That massage table behind the counter at Zane’s Cycles isn’t there for free customer rubdowns.
Make no mistake, however. It’s part of a more pleasant bike riding experience — along with the video cameras, TV screen and computer equipment.
The gear is used for bike fitting, a process that involves matching a bicycle to a rider’s individual body measurements, flexibility, riding habits and personal expectations. It can be high-tech, low-tech or any tech in between.
“Every little adjustment matters,” explains Tom Girard, manager of Zane’s in Branford. “When you get the right fit, you generate more power, more easily.”
Bike shops have offered informal bike fitting advice for years. They help cyclists find a bicycle that’s the right height and alter the seat, handlebars and stem.
“Fitting has always been done,” says Bob Jacobson, owner of College Street Cycles in New Haven. “We find bike fitting to be most important for road biking, as more people shift from mountain bikes to road bikes. The biggest aspects of fitting are leg extension, proper saddle height, saddle position and handlebar angle and reach.”
Bike fitting sessions at College Street Cycles last 60-90 minutes. The cost is $75, plus an optional $25 for cleat adjustment.
“Unless people have a very specific fitting need, it’s about figuring out where they want to be, comfort-wise,” Jacobson says. “You want to find that balance between power and aerodynamics, and, especially for people who are new to biking, you have to get feedback from them.”
Matthew Feiner, owner of Devil’s Gear Bike Shop in New Haven, charges $50-$100 for a bike fitting that takes 45-90 minutes.
“Once you’re dialed in on a bike, it’s incredible,” Feiner says. “Most people are generally too far forward and too low on the bike.”
Feiner says bike fitting is a good idea for bike commuters looking to reduce any aches and pains they experience. “With each person, it’s different,” he says. “We start with the way they walk, the way their feet are on the ground.”
At Zane’s, the bike-fitting process usually takes three to four hours and costs $350. One of the shop’s employees, Greg Ciocci of New Haven, recently learned how to do bike fittings with specialized computer software.
“So many people are just out there riding their bikes, not realizing how much more fun it can be,” Ciocci says. “We can take someone on a hybrid (bike) who rides two times a week and make it so much more comfortable for them.”
On a recent morning, cyclist Augustine Filomena of New Haven comes in for a fitting with his black Specialized Roubaix bike. He’s dressed in his black bike jersey, shorts and cleats.
“I like going fast and being outdoors,” he says. “I was into cycling back in the ’70s, in New York, and about a year ago, I got interested in it again. I’ve noticed that adjustments make a big difference.”
Zane’s does its fittings near the center of the shop, behind the counter.
Ciocci starts by compiling measurements of Filomena’s bike: the distance from the top of the seat to the pedals, the distance from the front of the seat to the handlebars, etc.
He asks Filomena to get on his bike (which rests on a bike stand), so Ciocci can get a knee angle measurement. Ciocci also gets some video of Filomena riding in place.
“That’s good,” Ciocci says after a minute. “You can relax.”
Filomena explains that he wants to generate enough power while riding to complete the New Haven Century ride at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. But he also wants to enjoy the ride.
This anecdotal information is critical, according to Ciocci. “I want to know the person’s goals and aspirations for the bike,” he says.
Next comes a lot of measurements of Filomena: the alignment of his hips, knees and ankles while standing up straight; the flexibility of his shoulders, quads and hamstring muscles; the angle of his feet.
Hours pass. Ciocci recommends a change in the placement of the cleats on Filomena’s shoes, an adjustment in the bike seat, new pedals and a different positioning of the handlebars.
“His seat was too low, right off the bat,” Ciocci confides. “That can create all kinds of issues.”
Jim Shelton can be reached at (203) 789-5664 or firstname.lastname@example.org.