Fitting Your BikeFitting Your Bike

Trust us, your bicycle needs to fit your body or you're in for an uncomfortable ride. Height, weight, and riding style all factor into a bicycle's fit. Think about it: your mother probably needs a bike that fits differently from a NBA player's.
Talk to the staff at your local bike shop. They're the best people to help you fit your bike.

If you can't wait, take a look at the points below:

Frame Size

Before you buy a bike, ask your local bike shop about a properly sized frame. If your bike's frame is too tall, too short, or too long, it will be hard to adjust other things to make you comfortable.

Bike Height

Bike HeightIf your bike has a diamond frame (the kind with a bar across the top), stand just in front of the seat with the bike between your legs. Measure the space between the top tube and your crotch (figure 1). For road or street riding, a one-inch to three-inch space is safest. Mountain bikes need more clearance (think about it...). If your bike has no top bar (e.g. "women's bikes"), ask your bicycle store's staff to size you.

Frame Length

If you feel overly stretched or have pain in your neck, shoulders, or back, your frame might be too long. Try moving the seat and handlebars closer together. If you have an especially small torso, look into a shorter handlebar stem extension, a taller stem, different handlebars, or a custom bike made for people with smaller torsos.

Seat HeightSeat Height

If your seat is too low, your bike will strain your knees and Achilles tendons. A seat that's too high will make it hard to pedal or put your foot on the ground. A seat that's just right? Well, it's perfect. Here's how you can find that sweet spot:

  • Sit on your bike and push one pedal all the way down (figure 2). Put the ball of your foot on the pedal. If your seat is high enough, your knee should be slightly bent with your foot parallel to the ground.Seat Height

  • If your hips rock from side to side when you pedal backwards, or if you feel like you are stretching at all to reach your pedals, your seat is too high.

  • Don't raise your seat so high that fewer than two inches of your seat post extend into the frame (figure 3).

Handlebars

Once you find your sweet seat height, you can adjust your handlebars. When yHandlebarsou're sitting on your bike with your hands on the handlebars, raise or lower your handlebars so they block your view of the front axle (figure 4). With racing bicycles, your elbows should be slightly bent (not locked).

  • HandlebarsLower back pain often means the handlebars are too far away, while upper-arm or shoulder fatigue often means the handlebars are too close to you (figure 5). Try raising or lowering the handlebars, or moving your seat forward or backward. You can also change to a shorter or longer handlebar stem.

  • Don't raise your handlebars so high that fewer than two inches of your handlebar stem extends into the frame (figure 6). If you have to raise yourHandlebars handlebars higher than the safe limit, get a longer stem.

  • Rotate your handlebars so that they put even pressure across the palms of your hands. This shouldn't bend your wrists in a strange way.

Seat Tilt

Not only can you adjust seat height, you can also adjust your seat angle. Most cyclists keep their seats level. Some women, however, tilt them slightly nose-down, and some men tilt them nose-up. Try different angles until you feel comfortable.

Soreness

If you haven't bicycled in a while, you may be sore at first. Chafing or soreness should go away with time. If it doesn't, check your seat adjustment. If this doesn't help, try different seats: a gel-filled saddle or saddle pad, a wider or differently-shaped saddle, a seat with springs, or a seat made specifically for women. Many bicycle stores will exchange seats if they're not damaged, so try several until you're comfortable. Special padded bicycling shorts can help, and recumbent bicycles offer a very comfortable ride.