A question MOUNTAIN BIKE SA got asked in a recent fitment with Dave at The Gear Change. We look at a few of the questions here. 

Dave George - Master Bike Fit Expert at Bike Fit In Cape Town at the Gear Change Bicycle Store

What makes bike fitting so important?

It defines the experience you have on your bike! If you are in pain during or after every ride, It's not likely you are going to progress or continue to ride.


Is bike fit as important to a recreational rider as a competitive one?

Starting with a bike fit always has a better outcome. It will guide your buying decisions and it may seem like a big investment to make up front but in the long term will save you a ton of money

on buying the wrong shoes, saddle or bike. If you can establish from the outset that you have wide feet or limited hip mobility, an intervention from the outset could be the defining factor as to whether you continue to ride or just get frustrated with visits to the physiotherapist.


Why do some bike fits come free with a bike and take 15 minutes while others require hours of measurement and cost a whole lot more?

If something is free typically it's not sustainable, or the person doing the fit is not qualified. If something is free there is no value to it and no accountability for the future. A BIKE FIT

IS A PROCESS AND NOT AN EVENT. We have an unrealistic expectation that you can solve complex issues in one session. You can't expect professional bike fitters to continue to learn and invest in technology if they are giving their time away for free. You get what you pay for.

It's quite difficult to manage expectations around this as often the consumer doesn't know or fully appreciate the experience and knowledge of a good bike fitter. It may seem like we can quickly arrive at an outcome but it has taken years to learn how to get to a great outcome quickly. Inventory is expensive and to have a variety of saddles, stems, pedals etc all come at a cost.

In our store, if you buy a new bike we are happy to do a quick inseam or replicate your old measurements but as soon as you step into the fit studio we charge it out. It is a difficult one to manage though. We always offer a money back guarantee though so this keeps us working hard.


What causes numb fingers and toes?

Numb fingers are a result of excessive pressure, in most instances, it's caused by an imbalance of the centre of mass (the rider's body) over the bike. If the bars are too far away or too low and the saddle is all the way forwards on its rail then a rider will topple over onto his hands causing hand loading and numbness by compressing the blood vessels and or the nerves. Sometimes it's as easy as shifting the mass of weight off the hands. The shape of the bar can also cause issues. A mountain bike bar has a wrap and a rise and the correct setup of the bar can relocate the pressure out of the area that is causing pain. On occasion, hand pain can be caused by foot instability or saddle discomfort. If you consider the body or mass of the rider meets gravity at 3 points on a bike, then an uncomfortable saddle fit will cause the rider to hold themselves out of the pain and shift the loading to the hands. By correcting the saddle contact you can substantially reduce the hand loading pressure.

Numb toes are a little more complex and can challenge even the most experienced fitter. The main driver of foot pain is shoe construction and incorrect size shoe. In our stores, we always measure the foot with a Brannock device (the old school measuring tool you used to buy your school shoes in the 80s). It's not difficult to measure a foot and establish the correct length and width. Typically riders will just dive into a pile of shoes supplied by a salesman until they find a pair that feels ok. It is so important to measure your foot and then choose the size and brand with real metrics. Most riders with wide feet will buy a shoe that is too big or just suffer the compression caused by a shoe that is too narrow. Both of those scenarios will result in pain or compromised stability. Foot instability can cause the centre of pressure to be right in the middle of the forefoot where the nerves and blood vessels pass through the metatarsal bones causing compression which results in numbness and or nerve pain, commonly known as hot foot. In most cases, we can make a substantial reduction of pain by prescribing a good footbed and increasing the stability and contact area of the foot. Metatarsal buttons, when prescribed correctly, are a great intervention to maintain the spaces between the bones of the forefoot to prevent hot foot.


Why do I feel comfortable in the bike shop but not after 2 hrs on the trails?

Bike fit is a process and not an event. What we find "comfort" in a bike fit studio can often not be comfortable or sustainable outdoors. Make sure your bike fitter is committed to a process and that you give him or her feedback so that they can help you progress accordingly. Sometimes we need to work towards a better position which can take time. Give it time and communicate with your fitter don't go find another opinion to confuse you further.


If I have a smaller frame can I compensate with a longer stem and seat post - and vice versa?

No get the right size bike! 


What real difference does bar width make - is it just trendy cos gravity guys ride wide?

Bike design evolved towards longer top tubes, shorter stems and wider bars. We are not all the same shape size and flexibility or have the same style of riding so don't just accept it as it comes.

In general, a wider bar is less twitchy and more settled so if you are looking for a more lively XC setup then an 800mm wide bar will suck. Conversely, if you are wanting to send Enduros and ride more techy trails then a 720mm bar will be sketchy. Find your flavour and shorten them incrementally as you can't make them longer.


If I have a fit done now but then change bikes or get fitter & more flexible or vice versa do I need to start over? 

Bike fit is an evolution and should be looked at annually or any time you change a bike or a touch point (shoe, saddle, handlebar). Physical condition plays a huge role in your fit and will change with your shape, flexibility and strength.


There's lots of talk about tech that makes bike fitting more of a science now than it was when you trusted the fastest guy in your hood who advised what suited him best. Talk us through this evolving tech and how we can make informed decisions?

There are some great tools available for us to measure positions and outcomes. The most important tool is the critical mind of the person doing the bike fit! Tech does not always equal a great fit. Experience and education play a huge role, however, tech gives us the ability to measure changes and learn faster. I love the live feedback tools like our Gebiomized pressure pad and LEOMO motion sensors give as they demonstrate the "live" reality of the position and its sustainability rather than just measuring an angle based on an assumed range of motion. I rely more nowadays on LEOMO than motion capture systems. Tech is also a great way of communicating with the rider so that they are a part of the process and also educated. Educating a rider as to what is a good posture and efficient pedalling gives them an idea of what to work towards and often changes the game. Soon we will be able to affordably buy wearable devices that offer live feedback and a metric to work towards. Like a power meter, what we can measure we can change.


Dave you have had an interesting journey from world tour road rider to Epic African jersey and many years in bike shops, plus fitting riders. You're a deep thinker with massive experience – please share some of your hard earned, subjective training, attitude and retail wisdom to riders who hear that it's either all about or not about the bike?  

I have enjoyed a lifetime of bikes since an early age and have realised 2 things. I love to ride and I am a lifetime athlete. Whatever we do in our business it is always about getting other people to enjoy riding their bikes as much as we do. If we have a moment to spare we ride. 

It was a natural progression for me to bike fit as I enjoy critical thinking and linking all of the processes together. I think having ridden a bike in anger and dealt with biomechanical issues myself is a great advantage to the bike fit process. My knowledge and experience change daily and I regularly shift my approach to new insights. We have been fortunate to be in an industry where there has been a boom through the pandemic and our business has grown. 

We never forget why we are in business though, it's all about the bike.

Intrigued to find out if your bike fits you? Book a Fit here.

Article derived from MOUNTIAN BIKE SA - Get the magazine in store for the full interview.