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Bike fitness: Tips to get the right bike fit

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Biking tips for the right bike fit

Looking for the ultimate outdoor workout now that summer is in full swing? Gaynor Collester, chief Spin Doctor for Performance Bicycle, the nation’s largest specialty bicycle retailer, says it’s high time to get on a bike. But before you saddle up, the biking expert suggests getting the right bike fit. Here’s how.

Woman with bike helmet

Dialing in on the right bike fit

Whether you're a newbie or seasoned biker, making an appointment with an experienced bike fitter is the easiest and best way to get the correct fit and position. Collester and all the Spin Doctors at Performance Bicycle use the following steps to fit bikers.

1Find the right bike and size of bike

Consider your biking goals and let a bike expert help you choose the right type of bike and the right size bike.

2Adjust for optimal seat height

With hips parallel to the ground and the ball of the foot over the center of the pedal spindle, and the cranks in line with the seat tube: Raise or lower the saddle until the down leg has a slight break at the knee (160 degrees to 170 degrees). Pedaling in this position should not cause the hips to dip or rock.

3Adjust angle of the saddle

While most men like the saddle flat or angled slightly up (+ or - 5 degrees), Collester says most women like the nose slightly down (+ or – 5 degrees).

4Find the fore/aft seat position

With the cranks parallel to the ground and the balls of the feet over the center of the pedals, drop a plumb bob from the bottom of the knee cap of the lead knee. The line should bisect the center of the pedal. Too far forward, slide the saddle back on the rails; too far back, move it forward.

5Find the right horizontal body position

Have the rider perch on the saddle with her hands on the brake hoods. Her elbows should be slightly bent. Now have her rotate her hips forward while straightening her back. In this position the handlebars should obscure the hub. If the hub is ahead, a longer stem is called for; if it is behind, then a shorter stem. With the correct stem the rider's back should be around 45 degrees to horizontal. Leisure bikers usually prefer to be 45 degrees or more upright while racers often like a flatter position of less than 45 degrees.

Collester stresses that the final position should be based on:

 1. Comfort
 2. Rider flexibility
 3. Rider aspirations

You can see an abbreviated version on the Performance website >>

Collester adds, "With the bike fit tips above, any rider can get in the ballpark. But if you aspire to the highest performance or you have a aches, pains or discomfort that you just can't adjust away, see a pro."

More on biking

Cycling: A biking beginner's guide
The spin on spinning
Ultra endurance cycling events

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