Every body’s different and dialing in your bike so that it’s the perfect fit for you is an important step in making your bike “yours” and getting the most out of your pedal sessions. Performance, comfort, enjoyment – they’re all dependent on a good fit, so today we’ll take a look at the basics of setting up your ride to keep you mashin' in satisfaction!
When we’re fine-tuning fit, the best thing to do is take the big swings first and then whittle our results down once we’re in the ballpark, so let’s start with frame size. Picking the right size bike for your body will make the rest of the minor adjustments easier because we won’t need to “make up” any shortcomings with an extra long seatpost, stem, etc… The first thing to consider when eyeballing all the different frame sizes is standover height.
As you may have guessed, standover height is used to determine how much clearance you'll have when you stand over the bike on flat feet (hooray for bike terms that actually sound like what they mean!).
On a bike with a sloping top-tube, like the Cruisers, Step-Throughs or Urban Commuter bikes you likely won’t have to worry about not having enough clearance, so standover height becomes less of an issue.
Check in Person
If you pop into our showroom or visit any of our local dealers, checking standover height is a breeze! Just straddle the bike with your feet flat on the floor (be sure to wear the shoes you ride in) and make sure you’ve got about an inch of space between the top tube and your goods! Alternatively, stand over the bike with flat feet and lift the frame up into your body. If there's an inch or so between each wheel and the floor, you're good to go!
Check at Home
And if you don’t feel like going outside today, you can still check your standover height right from home!
Grab a pen, a large book, your tape measure and head over to the closest wall. Stand flat-footed with your back to the wall, place the book between your legs and press it up underneath you like a saddle. Make sure the book’s level (a friend can help with this) and make a mark on the wall where the book meets it. Now take your tape measure and check the distance from the mark to the floor, that’s your standover height!
You can find the standover heights of the various frame sizes on the bikes’ spec pages. Just look for one that gives you the right amount of clearance based on your newfound number! (For example, your standover height is 33", look for bikes with a standover height of ~32").
Now that we’ve got your basic frame size fit, it’s time to start with the fine-tuning. First up, saddle height!
Dialing in your saddle position is super important for keeping your knees happy, getting the most efficient use of your leg muscles, and keeping riding fun and easy, as opposed to hard and painful. When it comes to proper saddle height, the rule of thumb is to aim for nearly full extension of your legs at the bottom of your pedal stroke. A little bend in the knee is ideal, but you want to be about 80-90% extended, so no knees-to-chest bmx-style riding.
The easiest way to find your fit here is with the help of a friend. Have your buddy hold your bike upright while you mount it. Now, keep your hips level, place your heel on one of the pedals, and rotate it to it’s furthest point from the saddle (this’ll usually mean making the crank arm line up with the seattube). Perfect, now just have your friend raise the saddle up to your butt. Check the other side by placing your heel on the pedal, rotating it to the furthest point and checking to make sure your leg is straight (with your hips level) on that side too.
And that oughta do it! Because you’ll actually pedal with the ball of your foot as opposed to the heel, that height should give you the little break in your knee that you need to keep spinning with a smile. Feel free to give it a test ride and make any minor up and down adjustments as necessary, but you should be pretty close to perfect there.
NOTE: On a Fixed Gear, Classic, Track, or Road frame, you probably won’t be able to reach the ground from the saddle. That’s not an accident, and it’s not an issue, that’s the most effective pedaling position. If you lower the saddle so you can sit at red lights, your knees and legs will end up punishing you for putting them through a failed fit, so get the saddle height right and just come out of the saddle at stops. Simple.
Your saddle should be level. Done.
Ok, that may be a little simplistic, but it’s pretty close to a hard and fast rule. Angling the nose up or down slightly (super super slightly) is ok, but if your seat looks like it’s taking a nose-dive or ready for take-off, level it out. Angled saddles are almost always a symptom of bad bike fit and they make it nearly impossible to get comfortable and ride correctly. If the only way you can get comfy is with an angled saddle, go back to the top of this fit guide and start over, something’s not right.
And the last thing to futz with saddle-wise is its fore-aft positioning, that is, how far forward or rearward you mount the saddle to the seatpost. There’s still a little contention around this one, but most shops generally follow the knee-over-pedal-spindle rule (aka KOPS).
What you’re aiming for is having your kneecap directly over the center of your pedal when your foot and crank are at their forward most position (3 o’clock on the right side, 9 o’clock on the left).
The best way to dial this one in is with the help of a friend and some sort of plumb bob (I usually just tie a lockring or something to a piece of string). Have your friend hold the bike upright while you get in the saddle, place your feet on the pedals, and spin one side so that it’s facing forward. Now, hold the plumb line as if it's passing straight through your kneecap and the goal is to see the weight land right on the center of the pedal. Adjust your saddle forward and backwards until you get it dialed in, and you’re all set!
And those are the basics! In our next fit post we’ll jump into some more position-specific fit choices like stem length, stem angle, bar-height etc…, but for now hit the road to test out those tweaks!
Don’t be afraid to keep fine-tuning too, just be sure to put some miles down between each change so you can really get a sense of how it feels. Pretty much every change will feel “wrong” at first since your body's used to the old way, so you need some road time to get a genuine feel for a new set up. And if you’re still struggling, pop by HQ to consult with one of our crew, or swing into your favorite shop for a professional bike fit!