Tips For a Proper Bike Fit - Enjoy the Ride!

Biking is a great activity for all ages. Whether you're cruising around the neighborhood with the kids or riding the open highways, it's beneficial to take the time to fit your bike properly. The correct fit aligns your body so you can ride more efficiently, without excess strain on your muscles and joints. Before you head out on your bike next time, follow the checklist below to get the best out of your bike ride!

Correct Frame Size

To check if you have the right frame size, stand over your bike and lift it until the top tube reaches your crotch. Your bike tires should be 1-2" off the ground. If there's more than 2", your frame is too big - less than 1" and you need a smaller bike.

Position the Seat

You may require some assistance to set the fore/aft seat position. Sit on your bike with one foot at 3 o'clock on the pedal. Have someone dangle a weighted string from the indent below your kneecap. Adjust the seat forward or backward until the string lines up with the middle axle of the pedal. Your seat should be level, or tilted slightly upward for the most comfort.

Adjust the Seat Height

When biking, your knees should have a slight bend when the pedal reaches its lowest point. To make this adjustment, sit on your seat and keep your hips level. Begin pedaling backward with your heels on the pedals. As the pedal reaches the lowest point, your leg should be fully extended with no bend in your knee. Once you've adjusted the seat, have a friend watch you from behind as you pedal to see if your hips are rocking side to side. Rocking indicates the seat is too high.

Adjust the Handlebars

Positioning your handlebars is based on your own comfort and can range 3" above or below the seat height. Handlebars set above the seat allow for an upright riding position. Many riders find this position comfortable but the spine absorbs a lot of the shock on a bumpy trail and it isn't recommended for long rides.

Set below the seat, the handlebars give you a forward leaning position that is more efficient for cycling and should be used for longer distances and faster speeds.

If you have to lean too far to reach your handlebars your elbows may lock in a fully extended position causing fatigue or pain in your neck and back. You can change the reach of your handlebars by purchasing a longer or shorter stem for the bars.

Tip: Shrug your shoulders occasionally when riding to prevent your elbows from locking and straining your neck and back.

Correct Your Foot Position

Your body works most efficiently when you pedal using the balls of your feet. Use toe clips or a clip-less pedal system to prevent pedaling on your arch or tip-toes and save yourself from sore feet and knee strain.

Fine Tuning Your Bike

If you find you are still experiencing some discomfort or pain once you've re-fitted your bike, try the troubleshooting tips below to help correct the problem. Make small adjustments at a time and try the new fit for 1-2 miles to accurately test the changes. Mark your initial settings before making any adjustments so you can return to the original fit if the adjustment isn't correct.

  • Hand Pain - Raise the handlebars and check your seat is level.
  • Neck, shoulder or upper back pain - Raise the handlebars or shorten the reach.
  • Hip Pain - Lower the seat.
  • Lateral Knee Pain - Lower the seat and move it forward slightly.
  • Front Knee Pain - Raise the seat and move it backward slightly. Try cycling in a lower gear; pedaling at least 80 rpm is most efficient and will be easier on your knees.
  • Back of the Leg/Knee Pain - Lower the seat.
  • Foot Pain or Achilles Tendon Pain - Use toe clips to keep the ball of your foot on the pedal. Loosen your shoes or find wider footwear as your feet tend to expand after long distances.

Experiencing Knee Pain?

Knee pain is a common complaint among cyclists. Fitting your bike properly will help to prevent further injury and pain but treating your current pain will get you back on your bike faster. Visit the links below for more information about your knee pain and what you can do to treat it.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) - Pain on the outside of the knee

Patella Chondromalacia - Pain below and around the kneecap

Patellar Tendinitis - Pain below the kneecap

Quadriceps Tendinitis - Pain above the kneecap

Prepatellar Bursitis - Pain over top of the kneecap

Pes Anserine Bursitis - Pain below and on the inside of the knee

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