Cycling is both efficient and comfortable when the bike and its components are adjusted to fit your body. In addition to motivating you to get out and ride, a comfortable road bike allows you to ride for longer distances and avoid overuse injuries that often result from improper position on the bike.
While a bike fit calculator can help with the fitting process, it is not always necessary. You can actually fit your bike without the calculator. In this detailed guide, we will show you how to fit a bike without a calculator.
A Guide on How to Fit A Bike
1. Get the Size Right
No bike fit can fix a ride that is too large or too small for you. Hence, start by ensuring that your budget road bike features the correct size. Good bike shops ensure that the buyers are on the right size bike as part of their road bike buying process.
On more traditional bicycle frames featuring horizontal top tubes, look for 1 or 2 inches clearance between your crotch and the tube. For mountain bikes featuring sloping top tubes, look for at least 2 inches of clearance.
Before buying the aluminum road bike, ensure that its length is ideal for you. While it is possible to make some changes with a shorter or longer stem, a bike that is way too short or too long for the rider’s upper body will not work well in the long run.
2. Level and Center Your Seat
Place your ride on a level surface and then check its seat to determine if it is level. An ideal way to figure out whether the seat is level is to place the carpenter’s level on the top of the bike saddle.
If you do not have the carpenter’s level, place a yardstick on the saddle’s top and then compare the yardstick’s edge to a horizontal sight line that you know is level, for example, the top of a building or a windowsill. When adjusting the seat, ensure that it is centered on the rails over the seat post too.
A level seat supports the rider’s full body weight, offers maximum pedaling efficiency, and makes it much easier to move around on the saddle when needed. Most riders do well with level seats, however, if you experience some discomfort, tip your saddle slightly (no more than three degrees) down or up – men typically tip it up; women tip it down.
3. Adjust the Seat Height
When it comes to how to fit a bike, the height of your bike seat is a crucial consideration. The easiest way to adjust the seat height is indoors in a doorway or on a trainer. You may need the help of a friend.
Find your ideal seat height by placing the heels on the pedals and pedaling backwards. You have found your perfect seat height when the legs are completely extended at the bottoms of your pedal strokes, with the heels on the pedals.
While pedaling backward, have your helper watch for rocking hips – this is a sign that your seat is too high. You want the legs to be fully extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke without rocking hips. With your saddle set at this height and you are pedaling with your feet balls over your bike pedals, you will have a perfect bend in the knees.
4. Find Fore/Aft Position of the Seat
Much of the bike fit revolves around the saddle. This adjustment will require a helper too. Place your bicycle on level surface, next to a post or wall so that you can hold your body upright.
Put on your biking shoes and shorts, get on your bike and pedal backwards until you are seating on the seat’s sweet spot. Move the left and right foot in the 9 and 3 o’clock positions respectively. The forward crankarm and pedal should be level with the ground. The fore/aft saddle adjustment is correct when a plumb line hanging from the kneecap, touches the crankarm’s end.
Keep in mind that this is just a starting position. If you are over 6 feet tall, enjoy long biking trips, climb a lot, and pedal the bike at approximately 90 rpm, you may want to be about 1- 2 cm behind the crankarm’s end. If you are below 6 feet tall, spin at about 95+ rpm and like sprinting, you will probably want to be directly over the crankarm’s end.
5. Adjust Your Shoe Cleats
If you ride your bike in cycling shoes, part of the bike fit process will involve ensuring that the cleats on the shoes’ soles are positioned perfectly. There are 2 crucial adjustments – angular and fore/aft. The former involves some careful trial and error while the latter is easier to find.
Ideally, the cleat position allows your feet to rest naturally on your pedals. Otherwise, you might end up injuring your knees. Usually, aligning your cleats with an imaginary line that bisects your soles is an ideal starting point.
However, consider going for some easy rides to check both the position and ensure that it is right for your knees. If you feel any stress or strain, eliminate the discomfort by changing the angle slightly.
Your cleat should be positioned in a way that allows your feet balls to rest over the centers of the pedals (that is, the axles) when pedaling. Sight from the top when you are riding your bicycle to check this – when doing this, hold your feet level.
The balls of the feet will form protrusions on the shoes’ inside and these are supposed to rest over the axles. If not, be sure to adjust your cleats as necessary.
6. Check the Handlebar Height
The first handlebar height check is the comfort. If you are sore after or during rides – particularly in your lower back and/or the neck – the bike handlebars may need some adjustment. Inspect the handlebar height by standing the bicycle on a level surface and then viewing it from the side, comparing the seat height to the handlebar height.
For road bike handlebars, a difference of 1 – 4 inches is optimal. For other types of handlebars, specifically those used in recreational and off-road riding, bar height should be equal to or up to two inches below your saddle height.
Keep in mind that these guidelines work for most people. However, for some riders, a little experimentation may be necessary to determine the most comfortable position.
7. Check Handlebar Reach
We would be doing you a disservice if we failed to talk about handlebar reach when showing you how to fit a bike. An ideal handlebar reach is key to enjoying long, comfortable rides.
If your handlebars are too far away or too close, you may end up experiencing hand, back, shoulder, and neck pain. It may also cause you to scoot forward or backward on the seat all the time.
On most bicycles, to change the length, you will need to replace the stem. Stems often come in a variety of diameters and types. For this reason, working with professionals is the most ideal way to get an ideal replacement.
To check the handlebar reach at home, put on your biking wear, mount the bike on the trainer and ensure it is level. Get on the bike and pedal until you are comfortable with the upper body relaxed. Look ahead as you would when looking down the road.
For dropped handlebars, rest the hands on the top of your brake levers. For flat bars featuring bar ends, use a regular grip position. Now, have a helper check you out from the side to gauge where a plumb line dropped from your nose’s tip would fall. Optimally, there should be approximately an inch between your plumb line and the handlebar’s center.
8. Check Handlebar Size
Most bikes today come with handlebars that suit the individual to whom the bike is fitted. So it is likely that the current handlebars fit you adequately. However, numerous handlebar shapes and sizes exist, and changing your handlebar might fine-tune your fit, offering improved comfort.
Check the handlebar width first. For maximum efficiency and control, drop handlebars should feature the same width as the rider’s shoulders. These handlebars come in a width that ranges between 38 cm and 46 cm. Hence, if the distance between the bony protrusions present on top of the shoulder blades is 42 cm, that should be the ideal handlebar width for you.
Flat handlebar widths do vary, too. Riders who enjoy demanding and technical bikepacking trails appreciate some additional width – 24 to 27 inches – especially when using full suspension. All-round riders appreciate a more standard width of approximately 22 inches.
Also, if the trails you explore cut through tight spaces, for example, neighboring trees, you should ensure that the handlebars are not too wide – this will allow you to clear obstacles easily.
Handlebars usually come in varying shapes. Flat handlebars feature different bends and may have rise to allow the rider to sit more upright on his or her touring bike. Drop bars have anatomic bends in their hooks for added comfort. The drop bars may be bent differently on their tops to accommodate the rider’s wrists.
Another important consideration for the drop bars is the reach – that is the distance between the bottoms and the tops. Generally, taller riders will appreciate more reach.
Q: How Do You Properly Fit A Bike?
To properly fit your bike, you have to consider the seat position, handlebar position, and shoe cleats. All these should be adjusted to ensure comfort on long rides. If you can’t make all the necessary adjustments, working with a professional bike fitter might be a good idea.
Q: What Size Bike Should I Buy for My Height?
If your height ranges between 5’7” and 5’11”, a 16 to 17 inches bike should be ideal for you. If you are 6’0” to 6’2”, purchase a 17 to 19 inches bike. 6’2” to 6’4” riders should invest in a 19 to 21 inches bike. Riders taller than 6’4” will do well with a bike featuring a 21+ inches size.
Q: How Do You Measure Yourself for A Bike?
The inseam length is the most crucial length when sizing a bike. To measure your inseam, follow these steps:
- Find a wall and stand with your back against it. Spread your feet about 6 to 8 inches apart.
- Place a book between the legs and up against your wall. Raise the book until it is against the crotch.
- Have someone measure from the top of the book down to the floor.
Q: How Do I Fit A Small Bike?
If your bike is too small, you can fit it by:
- Installing a longer seat post to fit your ideal seat height.
- Increasing the saddle set-back.
- Adding a longer stem.
- Raising the handlebars.
Q: How Do I Choose A Bike Frame Size?
Using the bike size chart is the easiest way to select an ideal frame size. You will just need to measure your height and then match this height with the ideal frame size on the bike size chart.
Q: Should Your Feet Touch the Ground on A Bike?
If your saddle is fitted correctly, your feet should reach the floor when sitting on the saddle. However, only the balls of your feet should be touching the ground. If the entire foot is touching the ground – like you would when walking – the saddle is too low.
Globo Surf Overview
If you have been experiencing discomfort when riding your bike, chances are, your bike is not fitted perfectly. Whether you enjoy mountain biking, riding on the road, pedaling casually or competitively, investing in bike fit can make your ride much more enjoyable. With the tips in this guide, knowing how to fit a bike should be much easier for you.