Ensure the correct fit

Cyclescheme, 04.05.2011

Ensure the correct fit

Buying the right sized bike and setting it up correctly is vital if you’re going to be comfortable, cycle efficiently and avoid injury. Here’s how to make your choice...

1. Stem length

1. Stem length

Stems come in various different lengths and this can have a big effect on the way you feel on your bike. Changing you stem is usually a 5-minute job. A very rough guide to setting your reach on a road bike is to put your elbow on the nose of your saddle with your forearm horizontal: the tip of your middle finger should be 2-3cm from your handlebar. Some people prefer a less-stretched, more upright position, particularly on a flat- handlebarred bike.

2. Brake lever reach

2. Brake lever reach

Many brake levers come with a reach adjustment screw to bring them closer into the handlebars for smaller hands. Setting it is an easy job with an Allen key.

3. Saddle height

3. Saddle height

A good rule of thumb is to adjust the saddle height so that your knee is straight when you your heel is on the pedal and the crank is in the 6 o'clock position. That way, when you cycle normally with the ball of your foot on the pedal there will be a slight bend in your knee. If you're riding a mountain bike on off-road trails, you'll probably want to reduce your saddle height a little - about 1cm.

4. Saddle setback

4. Saddle setback

When your crank is in the 3 o'clock position, the front of your kneecap should be directly above the end of the crank arm. Loosen the seatpost bolts and shift the saddle backwards or forwards on its rails to achieve this.

5. Handlebar height

5. Handlebar height

This is a tricky one that varies hugely between different people. A low handlebar height gives a flatter, more aerodynamic body position for sports riders, but higher handlebars put less strain on your back, provide easier control and give you a better view of the road ahead. In the end, it comes down to comfort and personal preference. The easiest ways to adjust your handlebar position are by swapping your stem for one with a different rise (measured in degrees), or by altering the height of your headset spacers.

6. Frame size

6. Frame size

Like shoe sizes, bike sizes vary greatly between manufacturers - plus there's the complication that some are given in inches, some in centimetres, and some are described as small, medium, large and so on. The best advice is to check out each manufacturer's website - they'll usually give their own sizing guidance. When choosing your frame size, first make sure you can get the saddle height you need, and the reach that you're after. Then make sure there's clearance between your crotch and the top tube when you stand astride the bike with your feet flat on the ground. Ideally, you want 5cm of clearance or more to give you a bit of leeway if you have to get your feet down in a hurry.

7. Toeclip overlap

7. Toeclip overlap

On some bikes, especially smaller ones with large wheels, it's possible for your toe to hit the front wheel or mudguard when you turn. You have to be turning pretty sharply, though, and that only happens when you're going very slowly and it's rarely dangerous. If it bothers you, though, check for it before you buy or remove the toeclips. You're less likely to get toeclip overlap on a bike with smaller wheels.

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