Bicycle Fitting

Few things make a bigger difference in the enjoyment of a bicycle than proper fit. An ill-fitting bike is a pain (literally) to ride, and can be downright dangerous (especially in the case of a bike that is too large). And despite what department stores might tell you, there is much more to fitting a bicycle than simply raising or lowering the seat.

This is where a professional bike shop with a knowledgeable sales staff really shines. Unlike department and toy store bicycles, which use a “one-size-fits-all” sizing method, all of our bikes are available in a variety of frame sizes to accommodate any sized cyclist. Additionally, we are able to swap out or adjust handlebars, handlebar stems, seats, and seatposts to give you a perfect personalized fit. If you’ve never had a professional fitting, you will be amazed at the difference it makes in the comfort and enjoyment of your bicycle.

Frame Fit

The first and most important aspect of fit is frame fitting. The first benchmark for a properly fitted frame is “stand-over clearance.” Stand-over clearance can be found by straddling the bicycle over the top tube. There should be one to two inches of clearance between the rider’s body and the frame tube. If you are purchasing a mountain bike and plan to ride aggressively off road, two to three inches is a better range.

Seat Adjustment

Once a proper frame fit is obtained, the next consideration is the saddle. First we’ll look at seat height. While seated on the bike, with your foot on the pedal at the bottom of its stroke, there should be only a slight bend in the knee. It is important that the knee does NOT lock at the bottom of the pedal stroke, as a locked knee could result in injury. Many people make the mistake of setting their seats far too low. This results in not enough leg extension, which causes decreased efficiency, premature leg fatigue, and can actually lead to knee injury.

Next up is the saddle’s fore-aft position.  There are many ideas on the perfect fore-aft seat position, with different positions favoring different riding styles.  For example, a more forward seat position will provide a more comfortable ride with less back strain while a more rearward seat position will allow for more power and speed.  In the end, it all comes down to how you want to sit on  your bike, and how you want it to handle. As a general rule of thumb, you should position your seat so that your pelvic bones are centered over the widest part of the saddle while you are sitting in a comfortable riding position.

Finally, we have the saddle’s tilt.  Generally speaking, the seat should be positioned so the top of it is flat and parallel to the ground. Different saddle designs and different body shapes may dictate a change in tilt.  If you feel a lot of pressure on the forward part of the saddle or are sliding off the back of the seat, try tilting the nose down slightly.  If you feel like you are sliding forward all the time, try tilting the saddle slightly back.

Handlebar, Stem, and Cranks

Handlebar and stems can be adjusted or swapped to accommodate a rider’s preferred riding position. Like seats, there are many ideas on the perfect position, but in the end it all comes down to the way you want to ride your bike. A shorter stem will reduce arm stretch and set you in a more upright position, while a longer stem will stretch you out further and make you more aerodynamic. Since these adjustments often require swapping out components, and are based largely on body shape and rider preference, it is recommended that you come in to the shop to be properly fitted and have adjustments made.

For most riders, the cranks that come on a new bike will be just fine. But for some, a longer or shorter crank arm can make a difference in the power produced as well as the comfort over long rides.  If you think you could benefit from new cranks, call to make a fitting appointment.  We have adjustable-length crankarms that will allow you to find the perfect length for you body and riding style.