Bike Fitting Tips

July 13th, 2015

Bike Fitting Tips

Summertime in the rockies is the perfect time to get a little exercise out on the bike. Whether you are hitting the mountain trails, riding on roads, or cruising the neighborhoods, ensuring a proper fit can go a long way to preventing bike related aches and pains.

Proper fit can also increase your efficiency on the bike, which will make it easier to ride faster and for longer than you could otherwise with less effort!

Let’s talk about a few of the basics –

1) Standover Height – This is one of the things you should check before purchasing a bicycle, as it really cannot be adjusted. Standover height is the distance between your crotch and the top tube of the frame when you are straddling the bike with your feet on the ground.

For road bikes the clearance should be between 1-2 inches.

Mountain bikes require a bit more clearance, especially if you ride aggressively or on rough trails which may require unplanned dismounting. The recommended clearance is around 3-5 inches of space between the bottom of the tires and the ground when you lift the bike up to meet your crotch.

Cruiser bikes typically don’t have problems with standover height and usually are equipped with bent top tubes which provide 5+ inches of clearance and are designed to allow the rider to put their feet down to the ground when seated.

2) Seat Height – Your bike seat should be adjusted to an appropriate height in order to decrease stress on your low back and hips. The basic recommendation is that your knee should be just shy of full extension (not locked out) when you are at the bottom of a pedal stroke with the ball of your foot in contact with the pedal.

Make sure to wear the shoes you intend to ride with when making this adjustment as it can be changed by sole thickness and clip mechanisms.

3) Seat Position – Bike saddles can also be adjusted to be more towards the front or back of the bike.

To find the appropriate position, have a friend help you balance the bike while you are sitting in the seat and make sure your pedals are in the 3 and 9 o’clock position.

If your seat is adjusted appropriately, then your forward knee will be in the same line as the ball of your foot or the pedal axle when viewed from the side. If this is correct, then your shin will be slightly angled forward as well.

Be sure to adjust the tilt of your seat so that it is level to the ground. This can be easily done using a carpenter’s level. If your seat is tilted too far forward or back you will end up putting pressure into your arms, shoulders, and back.

4) Handlebar Position – If you experience a lot of neck and back discomfort when riding, then handlebar position is likely the culprit.

When adjusted appropriately you should be able to reach the bars, gear levers, and breaks with a soft bend in your elbows and you back should be no more shallow than about 45 degrees.

If you cannot find a position with your current set up that allows this, then you will likely need to take it to a shop to have them find you a replacement stem that will accommodate you.

Those are some really basic recommendations that most people can adjust on their own.

If you are having difficulty, or are looking for a more activity specific type of set up then I would suggest going to a local bike shop and having it professionally fitted.