. It was like magic. Suddenly, with some small adjustments by an experienced and educated bike fitter, I was riding “with” my bike, not “on” my bike. My bike and I worked as one. My bike was an extension of me and I felt good. And suddenly, my bike handled like a dream — cornering and descending like nobody’s business. Yeah, my cycling paradigms were shifted forever and I made it a personal goal to become the best darn bike fitter I could be.
A good bike fit is like wearing a fine, tailored suit. And a custom frame with a good fit is like wearing a fine, custom-made tuxedo. There’s nothing quite like it.
I’m an admitted custom bike junkie. I love having a bike that fits me just perfectly and is designed to meet my riding style, my unique weight distribution, my flexibility, and my goals. I love having a bike that is unlike anyone else’s in the entire world. I love choosing my frame material, paint, and every single component. I’m completely addicted and will likely never own another stock bike.
My first custom bike was a Luna cyclocross bike, designed and built by Margo Conover, back in the day when the stock options for cross bikes were pretty limited so most of the racers I knew had custom bikes. My Luna was very pretty and even made it into Velo News (see below). Currently, my road, touring, geared mountain bike, and single speed mountain bikes are all custom.
I’ve been fitting bikes for 10 years. So it was only a matter of time before I started working with custom bike builders, like Natalie Ramsland of Sweetpea Bicycles, to fit clients for custom frames. It’s exciting to be part of the process and also feed my addiction. After all, who doesn’t want to help other folks feel (and ride) like a million bucks?
What’s your favorite bike? How do you feel when you ride it? Do you have or have you considered a custom bike?