The history of SICI according to Ben Serotta
Before 1972, most every bike builder and coach had their own way of determining the size and fit of a bike. There was no “science”.
The Italian Cycling Federation made an attempt at a scientific approach to provide qualitative information to promising athletes by publishing the first CONI book in 1972. In its pages one could discover, among other things, how to fit a bicycle properly. This consisted of measuring a cyclist limb by limb and comparing those measurements to the charts derived from data collected from dozens of Luigis, Faustos, Antonios, and Guissepis. Soon the CONI book was considered the go-to bible of everything cycling for the serious athlete.
In my early bike building years (1972-1978) I used the “CONI method” and realized that it had it’s limitations. After applying this method to several hundred cyclists, I realized that ‘the best’ was defined by what worked the best for each individual cyclist. Therefore, trying to determine exact bike fit for an individual by comparing him/her to a broad database of information about other people was an inherently flawed hypothesis. Bike fit should be tailored to each individual cyclist.
Within a few months my staff and I had built an infinitely adjustable stationary bicycle dubbed the SizeCycle. This machine allowed the observation of the athlete, unencumbered by the confines of pre-existing bicycle geometry, and it facilitated quick adaptation of position, and direct observation of the outcomes of those changes. Although the SizeCycle was a fantastic tool, it didn’t guarantee a great result. In fact, we found that the quality of the fitting was as varied as the skill, knowledge and patience of the ‘fitter’. This further crystalized the idea that this tool would require a solid fit methodology that would include body measurement, physical assessment, and a thorough understanding of the athletes goals to be successful.
It was time to teach the bike industry how to fit bikes. The Serotta International Cycling Institute (SICI) was born. While the methodology was important, the main objective was to provide transparent brand-agnostic instruction on bike fitting, not a means to selling more bikes. A methodology for consistently establishing the best ‘fit’ position for cyclists had been developed, but we also recognized that other people may have innovative ideas or better execution. The best fitters of that time were brought together and in the winter of 1998, two 2-day workshops were held. The goal was to bring everyone’s experience to the table,and debate the various methods and theories, separating anecdotes from evidence. It was the start of what was to become the fundamental and foundational philosophy for SICI.
Among SICI’s many firsts are:
- The first formal training with a holistic approach based on the uniqueness of each individual;
- The first to recognize fitness, core strength and flexibility as central to fit;
- The first teach fitting for separate cycling disciplines (road, triathlon, mountain);
- The first to introduce fit and geometry documentation based on an XY grid system (what the industry refers to as stack and reach) plus tools to match;
- The first bike fitting program to provide certified testing
The ultimate goal has always been to offer the best evidence-based education achieved through our dedication to continuous improvement as well as approaching teaching, testing and conducting research in a way that is both inquisitive and collaborative.