is some information about basic bike fit. It contains advice from an
article by Jim Langley with a handful of additions and revisions from Paul
Swift. Jim was a writer and editor for Bicycling Magazine from 1989 -
1999 and the author behind the "Bible of Bike Maintenance" -
Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance
and Repair for Road and Mountain Bikes.
Paul is a bicycle fit
expert and his Bicycle Fitting System has been praised
as one of the most
innovative products in the industry. Visit Jim's website at
and Paul's at
An improper bike fit can cause
serious discomfort including
things such as a numb bum, burning feet, stabbing knee or back pain, sore
hands, achy shoulders and a stiff neck. While the information
below can be very useful to make minor adjustments to your bike fit, we
highly recommend that you take the time and money to have your bike
professionally fit. In the long run, the extra expense may possibly
save you from excruciating pain and permanent injury. You can have
your bike fit at a reputable bike shop however, not all bike shops offer the
same degree of expertise when it comes to bike fit.
wear your bike shorts and bike shoes for a proper fit.
Exchange and Chain Gang recommend
having your bike professionally fitted by:
an expert in the field, a US National Champion & Goodwill Games Gold
Medalist. He designed the LeMond RevMaster "spin bike" and has given
basic bike fitting clinics in LA for the California AIDS Ride.
out his bio
Let him know that you are an AIDS/Lifecycle Rider for a
Paul is now based in Seattle
For Northern California Riders try:
Clay Mankin at City
Cycles, 3001 Steiner St, San Francisco
Cramblett, Revolutions In Fitness, Oakland, CA
For listings of other bike
fitters around the US, visit
Start with the seat level with
the ground. If you experience discomfort, angle the seat up or down a few degrees (maximum
of about 3 degrees).
How to do it:
On most bikes, there is a bolt
near the top of the seat post that loosens, allowing you to adjust the seat.
Dress in your biking duds and
put the bike on an indoor trainer or position yourself and your bike in a doorway, so you
can hold yourself up while pedaling. Have a buddy sit behind you and watch. Then raise the
seat until, as you pedal backwards with your heels on the pedals, your legs are completely
extended at the bottom of the stroke. If you have to rock your hips to reach the pedals
the seat is too high.
How to do it: The Allen bolt that holds the
seat post in place is on the side of the frame by the base of the seat post.
backward until one pedal is completely at the bottom. Your heel should just
be able to touch the lower pedal with your leg straight so when you place
the ball of the foot on the pedal (ball over the center of the pedal) your
knee will bend. This is a great starting place for seat height
Pedaling is most efficient when
you ride with the balls of your feet on the pedals. Trouble is, its possible to end
up pedaling on your arches or tiptoes unless you use something to hold your feet in place.
How to do
it: Toe clips, which are comprised of cages and straps, can
be attached to pedals to hold feet in the correct position. When youre ready for an
upgrade, purchase a clipless pedal system. Mount the cleats to the shoe bottoms so that
when you click into the clipless pedals, the balls of your feet are centered over the
is probably best to have your clipless shoes fitted by a bike fitter to
assure proper cleat placement.
Make sure the bike is level on
the trainer. Then hop on and pedal a bit to warm up the muscles. Stop pedaling with one
foot at three oclock. Have your assistant level the crank arm and the pedal. Maintain
that position while your helper holds a plumb line (a thread with a nut on the end works
fine) against the indentation just beneath the bone thats below your kneecap. Adjust
the seat fore and aft on the rails until the plumb line bisects the pedal axle.
sure your knee is not in front of the center of the pedal when the forward
leg is at 3 o'clock.
How to do
it: Loosen the same bolt used to angle the seat (see Seat
to the Handlebars
Adjustment: Comfort is the deciding factor.
Ideally, youll be able to comfortably reach the various handlebar positions on your
bike without locking your elbows, straining your back and/or neck, or having to scoot
forward or back on the seat. Sit and spin on the trainer and see how it feels. Or
videotape yourself and see how you look.
Look down and see where the handlebar is in relation to the front hub
(the part at the center of the wheel). On road bikes with dropped bars (the curly ones),
the reach is usually right when the bar hides the hub. On mountain bikes, the right reach
usually places the bars an inch ahead of the hub.
How to do it: Changing the reach
requires installing a longer or shorter stem (the piece that holds the handlebars).
Comfort is key. If your lower
back, neck, hands, and/or arms hurt, youre probably leaning too far forward. If all
your weight is on the seat and every bump feels like a kick in the pants, youre
sitting too upright. Measure bar height by holding a yardstick on the seat so that the
yardstick extends over the bars. On road bikes, handlebar height varies from matching seat
height to 4 inches lower (extreme racing position). On mountain bikes, height begins at
seat level to about 3 inches lower than the seat.
bar height may be higher as well
How to do it: If there are bolts on the side
or back of your stem, its probably a model that is raised or lowered by removing it
and adding/removing or moving shims. No shims? Purchase a taller stemor on a
mountain bike, taller bars may do the trick. If your stem has one bolt on its top, loosen
the stem by turning this bolt counter clockwise several turns and then striking the bolt
with a block of wood. Youll then be able to raise or lower the stem (dont
exceed the safety height marked on the stem) and refasten it.
Troubleshooting Common Bike-Fit Problems
Youre always scooting forward on the seat
Stem may be too long so you pull yourself forward as you ride;
saddle nose may be tipped down too much
Install a shorter stem; level saddle
Also check page on
Youre always scooting back on the seat
Stem may be too short so you feel cramped and push yourself
back; saddle nose may be tipped back;
be too far forward
on the rails
Install a longer stem; level the seat and center it on the
rails; move your seat back
Also check page on
Lower back hurts
Stem too low or too long; must strain back to reach bars;
or seat may be too high, causing rocking when pedaling
Try raising the stem/handlebars; still hurts? try shorter
stem; check and adjust seat height
Also check page on
Stem too low; must crane neck to see
Raise the stem/bars
Stem too low; too much weight on hands;
be pointed down
Raise the stem/bars;
Also check page on sore wrists
Front of knee hurts
Seat too low
and/or too far forward, straining knees
to move seat further back as well
Back of knee hurts
Seat too high, over-extending leg
Numb bum all the time
Too much weight on the seat;
to slide back a little on the seat. Try to sit such that you feel the weight
on your sit bones rather than the front or center of your crotch
Lower handlebar position; check seat height as it may be
to try another brand of shorts and or seat; lose weight
Achilles tendon hurts
Pedaling too much on your toes; cleats too far forward on
not be forward enough over the pedal
Keep the balls of your feet over the pedals when
youre pedaling; move cleats back.
Also check page on
Eating too many energy bars
Ride at the back of the pack
Extra Bike-Fit Tips
How you ride has a lot to
do with comfort, too. The number one problem for many cyclists is what I call the vulture
riding position, because it resembles that animals posture. Its what a cyclist
looks like when he locks his elbows and raises his shoulders, a position even hard-core
pedalers often develop. Youll feel a lot better if you RELAX. Every few miles, shrug
your shoulders and let them drop and keep those elbows bent.
Never raise any bike part
too high because it can lead to failure and a crash. Parts are usually marked with limit
lines that, when exposed, indicate that the part is too high. Heed these markings.
found the correct seat height, mark the seat post.
do this before you travel.
This way—if the
post slips, or when you pack the bike for shipping—you’ll quickly be able to
get it back in the right spot.
Likewise, measure from the
top of the saddle to the center of the pedal axle (put the pedal at the bottom of its
stroke, down around six oclock) and memorize and jot down the number where you can
find it. Itll come in handy if you have to set up another bike, say a rental or
Early in the season
youre not as flexible and youll probably enjoy a higher handlebar position. As
you ride more regularly, youll gain flexibility and may want to lower the bars to
stretch out a bit more.
Women often require
additional changes such as narrower handlebars, shorter stems and easier to operate brake
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