What’s “Good” Pain & Bad – And Why Custom Bike Fitting Is Important

Thank you Julie Bates for sharing your bikefit expertise with us here!

You’ve just taken your new bike on its first spin. The ride was less than 20 miles, yet your neck is so sore it’s hard to turn your head. You’re new to cycling and figure this is just part of the sport – to suffer. Well, you’d be surprised to know that you don’t have to live with this or many other painful ailments. It’s time to look into custom bike fitting.

Conquer The RIGHT Pain

custom bike fitting pain

Cyclists do love to conquer suffering on the bike. But what is realistic suffering versus what is caused by the bike itself? Many of us suffer with numbness, burning, skin abrasions, painful joints, and other long-term problems when riding. Symptoms like these are caused by an ill-fitting bike. These types of pain are not acceptable. Fatigued and sore muscles from working hard IS acceptable. There is a big difference between “good” pain and “bad” pain. The science behind “bike fit” will ensure comfort, efficiency and protection from injury when riding your bike.

What’s Bike Fit & Why You Should Care

Many new cyclists have never heard of custom bike fitting, while lots of experienced cyclists have heard about bike fit, but think it’s meant for hard core athletes. Bike fit is an important tool for EVERY cyclist, no matter their skill level or experience. Our goal as bike fitters is to make sure the rider is comfortable and that the bike fits perfectly, ensuring protection from injury.

What To Look For In A Bike Fitter

custom bike fitting bike fitter

Finding a competent bike fitter may seem daunting. You’ve heard about a great fitter from your cycling buddies but aren’t convinced the experience is worth the money. Relying on the opinion of your friends who have gone through the process is very important when picking your fitter. But just as important is the fitter’s education. Bike fitting requires a basic knowledge of cycling biomechanics, human anatomy, injury prevention as well as motion capture technology or other technical tools. Just as important, is finding a fitter who is a compassionate listener with a passion for solving problems. Finding a fitter who is good at all these skills will guarantee an amazing fitting experience as well as long-term comfort on the bike.

Don’t Just Look At Reputation… Credentials Are Important Too

Fitters may have great reputations, but are they good at what they do? Bike fitting requires specific education and training. Only invest your time and money in a fitter who has gone to one or more fit certification programs. If someone who claims to have 20 years of experience but no fit training or education, they are guessing at what they’re doing. Education is very important to ensure a positive outcome that will protect you from injury.

No Physical Assessment? No Bueno

Equally as important as fit education is the physical assessment process. A well-trained fitter will want to understand your injury history and the physical structures in your body. They will use a series of assessments to understand your ranges of motion, strengths and limitations, and how your unique physical structures will affect your cycling biomechanics. Going to a fitter who does not perform a physical assessment is going to someone who is just guessing what your body needs. Think of it as the difference between buying a suit off the rack or having that suit tailored to fit your body perfectly.

Shouldn’t Take Three Hours

In summary, look for a fitter who has solved custom bike fitting issues for your friends, has a strong educational background, and who performs a comprehensive physical assessment process. A well-trained fitter should be able to complete the fit process in under three hours. Taking longer than three hours is not respecting your time and is not providing you with a great fitting experience.

Empower Yourself

Now, go ride your bike. Concentrate on how your hands feel, is your saddle comfortable, is that spot between your shoulder blades starting to flare up?  Paying attention to how you feel on your bike is important because it empowers you to prioritize comfort over suffering. If you’re not comfortable and having fun, it’s time to spend time and money on yourself with a bike fit.


Julie Bates, Certified Bike Fitter with certifications with SICI, Paul Swift’s Bicycling Fitting System (Voted the BEST by Bike Magazine), and Special Bicycle Components University, and certified Muscle Activation Techniques Practitioner

Best Bike Fitter in the Bay area

Julie Bates working through an assessment

Julie started her bike fitting career at the legendary Roaring Mouse Cycle. It was during this time she had the opportunity to take accreditation programs about bike fitting. It was when she attended SBCU (Specialized Bicycle Components University) that she noticed that this class was different. Instead of just the “hows” she learned the “whys.” She was so impressed that she became a bike fit instructor at Specialized Bicycle Components for over eight years. In these classes she taught the fit process (developed by Dr. Andy Pruitt) and Retül motion capture technology.

To go along with the bike fitting techniques Julie also became a certified Muscle Activation Techniques practitioner. This combined her bike fit knowledge with a very comprehensive assessment and treatment protocol for muscle imbalances.

She will be fitting at the Cognition Cyclery locations in Mountain View and San Mateo, and performing MAT in San Jose when it’s safe to do so. She can currently be reached at juliebates888@gmail.com, with a website coming as soon as it is safe to start booking appointments.