Words by Phil Cavell, Cyclefit
Professional cycling was historically formed of a semi-permeable peloton, with very little free movement of influence and opinion in and out the bubble. In this closed model hearsay, tradition and bullying held the balance of power over the introduction of new science and thinking. And because the pro-peloton has always disproportionally influenced the consumer market, too often us retailers tended to replicate by rote some of their more stupid and poorly thought out practices.
In many cases our customers suffered and they sought new sports and past-times that were more considered and better presented. In this climate bike-fitting was never going to get a fair hearing, and it didn’t. We found from our own experience at Cyclefit when we started bike-fitting in the 1990’s, that the early adopters were generally either referrals from the medical community or migrants from other more open and critically evaluated sports like swimming, golf, running, rowing etc.
Democratised by Lance
Without straying into the wildly contentious, there is one man that is due a lot of credit for change, a certain Mr Lance Armstrong, until recently seven-times Tour de France winner. Lance came to the sport of cycling from triathlon and thereby free from decades of dysfunctional programming. He didn’t care too much about adhering to tradition or fitting in, he just wanted to perform at the highest level he could and that meant shining the blinding light of science into every dark crevice of performance cycling (however ironic that seems in the light of Lance's admissions). Quite simply Lance democratised our sport, and many would say for the better. Lance also bought with him a new and welcome constituency who were similarly un-tethered from institutional introspection.
The Lancification of cycling inspired and mobilised a whole audience, who whilst in love with cycling and its dramatic history didn’t feeling enslaved or restricted by it in any way. The new cycling audience was always more comfortable in a climate of critical reasoning, and this in turn was a fertile space for the topic bike-fitting to flourish and distinguish itself.
No More Snake-Oil Pedalling
At Cyclefit we no longer have to explain what we do and why we do it. No more constant rebutting away rumours of snake-oil peddlers and witchcraft. For most cyclists who want to fulfil their natural potential, bike-fitting is now a question the logistics rather than concept.
For bicycle retailers and especially independent retailers, bike-fitting provides a valuable opportunity to differentiate from the online providers and the multiple stores. To date the multiple chains like Evans and Halfords have struggled to reconcile a high-level fitting service with the constraints of scale and high turnover of staff. At the same time the online providers have thus far had no strategy for fitting beyond ground-gazing silence. That may possibly change in time as fitting becomes more mainstream and therefore commoditised, but selling knowledge, passion and differentiated service is something that the independent sector can do very well and hence be well rewarded for.
It is our experience writing courses and running both The Cyclefit School and the Trek Fit Services classes in the UK that the best fitting students tend to be managers or owners of independent stores. They have the background, passion and desire to learn, implement and then monetise these new skills - as the Americans like to say – ‘skin in the game’. To them this is not merely one of many processes and policies that a new member of staff has to learn from the company training manual, but an effective and hugely fun approach to working with valued clients at an elevated level.
If you'd like to learn more about professional cycle fitting and what it can do for your business, Cavell, alongside numerous other international experts in bike fitting will host The 2014 International Cyclefit Symposium at the London Bike Show, for which tickets are now available.