Neal Ross started racing bikes in high school and has been competing as a professional triathlete for the past two years. He's ridden all over the United States, completing trails in the Utah and Arizona deserts, biking 14,000-foot peaks and touring the unpredictable surfaces of the East Coast's Barrier Islands.
Ross spends a lot of his free time on his bike and loves all kinds of environments, be it the road for training or the mountains for fun and exploring, but one thing that never changes is his desire to ride a bike fits perfectly. M&F sat down with this seasoned cyclist and sales director at LEOMO to learn more about the bike fitting process and why it could be a game changer for everyone getting into the saddle.
"I've been working for LEOMO for almost three years and it's a dream job for me," says Ross. LEOMO is a company that has built a solid reputation and uses technological innovations to push the boundaries of movement. As such, they are the official training partners of the Movistar team and Australian Ironman triathlete Adam Hansen. The company also offers one of the most innovative bike fitting systems available, using precise data points to achieve perfect positioning. “I've always wanted to work in some capacity in the endurance or cycling industry and have been fortunate to find a company that genuinely appreciates my input and offers opportunities for growth,” he continues. matter which company or outlet you seek bike fitting advice for, the aim is to improve your level of performance and comfort in order to break PRs and stay in racing shape.
So what is bike fitting and what elements are measured?
“Bike fitting is the process of customizing a bike to optimize comfort and performance,” says Ross. “The fit of a bike depends on many factors, but the most important elements start with the right frame size, saddle height and handlebar position. The finer elements then include adjusting the saddle fore and aft (to ensure the saddle doesn't sit too far back or forward), positioning the cleats (in relation to the pedals) if the rider is using clipless shoes, finding the correct crank arm length (to support performance, comfort and aerodynamics) and to fine-tune the stem and handlebar system. These are just a few examples and there are many more fine details that can be tweaked.”
How important is bike fit to overall riding performance?
“Proper fit on the bike is just as critical to performance as correct execution of your workouts,” says Ross. “You could leave so much on the table if you keep changing positions because of a poor fit. Finding the right saddle and making sure it's in the right position is one of the more important elements of a good fit. Incorrect saddle height can cause a rider to grab the bottom of the pedal travel, creating a dead point, or cause knee joint discomfort. Poor saddle position can also cause excessive hip tilting or rotation, which can become very uncomfortable over time.”
Is bike fitting only suitable for advanced users or professionals?
"Absolutely not," says Ross. “A good fit is for anyone who wants to optimize their bike for a comfortable and enjoyable ride. Even a lower-end bike that someone might have found on a used market for a few hundred dollars can be adjusted to make sure it fits properly. A good bike fit ensures that you target all the correct muscle groups throughout your pedal stroke. Overusing certain muscle groups due to poor fit can lead to overuse injuries or imbalances over time. So if you're someone who just rides a bike for your health and general fitness, it's still pretty important. Almost any bike can be mounted. Bikes are such modular systems, so parts can be swapped out or modified to suit the needs of the rider.”
How often should we check the fit of our bike?
“Once a bike is properly assembled doesn't mean it's good for life,” advises Ross. “Our bodies tend to change over time, so it's important to get checked out for an overhaul about once a year to make sure you're getting the best driving experience. Our bodies change over time, whether we realize it or not, and our bike fit should reflect that. Individuals may lose or gain flexibility in certain muscle groups, or some bike components may wear out over time, and an overhaul can fix these issues.
Where can you have your bike assembled?
“There are dedicated bike assemblers who have their own studios, or some bike shops may offer a fitting service,” says Ross. “However, LEOMO recently launched a remote bike fitting service, where we send you our TYPE-S device with our wearable motion sensors. Through a series of tests, we can now help you find the right saddle position from the comfort of your own home. It's a really handy service, especially for people who don't have a fitter close by or who don't have access to a fitter.”
How is LEOMO innovating the bike customization process?
“Some traditional fitting methods require a specialist with a highly trained pair of eyes and little or no equipment. Others may have an adjustable bike that measurements can be taken on,” says Ross. “These are some of the customization methods I grew up with and I have a great deal of respect for these industry experts. But with LEOMO's system, we can get precise data points that allow us to analyze changes in position. Our proprietary motion performance indicators, which we call "MPIs," include measurements like dead center, pelvic rock and rotation, and foot angle range data, all of which contribute to a precise bike fit. With the LEOMO technology you can also test outdoor positions under real conditions, which has a really unique value in competitive sports, for example.
What kind of improvements have you seen in people who have properly adjusted their bike?
“Some of the most common issues we solve are related to hip instability or poor pedaling mechanics,” explains Ross. “If we look back at some of the seizures that have been performed, we have had a number of riders who have had dead spots or pauses in the pedal stroke where no force is being applied. We've got these numbers ranging from the high teens or twenties down into the single digits, which is a pretty massive improvement. We also saw pelvic rotation scores (how much the hips rotate from side to side) halve. Excessive hip rotation can create friction in unwanted areas, so this is a fairly critical component to address for a comfortable ride.”
Ultimately, whether you're trying to speed up your PR time or just want to get out and get some fresh air, a proper fit could prove crucial for cyclists of all skill levels. "Bikes are meant to be fun, so how they fit can play a big part in your comfort and enjoyment," says Ross. “If you previously felt that bike customization wasn't necessary, now is the time to find out what you've been missing out on.