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limitations of the Serotta size cycle fitting(32 posts)

limitations of the Serotta size cycle fittingET
Aug 1, 2001 11:07 AM
When someone asks about fit, many, including bigwigs on this forum, often come on to say just get a Serotta size cycle fit test, go custom if necessary, do it right, get a bike for life, as if because the size cycle is infinitely adjustable everything and the technician is certified, one is assured of getting it exactly right. Very often the poster asking about fit is a newbie seeking advice for his first road bike, with his choices typically limited to super-expensive bikes like the Serotta Legend or Colnago C-40, complete with full Record, of course. While you might call that cycling passion, I might call that childish snobbery of someone who most likely will never be a serious cyclist. But my personal feelings aside, it is also very risky, because the size cycle just cannot be that exact, especially for this type of customer. There are two main reasons for this: the riding position of a newbie evolves over time, and the size cycle is anchored and so ignores balance (and visibility, as if anyone cared) and so might tend to size large.

I had a Serotta size cycle fitting by a certified Serotta technician who is owner of his LBS, he's a Serotta dealer, a great mechanic, and races seriously. He lives and breathes this stuff. He is a legend and I respect him. He gave me a full 3 hours on the size cycle. When he told me the cycle has adjustable everything, I half-joked, "Yeah, but not the bottom bracket," and he said, "No, that can be adjusted too by turning the knobs under the cycle!" After the fitting he went out of his way to alter the stems and seats on a few bikes in his shop to get it close to the stats and let me test-ride them (a nice gesture to be sure, although it was the usual parking lot test).

But his stats ended up missing somewhat. I purchased a bike (not a Serotta, not from him, but I was considering it for some time) based somewhat on the fitting's guidelines (at least I did a longer test ride on that one). After months of riding and continual incremental forward seat adjustments, my alleged ideal middle-of-the-rails 72.5 STA eventually evolved into a 73. The alleged ideal top tube length in his stats was too long by around 1.5 cms (I think .5 of it due to the anchoring effect and another 1 cm because his idea was to size my top tube for an 11 stem on the assumption that as a newbie I might eventually evolve to a 12 and so to prevent me from possibly ending up needing a 13; you may or may not agree with this philosophy, but this only highlights the risks), and the recommended frame size several sizes larger than any of you would consider for someone of my dimensions. Did I mess up and buy the wrong bike? No, not really. For example, fortunately, I selected a bike with a top tube a bit shorter than what he recommended. But one of the main reasons I got it was because it had a 72.5 STA. This is my first bike. I did not make a mistake similar to some on this forum with continuing sagas. I'm very happy with what I got. I use it a lot and I train hard. It works great for me. I might still have got that bike even if I knew my ideal numbers. After months of riding, I think I feel ready to knock off a spacer (yet another change!), so now I can pretend I'm the real thing without that stacker that comes set up with the bike. But I'm glad I did not order a custom Serotta or other megabuck bike based on the size cycle fitting. I'm not saying the fitting is worthless, only that it is not accurate enough to base a very expensive or custom bike purchase on, especially for first-timers. If some of you claim your fitting hit it dead on, that does not disprove what I'm saying.

I personally think there are cheaper and easier ways to get just as close, if not closer. I'll post my thoughts on this later.
please post at msg boardBen(unreg)
Aug 1, 2001 11:15 AM
Aug 1, 2001 11:41 AM
No real beef with them. Their concept is good. I don't want my money back. And it's not like I bought an ill-fitting custom Serotta. Please don't copy my post to there; it's just my own thoughts for here.
Aug 1, 2001 12:06 PM
I'll link back to here then.
Point taken. As riders advance, position changes.AlexR
Aug 1, 2001 11:25 AM
I understand your point, and it is a good one. What a rider needs out of a bicycle changes as they change. We age, our backs weaken, we try new things, we start racing, we stop racing; all true. A sizing can do a very good job of isolating a point on our curve - but it cannot predict the future.

even isolating the current point on the curve can be toughET
Aug 1, 2001 11:59 AM
In the case of STA, that probably didn't evolve for me, but rather it took me time to realize what it is (e.g. by seat adjustments reducing discomfort). And I'm not holding Serotta "responsible" for things like how you age and how your back is doing 5 years from now; that wouldn't be fair. I'm saying the stakes might be too high for a first-timer to buy an expensive custom bike, and so maybe that's not the way to go for a first bike (which is not the same as saying he has to buy junk).
Are people really using this system for their first bike?AlexR
Aug 1, 2001 12:42 PM
I'm not so sure.

well, sometimes their secondET
Aug 1, 2001 12:52 PM
Their first is Lance's bike because they wanted to be like Lance. After they soon realize simultaneously that they can't handle Lance's drop to the bars (thanks in great part to Trek's misleading seat tube sizing) and that Trek carbon isn't good enough for them, they decide to do it right, get the size cycle fitting and get the C-40.
for first timers yesColnagoFE
Aug 1, 2001 11:52 AM
but let's face it...most first timers do not mess with their bikes to the extent you did to find your "ideal". once you have been riding a while and know your limitations and desired chars in a bike then the size cycle along with a knowledgeable fitter can really do wonders.
I'm a little unclear about your "yes"ET
Aug 1, 2001 12:12 PM
Whatever, I think you are confirming that if someone indeed has not yet ridden at least for a while, getting an expensive bike-for-life custom is a risk. Another point on this, again not Serotta's fault: you are strongly warned to preferably bring the cleats and pedals you plan to use on the bike. But a newbie who hasn't ridden is likely to soon change whatever he brings in or tries.

Sure, the fitting can help you zone in using your current parameters (e.g. to see if you can handle a more severe drop), but some may find this less valuable, as they may be able to do that themselves in various ways. If the fitting for a newbie who has no idea of his fit is considered not reliable, much of the luster and appeal of the size cycle is taken away.
Aug 1, 2001 12:24 PM
though i really doubt anyone who is serious about the sport will buy a "lifetime" bike anyway. I don't think there is a cure for bike lust. I still had it after I got my Merlin XL, and still have it after my Colnago Master XL (want a C-40 or Calfee now!). I would say that the size cycle is really helpful for me as I ride a 61-62 cm frame and finding a bike to test ride in that size is next to impossible--especially higher end bikes. I have to rely on some type of fitting and I've found the size cycle works well for me. Also have used the fit kit and it worked OK too, but I think the size cycle has the edge as you get to actually "feel" the bike before committing.
Aug 1, 2001 5:09 PM
Lots of people get bikes with the intention of keeping it for good. I've got one. It wasn't intentionally bought for that purpose and now that I've got it and ridden it for over 2 years I don't have as much of a desire to get another bike. And anytime I test ride another bike at the shop I find I'm just no impressed. Also tends to be the bike everyone looks at. I show up for a group ride with one of the local clubs and the most common bikes to be seen are serotta, colnago, trek, and c'dales. As a result my derosa usually has no competition drawing attention to its self. Until I actually find something else that I know rides better from a test ride I don't have any concern for another bike. TTFN
Your point is well taken, but......Len J
Aug 1, 2001 12:00 PM
misses the essential advice that I am trying to give a newbie when I recommend a certified Serotta fit specialist. My purpose is not to have him/her buy a custom bike. My point is that a newbie doesn't know what a good fit is. Unfortunatly, neither do most bike shop salespeople(in my experience). Since fit is the most important thing in bike selection (again, in my oponion), I believe that paying for the information (and the discussions about fit that occur during the fitting)is the best way for a Newbie to learn enough information to go out and buy a bike. I believe that they will end up with a much closer fit this way than any other way I have ever heard of.

Your experience and your observations are very lucid and very well stated. I agree that custom for a newbie is not usually appropriate. Beyond that I still would recommend the Serotta fit for a newbie for the purpose of determining what size bikes fit them.

My 2 cents.
And another thing I forgot....Len J
Aug 1, 2001 12:09 PM
to mention is that when I got my fitting, the fitter gave me a list of which size stock frams would fit me by manufacturer as well as what stem sizes etc I would need in order for each of them to fit me. I think that this is why I don't necessarrily assume that just because I get a Serotta fitting I must get a custom bike.

Maybe the point I should take out of your post is that I should be more specific about this if I advise on a fitting. If so, point well taken

so did my fitter (nm)ET
Aug 1, 2001 12:15 PM
Then why do you assume that Serotta fitting=custom bike?(nm)Len J
Aug 1, 2001 12:19 PM
I don't; others often doET
Aug 1, 2001 12:34 PM
Re-read my posts and look at archives here of those recommmending the size cycle for first-time road bike purchasers ("bike for life" is one common expression) and you'll see what I'm getting at. And just because a recommended bike is not custom doesn't mean the fitting can't miss.
Got it, Great discussion. (nm)Len J
Aug 1, 2001 12:35 PM
re: limitations of the Serotta size cycle fittingbike_junkie
Aug 1, 2001 12:04 PM
I went the Custom Serotta route for my Legend Ti and am pleased. This was also my fourth bike and I had an idea of what I liked and did not like in riding position.

Let me say that a good fitter will build some "fudge factor" into the fit, so that if you desire to drop a spacer later, or desire a more upright position, these things will all be okay. It's not time to get rid of the frame if things slightly change, (and they will).
Aug 1, 2001 12:50 PM
Whats this anchored and visibility thing youre talking about? Why would this make the techinician want to recommend a larger size than normal?
anchors away!!ET at home
Aug 1, 2001 3:40 PM
The technician adjusts things until (and beyond, and then back) the position feels dialed in. He then makes a note of the settings as is (or is that "as are"?!?). But the bike is anchored to the ground, so you don't have to balance yourself on the bike. This allows for an exaggerated reach which might feel OK on the size cycle, but would not if you were out riding, including turning. And in this possibly exaggerated position in the LBS, you clearly do not get a perspective of riding it in traffic.
"ape hangers" (not related to the recently released film)railer
Aug 1, 2001 3:55 PM
For great visibility in traffic try some "ape hanger" bars.
Probably not the best for your weight distribution however.

Did the Fit kit guy really set up your reach so long that you cant turn your bars and balance? And if so, how could you possibly feel that this position is correct?
Good experience with Size CycleJim Burton
Aug 1, 2001 1:08 PM
I would like to say that I am very glad I went to a Serotta Fit Technician to be fitted. I started out on a loaner Cannondale that was too large for me and rode that for about a year and a half logging about 100-120 miles a week (usually). While I wasn't exactly a complete newbie when I decided to buy a bike of my own, I still had and continue to have much to learn.

That said, I think that the size cycle definately helped with my fit. I had tried many things (Fit Kit, bike fit websites, etc.) that all yielded a size that I felt was too small. I was cramped on the sizes that I was recommended by these systems.

While I didn't know exactly what I would like in a bike in the future, I knew what I liked at the time. My Serotta Technician figured in things like increased flexibility over time, hence the spacers on the stem. I feel that having an actual bike to sit on and adjust is just about as accurate as you can get with bike sizing. During my fit session, I was placed with a mirror at my side. My technician, in addition to fitting me, gave me a lesson on posture, ride position, and pedal stroke. He asked if I had any aches or pains from cycling and what I did to remedy them. He asked what type of riding I was doing. So, I got a bike that fit better than if I had tried many bikes and gotten the one that felt the best. (I would've gotten a bike that fit my relatively poor riding stance because of riding a too large bike for so long, and would've had a bike that I couldn't grow into at all.)

So, in that sense I believe that for a relatively new cyclist, that Serotta fit session WILL do much good. I wouldn't expect a new cyclist to go out and buy a $6000 custom frame...or even close. But at least they can get a hands-on better fit. It may not be best for a rider who, after being off a bike for ten years, up and decides to run to the shop and get fit for a new bike. But, really a person who does this would be lucky to get a well fited bike anyway.

I would like to hear your other ideas for getting a more accurate fit. Maybe those ideas can help others on this post dial in thier existing bikes or new bike choices. But for now, I am going to stick to my opinion that the Serotta Size Cycle is the best fit system available of which I am aware.
Are you saying that it's not a good system relative to othersbill
Aug 1, 2001 2:08 PM
or that, because comfort can change or because a fitting is done by a human on a human and not so reliable as it seems, particularly for a new rider who doesn't have a feel for feel, it shouldn't be relied on to bet the kids college funds on a "lifetime" bike? Because those are different things. It sounds as if you feel a bit misled on the accuracy and reliability of the Serotta fit, that you thought that getting a fitting somehow lent a scientific reliability to something maybe not so reliable, but, if you have a beef with the system itself as opposed to say, trial and error through bike after bike, I'm not sure that you've supported that complaint. Not to say that the argument coudn't be made, but I don't think that your experience as you've described it supports such an argument. I wonder if your expectations maybe just weren't realistic.
From what I understand, the Serotta system remains the best system. If your point is that it's all too mushy to rely on completely and unquestioningly, well, I understand that, but, since you didn't follow your LBS's recommendations, I'm not sure that you can much criticize the way it all worked out. You don't know how what you would have ended up with would have felt at this point.
What are the "cheaper and easier ways to get just as close, if not closer?"
no, but that...ET
Aug 2, 2001 5:59 AM
its value is not as great as perceived, and, as you say, not reliable enough to bet the college funds on for one's first bike.

I will post my alternative fit recommendations that are simple to implement later when I have time (unfortunately, I gotta work occasionally too).

No, you're wrong about my not being able to criticize the fitting because I changed the fit from that recommended. The top tube + stem recommended was just too long. He came up with a 57 c-c (and was considering going higher but I didn't want to crush the family jewels) combined with a 58 top tube and 11 stem. The standard Serotta size 57 c-c has a 57 tt, so it would've necessitated going custom to get the 58. Now how many of you who are 5'10" and around 84 inseam have such a long tt? I am very flexible, but that reach is just too long.
I dunno, maybe the guy did it wrong. Maybe you still haven'tbill
Aug 2, 2001 7:20 AM
grown into what he thinks you would. Maybe . . ., who knows?
But you're talking about having ridden/doing this for like, a year (right? am I correct about that?) and being sure that this guy's recommended measurements were off by .5 degree in the STA and/or 1.5 cm in the TT? How do you know this? You may be comfortable now, but you may find yourself more comfortable, now or later, with something a little more agressive. You really don't know. You might. My stance certainly has changed over the past three years, and 1 cm, more or less, is within the margin for error for anyone, anytime, with any theory. Geez, sleep wrong and you're more or less flexible within a cm. I typically move my butt around on a saddle more than that in the course of one hill climb. I went 1 cm longer and lower BY MISTAKE and found it considerably more comfortable.
I'm not trying to give you a hard time. You seem to approach this board and the sport earnestly, and I respect that (although you still owe me $55 for Cycling Plus -- actually, I'm getting to like it more). But I think that you ought to be questioning your own certainty about this. Fit evolves, individually and across the sport. A friend, who raced twenty years ago and was very professionally fit on his frame then, just bought a new bike and, simply because of trends and different thoughts about where you should be on the bike, went up several sizes.
My bigger point is that I think that the margin for error in all this stuff is much greater than we seem to think it is or want it to be. A little of this, a little of that; one day's meat is another day's poison, etc., etc. It's not that critical; as long as get ourselves sort of in the middle of the range of where we ought to be, we can deal. And then it's about riding.
Well....grzy mnky
Aug 1, 2001 5:11 PM
I understand and appreciate your points, but I really don't think that the Serotta Fitting process is meant for the novice, nor has it ever been sold that way. It's for a dedicated cyclist that wants the best. Ever tried to buy the right size shoes for a young child? They don't know what they don't know so they can't do their part and help with the process. Is this too tight/loose? Ummmm, I don't know. You gonna blame the fitter? Sounds like a whine and someone who doesn't want to take any responsibility for their end.

The alternitive is to stand over the bike ride it around some and then make all kinds of changes and adjustments as you ride more and eventually realize that you could start to appreciate a better fitting bike. What if they put the size cycle on a set of rollers? Unless you practice and develop the skills you won't even stay on. Then you'd complain that the weight and feel quite right.

You're asking for a simulation to be the real thing. Maybe they should build a batch of bikes with some variations, but all your size then you pick the one that you like (that day) and they scrap the rest?
well, to be honest...ET
Aug 2, 2001 5:47 AM
and I could be mistaken, but you are one of those I seem to recall to have frequently advised many road bike purchasers here to do the Serotta custom-fit-and-get-a-bike-for-life thing, and many of those were first-time purchasers willing to spend an awful lot of money for the "best".
well, to be honest...grzy mnky
Aug 2, 2001 9:00 AM
Don't recall anyone saying that they were a first timer, but yes I repeatedly advise going the Serotta Certified Fit route and would continue to do so. It didn't really occur to me that there would be a definite limitation to someone new to the whole thing so I think you've raised a very ligitimate point. The typical scenario is someone who's been riding for a while, has had fit problems and they're thinking about a new higher end bike. It's not the only way to do it, but I think that it does remove a bunch of the uncertainty. Ultimately I think it succeeds far more often than it fails - especially when one considers the alternatives - but humans are involved so there's lots of room for bias. I think you still have to step back and see if it all makes sense. It's pretty hard for people to stay objective when they're buying things like bikes and cars.
My saying is "Just do it"LC
Aug 1, 2001 8:40 PM
For a first bike I would do Like Nike and "Just do It". Go to a good shop and ride the bike that the salesman thinks will fit you. It is probally close, and in reality it may take a year or more to find out if he is right. I don't think anyone can tell you what is comfortable and even if it is comfortable for the first few months, eventually you will find out that as you get stronger and ride longer you will grow into something else or you may even decide that cycling is not really for you. Too many people have a expensive "custom fit" bike that is collecting dust, but they most certainly are not following a bike forum like this one.

Even if you do end up being a commited Roadie, a cheap second bike for beating around town or when you just have to ride even though its raining will always have its place. If you end up liking golf more than cycling then at least you can use the money to get some good clubs.
probably the most tired saying in all sports and marketingIDIOT
Aug 2, 2001 5:37 AM
re: limitations of the Serotta size cycle fittingSkip
Aug 1, 2001 9:29 PM
When there are so many ways and formulas to calculte and crunch the numbers, once all the measurements are taken, to arrive at the "right" fit - it just proves there is no ONE right way. Lemond, Serotta, Itallian biased, French biased, Euro, American, etc., etc. Even if everybody could agree that "X" was the way to a nirvana fit, if you had 100 trained "cycle fitters", I doubt you would get one, or even a concensus, of the exact "fit" - similar, but not the same. Again, even if you did, then there is always the individuals preferences for feel, reach, drop, etc. That's why it is an art, and not a science.