How to Fit Bikes for Height

How to Fit Bikes for Height
Ergonomics may not be the first word to come to mind when you think of cycling, but making sure your bike frame and seat fits your body is key to getting the most out of your ride. If the frame is too large you may find yourself painfully straddling the bar--feet not touching the ground--when you hop off the seat. If the frame is too small, you won't be able to achieve proper pedaling position. The other critical height adjustment on a bike is the seat height; as with the frame size, if you're not sitting at the proper height, you won't be able to bring your full pedaling power to bear, nor will you enjoy a comfortable ride.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Allen wrench
  • Bike trainer
Step 1
Put on the footwear and clothing you intend to wear while cycling. You should wear the appropriate bicycling footwear because the thickness of biking shoe soles can differ from those of street shoes, which in turn will affect your standover clearance.
Step 2
Straddle the top tube of the bike in front of the seat. Assuming that the tube is in a traditional horizontal (parallel to the ground) configuration, there should be about 1 inch of clearance between you and the tube for a road bike. A mountain bike should have at least 2 inches of clearance unless the bike has a full suspension, in which case there should be slightly less (between 1 and 2 inches) clearance. Aggressive mountain bike riders will want more clearance, as much as 3 to 5 inches, to allow for more radical maneuvers.
Step 3
Ask a friend to hold the bike level as you sit down on the seat and place your feet on the pedals. If there's no one to assist you, place the bike in a bike trainer to hold it steady or support yourself against a door jam.
Step 4
Straighten one leg as far as possible. Your leg should reach between 80 percent and 90 percent extension when the bike pedal is in its lowest position; if your leg bends more, raise the bicycle seat by loosening the bolt holding it on with an Allen wrench, raising the seat and then tightening the bolt down again. If your leg is all the way bent, lower the seat a bit so that there is a slight bend in your knee at full extension.

Tips & Warnings

Another way of making sure your bicycle seat is at the right height is placing your heels on the bike pedals. If your leg is extended when the pedal is in its lowest position, with your heel on the pedal, you will have the appropriate bend in your knee once you place the ball of your foot on the pedal.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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