How much difference can a bike fit make?

— Coach Aaron is a Level 3 Playtri coach, USA Triathlon certified coach, and USA Cycling certified coach. Find out more about Coach Aaron here, or email him at

"I feel okay on my bike, I guess."
"It's a tri bike, you're not going to feel great no matter what."
"$100?  My bike isn't that uncomfortable."
"How much difference could it possible make?"

These are just a few of the comments I hear when talking to people about their bike fit and whether or not there is something that could be done to put them in a more optimal position.  Sadly, most athletes don't come to me until something has already gone wrong.  Either they've spent so much time in a less than ideal position that it's caused injury or they feel that they're working harder than their results show.  Or worst of all: they hate riding their bike because of how uncomfortable it is.

Look at the athlete above (we'll call him Steve... because his name is Steve).  Just glancing at him you wouldn't think that he's in a particularly bad position.  He had completed his first 70.3, was disappointed in the results and had goals to improve in his second attempt at the distance.  He had ridden with this position for quite a while and didn't feel the need to make any changes.  Originally he came to us in order to test his heart rate and power zones going into his race.  During the test is when I noticed a few things that could be tweaked in order to make him more comfortable.  It turned into the perfect scenario to measure what a bike fit can do.

During the initial test we found Steve's zones based around his lactate threshold (LT) and his power zones to go along with it.  At LT he produced 150 watts and his functional threshold power (FTP) was 200.  These lined up fairly closely with what we were predicting.  A few days later we started making changes to his fit.

What's that you say?  It doesn't look that much different?  Well... we honestly didn't change that much.  His seat was raised a hair to let him extend his leg a bit more.  We flipped his stem to raise his aerobars just enough to let him breathe a bit easier.  We got Steve to relax his shoulders & forearms and straighten his back.  At the end of his fitting he didn't feel any different in terms of power but he was much more comfortable.  What happened to his test numbers when we repeated his HR/Power testing a few days later?

Power @ LT150w160w+6.7%
Power @ FTP200w215w+7.5%

How much is a 7-8% increase in power in just one week worth to a competitive athlete?  Suddenly $100 isn't that expensive.  Not only did he see the difference on the bike, but he ran his fastest half marathon ever (off the bike or stand-alone) on race day.  By the end Steve beat his previous 70.3 time by 22 minutes!

I recently was re-fitted for my tri bike. I have been fitted before, but not like this. They took the time to do a thorough fitting, making sure everything was exact. And OMG!!! It made an immediate impact.

— Steve Fiedler

Looking at the pictures above would you think that was the quote he would give?  Small, subtle changes done by an expert's eye can make a world of difference to an athlete.

If you'd like to find out what Playtri can do for you, come by any of our stores!