The Pea
Wednesday August 19th 2009, 8:23 am
Filed under: Advice & Tips

As in the Princess and the Pea.

Ever have a customer who required excessive bike sizing attention? Who just needed that saddle adjusted one more time again, already after the previous four adjustments. It can be frustrating. It can be time consuming. As simple as the process is, there’s still the matter of selecting the bikes (sometimes a variety of sizes and models), there is the explanation involved (difference of components, frame shapes, materials), then the actual sizing (standing over, adjusting seat height, position, and angle, etc). It’s part of the job. But when a customer is overtly worried and emphatic about the size and fit of the bike, and admits to not know anything themselves, wouldn’t trusting—just a little—the advice and guidance of an individual in the industry be understandable?

The process by which I size someone on a bike isn’t a professional “bike fit” by any means, while it is a professional mechanic doing it, it isn’t a “bike fit” but merely “bike sizing”. There is a difference, right? The cost of a pro bike fit  taken into consideration, a shop mechanic’s guidance and advice should be valued to some degree as well. At least to the degree of following it somewhat?

As I understand it, a “bike fit” is a process that is typically paid for and a customer’s physiological dimensions are measured and applied to dimensions on a bike in order to reach the optimum in comfort and riding performance. (See Serotta, Fit Kit, etc.) This isn’t the same thing when a shop sizes you up on a bike, this process is far simpler and acts more accurately as a guideline alone. Stand over the top tube, got an inch? Good. Sit on the saddle, got some bend in the knee? Good. All other sizes and adjustments can generally be taken care of with saddle position, stem length, and at worst, crank length.

At the end of it all, isn’t it up to the customer to decide for themselves what the most comfortable bike to choose is? We’re bike mechanics, we don’t hold guns to people’s heads.


8 Comments so far
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Random, semi-related story:

When we visited Rivendell, they made quite a show of measuring us and adjusting the bikes for us. They had it down to a routine that was reminiscent of visiting the shoe shop as a little kid. In particular, they were really excited to adjust the handle-bar height. They created such an aura, that I wouldn’t have dared to second guess their guesses, even though they put me on a bike with a top bar that was less than an inch away when you count soft tissue (!) The overall effect was of reassuring familiarity with the issue.

As to requiring the mechanic to make four saddle height adjustments … it sounds like they needed to learn how to operate an allen wrench for themselves.

Comment by Dave Morse 08.20.09 @ 12:33 am

bottom line, like you said, if you’re buying a bike then ride the damn thing. if it feels good then go for it. if it feels too small or too big then it’s likely you need to look at another one. it’s not rocket science

Comment by jimmy 08.20.09 @ 1:25 pm

so i bought this television and it’s way too big for my apartment. i tried it out in the store, along with a handful of others. this one really seemed like the best fit. it had all the features i was looking for and now that i have it home it just doesn’t feel right. now, would you believe, the damned best buy won’t take the stupid thing back or let me trade it in for one that fits my apartment better. the nerve! the sales guy even told me i looked awesome watching it and it would would go swell with my drapes. well, i look like a midget watching it and it doesn’t match the drapes at all! the carpet however, that’s another story. any way, best buy’s a bunch of damn theives as far as i’m concerned and their sales staff are idiots!

Comment by jimmy 08.21.09 @ 5:41 pm

so i bought this television and it’s way too big for my apartment. i tried it out in the store, along with a handful of others. this one really seemed like the best fit. it had all the features i was looking for and now that i have it home it just doesn’t feel right. now, would you believe, the damned best buy won’t take the stupid thing back or let me trade it in for one that fits my apartment better. the nerve! the sales guy even told me i looked awesome watching it and it would would go swell with my drapes. well, i look like a midget watching it and it doesn’t match the drapes at all! the carpet however, that’s another story. any way, best buy’s a bunch of damn thieves as far as i’m concerned and their sales staff are idiots!

Comment by jimmy 08.21.09 @ 5:44 pm

Nice duplicate comment! So nice, it’s twice!

Comment by presta 08.21.09 @ 5:48 pm

A trick I’ve learned at clever for getting the seat height into the ballpark is to have them wedge the saddle into their armpit and reach down toward the BB. When their middle finger is centered on the BB then its close to the right height.

I think we have to deal with fewer fit issues since all of our bikes put people in an upright position. It eliminates the hand discomfort problem anyway.

Comment by James 08.24.09 @ 9:45 pm

Let me get this straight: are you selling bikes or ‘just’ working on them? If the latter, then a general bike sizing would seem sufficient. If the former, then a bike fit is what you sign up for — like it or not. Or would you rather have an uncomfortable and disappointed customer out in the wild? Just askin’…

Comment by A Bike Commuter 03.01.10 @ 4:50 pm

I’d have to disagree. Your comment, while appreciated, lacks context.

Comment by presta 03.02.10 @ 8:03 am



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