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Self-adjusting smart bike and component recommendation: The new idmatch bike fit

Using complex technology but understandable information, idmatch has updated our opinion on the bike fit

Joe Robinson
15 Aug 2018

Many of us are unlikely to ever get a bike fit and those who do may come away feeling slightly hard done by. All in, the process can take a few hours and although the fitter will undoubtedly be incredibly knowledgeable about the process, a certain amount of guesswork is hard to avoid. 

Body dimensions can be hard to decipher, with the exact positioning of joints and bones hidden underneath varying densities of flesh. The fitter will then use physical tools and his own intuition to work out the angles of the body and your exact position on the bike. 

Idmatch, however, claims to have completely overhauled how to approach the bike fit.

Firstly, using a 3D camera originally designed for a games console, the Italian company states that it can give you the most accurate body measurements and angles available, making the system more reliable than the marker-based method often used.

By using a self-adjusting smart bike, idmatch also believes its method can cut down on fit time considerably while also being able to adjust for variables automatically.

Finally, idmatch's large database of 10,000 products from 300 brands will recommend which frame size, crank length, handlebar style and saddle shape is best suited to your body composition and flexibility, something unique to its model.

It's an incredibly technical process that seems to have been distilled into a simple, easy to follow interface, so Cyclist visited idmatch to see if it was the real deal.

How idmatch fitted me

My bike setup is the butt of many jokes in the Cyclist office. I have always struggled with long limbs and a short torso which sees me slightly out of proportion. 

To account for this when cycling, I have had to push the seat post up on my own 2017 Orbea Orca to a saddle height of 78cm to incorporate my long legs. I opt for a 55cm top tube, which fits my torso but then have to ride a 130mm stem to compensate for my unusually long arms – two inches longer than average for my height.

Look at me on a bike and you would immediately say it doesn't fit. I feel comfortable but I certainly don't look it.

So visiting the idmatch lab left me with anticipation. Was I going to have my bike setup revolutionised or will my unusual position be justified?

Before I begin, I meet idmatch creator, Professor Luca Bartoli. He explains that idmatch works to a strict set of protocols that guarantee consistent findings across each fit. 

'The method we use means that no matter how many bike fits you have, it will use the same measurements each time creating a constant base to work from,' explains Bartoli.'

'This is something you do not get with a traditional fit.' 

Using a camera designed for Microsoft's Xbox games console, idmatch is able to pinpoint your joints, underneath the flesh, while also measuring the exact length of your bone structure.

This allows the programme to protect the rider as a 3D image of them on the bike, constantly analysing data of variables such as body angle, handlebar reach, and leg extension.

For this, I have to stand six feet away from the camera as it builds an image of my bone structure. I then have to bend over, attempting to touch my toes, in order to show my range of motion. 

Harvesting this information, idmatch then projects my skeleton shape onto the screen. It finds that my arms and legs are indeed disproportionate to my height and that I also have particularly narrow shoulders.

Motorised stationary bikes

Once Bartoli had gathered my body proportion, he invited me to hop aboard his smart bike, a machine that mimics the setup of a road and has the ability to self-adjust saddle height and handlebar reach.

At this point, Bartoli explains that the system will either allow you to position the smart bike to the exact geometry of your current bike or opt for the generic fit of a frame best suited to your height.

Going for the latter, I placed myself on the smart bike and begin to pedal and allow the clever science to take hold. 

As I pedal, the saddle begins to rise from underneath to account for my rangey legs while the handlebars began to move away from me, stretching my long arms out until the 3D camera shows my bone structure to reach the optimum angles preset within the programme's database.

The system also realised that rather than bending from the hips, I bend at the back, therefore raising my handlebars up slightly to keep my back as straight as possible.

As the system adjusts Bartoli remarks that 'at this point, we can override the system and adjust your set up according to personal feel or comfort. If you have issues with pain in a part of the body, this can be considered and adjusted accordingly,'

'We can also tell the system what style of riding you do, whether that be cyclocross, road racing or mountain bike, and the system will take this into consideration,'

After five minutes of cycling, the system came to what it believed was my optimum bike fit, which proved not too dissimilar to my current setup. 

Idmatch had decided that on my 55cm Orbea Orca frame with 172.5mm crank length, my saddle was at the necessary height for my leg length but that my stem should be shorter by 10mm with the front end raised in order to account for my limited range of motion. 

Harvesting data

The science behind idmatch does not stop there. Bartoli explains that countless man hours have been undertaken to stock the programme with over 10,000 frames, saddles and handlebars from 300 brands in order for you to adjust the results dependent on your preference of brand.

At the click of a button, Bartoli was able to set my bike fit against any major bike brand and frame, with details of my saddle height and reach adjusting according to the fit of the particular frame chosen. 

Idmatch has also inputted saddles and handlebars from all major retailers, putting each into categorises dependant on size and shape. 

Using the 3D camera, which tracked my body movement on the bike, it found that because of wide sit bones and a tendency to move in the saddle, I would be better suited to a wider, shorter saddle while my short torso, narrow shoulders and long arms would work best with narrow, 40cm bars with shallow drops attached to a longer than average stem.

Bartoli then showed me that each saddle and handlebar, regardless of brand, has been grouped according to their shape allowing me to choose the best saddle and handlebar fit for me while not limiting me to certain brands.

Through this bike fit, idmatch had managed to account for my body shape, adjust my bike set up according to my size and also recommend a saddle and handlebar shape best suited to my range of motion.

I was also provided with a downloadable PDF of my body measurements, bike fit and the parts best recommended for my body shape for future reference.

Beyond this, idmatch have also produced a laser-guided jig to determine the perfect position of your cleats based upon foot width and length to prevent damage to your ankle and knee joints.

Bartoli offers the idmatch package to bike shops of all sizes and places no guide on the price of an individual fit. Predominantly found in Italy, the system has begun to roll out in the UK with plans to expand to North American and China next year.

Since the idmatch bike fit, I have taken its advice of a shorter stem, wider saddle and narrower bars. While the saddle and bars seems more comfortable, I remain unsold on the shorter stem, but that could just be vanity.

Stores in the UK that offer the service can be found here.

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