How to Fit a Bike
A properly sized and fitted bike makes all the difference when riding. Bikes, like people, come in many different sizes and styles. Whether you are learning to ride for the first time, or purchasing a new bike, it helps to know what to look for!
Finding the Right Size:
Depending on the bike brand or shop, there are different ways to find the right size bike for you. Bike frames come in different sizes measured in inches that correlate to your height and inseam length. Different brands and bike shops may label their bike sizes using the frame size, height, or a general descriptive sizing such as “Small”, “Medium” or “Large”. Until you know your preferred frame size, it is easiest to “try on” bikes in person to see what is most comfortable for you.
- Stand over the top of the bike with your hands on the handlebars, both feet flat on the ground.
- If the bike is the right size, you should have no trouble straddling it. Both feet should be flat on the ground – no tip toes! – and the toptube (the one between the seat and the handlebars) should come between your legs, but should not touch you.
- Have a friend hold the handlebars for you and clench the front wheel between their legs – this will prevent you from rolling.
- Sit on the saddle with your hands on the handlebars and one foot on each pedal. Take a look at your elongated leg. You should notice a slight bend in the knee.
Adjusting Your Bike:
Once you find a general frame size that fits you, you may still need to make micro adjustments in order to fit comfortably on the bike. Parts of bikes, such as the handlebars and seat posts can be adjusted for a better fit. These components are locked in place either with a screw or with a quick release, a lever that can be loosened and tightened by hand.
- Let’s go back to that elongated leg. If your leg is completely straight with your foot on the pedal, your saddle might be too high. If your leg is considerably bent, your saddle might be too low. Adjust the seat post until you notice a slight bend in the leg.
- Place your feet on the ground while sitting in the saddle. It is alright if you need to be on your tip-toes in order to reach the ground from a seated position, although you should not have too much difficulty keeping upright. If it is hard for you to reach the ground while sitting in the saddle, lower the seat. If your feet are completely flat on the ground while sitting in the saddle, raise the seat.
- Depending on the position of your saddle, you may need to raise or lower the handlebars. Not all handlebars can be adjusted without professional assistance. Look for a screw that can be loosened with a screwdriver or wrench or a quick release similar to the one that you may have on your seat post.
- Your handlebars should be positioned so that you are not tilted too far forward or reaching up too high. Your elbows should have a slight bend and you should be able to look ahead comfortably.
- Handlebar placement can be a bit tricker to adjust correctly. You’ve already adjusted your seat, so your handlebar placement will depend on where you are sitting. Play around with different heights until you find one that feels most comfortable. Feel like you need a little extra help? Stop by a bike shop or ask a friend!
With your bike properly sized and fitted, you’re ready to ride! Check out our blog post on how to do an ABC Quick Check to make sure your bike is ready too! Check out WABA’s Learn to Ride and Confident City Cycling classes for even more helpful tips.