A while back Bicycle Retailer and Industry News Magazine asked me and others in the industry about the future of bike fitting.
Here I will reprint the entire transcript in two or three parts. Of course, it was edited down significantly in the magazine. I preceded my answers to Sean Hong’s questions with a disclaimer. It went a little something like this…
It is always dangerous to make generalizations regarding topics as complex as ‘fit in the bike industry’. Generalizations become more difficult when the outcome is so important to so many constituents and interested parties—retailers, large bike suppliers, small bike suppliers, and customers, to name a few.
BRAIN: Why is proper fitting so important? Is it any less important with lower end bikes, compared to the higher end stuff Seven sells?
RV: Fundamentally proper fit is important for two reasons:
riding experience and
prevention and management
There are many elements that go into ‘improved riding experience’—ability to ride faster, more comfort, ability to rider longer, better aerodynamics—it is different for every rider. And it all comes back to improving the overall experience.
It is important to note that proper fit without tailoring—customizing—the bike for the rider’s ideal fit is missing a significant opportunity for truly improving the rider’s overall experience. Fit without customization is a patch fix with a limited life.
Proper fit on lower end bikes is not less important but it is perceived as less profitable for retailers and therefore receives less attention. In some ways, proper fit on lower end bikes is actually more important because the lower end is where the future high-end comes from. If a novice has a bad experience riding, much of this comes from ill-fit, then that person will find another activity and we—the industry—have lost out. By the time most people get into high-end bikes they have some grasp on the effect that fit has on the overall riding experience. These people are less likely to leave the sport—they are more likely to search for a different retailer or supplier that can meet their needs.
BRAIN: There is a constant stream of new studies that are determining the importance of proper fitting. How do you think the industry has responded?
RV: The cycling industry, as a whole, has not really responded to, or driven, research. Individual companies have responded and some have helped drive research. Unfortunately, much of the research is being performed by the interested parties; not much data is publicly available that doesn’t have vested interest in a predetermined result that reinforces a view.
BRAIN: What is the future trend of fitting in the industry?
RV: The near-term trend is likely to be more options—and therefore more fracturing—of fit tools and philosophies, driven by suppliers and retailers. This will cause customer confusion and make the retailer’s job more difficult.
The trend that Seven is interested in connecting is fit with bike design. Having fit alone is only one small piece of the overall experience. The road to the ideal future is an integrated system, what Seven terms The Five Elements™. [I’m not reprinting them here. You can read them here, if you like.]
The next two questions were the heavy hitters. Each took about a page to answer. I’ll post those soon.