In this week’s blog, we are going to have a look at bike fitting and going through the basics with new riders in mind. Our focus in this guide will be on comfort, but it can also greatly benefit performance if your bike setup is currently off-whack.
What Can We Adjust?
There are four key fitting variables which we can look without getting in to serious stuff like crank length!
- Saddle Angle/Tilt
- Saddle Height (bottom bracket to top of saddle)
- Drop/Rise (the height difference between the saddle and handlebars)
- Reach (the middle of the saddle to the handlebar)
You’ll need an Allen key that fits the bolt underneath the saddle and ideally a spirit level (there are apps you can download for your phone which actually do a pretty good job of this). The starting point here is to set the saddle runners square in middle of seat stem bracket, and the top of the saddle horizontal to the ground. When assessing whether the saddle is horizontal, look at the front two thirds of the saddle as the back third often has a slight rise to it. The end goal is to be sat on your ‘sit bone’ and not on soft tissues. Differences between saddle designs and personal preference will inform your decision, but if you start horizontal you probably won’t be far away from best fit.
With the bike vertical, no side lean, when sat on the saddle and legs fully extended downwards, your heels should just touch the pedals when it’s at its lowest point – the bottom of the pedal stroke. Many people’s reaction to this set up is ‘blimey that’s high’, but this is best for long term anatomical comfort.
That said we can understand if you’d want this a little lower for commuting and so on where you’ll likely be hopping on and off your bike and stopping more often. No one wants to see that awkward hoping-sideways-stagger as you dismount your steed!
This is somewhat dependant on the style of bike and the style of riding you do. Generally more racey specifications have the handlebars below the height of the mid-point of the saddle. For comfort and recreational riding, having the handlebars level with the saddle is a good starting point, moving higher for more comfort. It’s slightly more complicated to adjust the height of your handlebars. There are often spacers above the headset which can be added/removed, the stem can sometimes be turned upside down to give either an upwards or downwards angle.
Then you have handlebar design particularly for mountain-bikes & hybrids, from flat bars to ones a bit of rise in them. Different stems can also be purchased in different angles and lengths (for reach).
With all the other set-ups done, sit on the bike and assess the situation. Reach is largely personal preference and bike style and changes depending on the other factors of saddle and handlebar height. Different lengths of handlebar stem are the only significant adjustment available here. Faster bikes have a longer sportier reach and comfort bikes have a shorter reach. For example, compare a Road Bike to a Mobike!
Note, your arms don’t ever want to be bolt straight as this can lead to injury. Gently flexed at the elbow and wrists slightly arched (wrist joint above grips) is ideal. More elbow flex for off road shock absorption. Adjust your brake levers and gears accordingly.
We hope this guide helps you find your best fit for comfortable, pain free riding. Please share with your friends, particularly those new to cycling to get started on the right foot (and when choosing a new bike), and if you’ve got any questions, leave us a comment below.
If you do a lot of miles on your bike you might want to consider getting professionally fit as this will fine tune those performance and comfort gains for you. Well worth the money in the long run.
The havebike team.