The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

Whether you are an elite cyclist in the Tour de France or a recreational rider, you and your bike should fit well together. Ensuring your bike fits you properly will increase your performance, improve cycling economy and will minimize injury or discomfort.

Getting your bike set up properly can be a challenging task, where the most important principle to remember is comfort. If you are not comfortable, it will make it more difficult to ride for long distances, make you prone to injury and ultimately reduce your enjoyment of the whole experience. A good bike fit is essential for good posture, coordination, flexibility and strength, so we’ve provided a check list to get you started:

  1. Frame Size – A simplified method to follow is approximately 2.5-5cm clearance between the crotch and the top of the frame.
  2. Reach or Posture Length – This is the distance from the back of the saddle to the handle bars. It’s important to remember that full arm length and torso length needs to be considered at this point. The back and neck should be in a relaxed position – if the posture is too short, it will place more strain on the lower back.
  3. Saddle Height – A basic formula to calculate saddle height is the heel method. The cyclist should be sitting on the bike in a normal riding position, rotate the pedal backwards, unclip and place the heel flat on the pedal.  Correct saddle height is the point that the heel remains in contact with the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
  4. Angle of Knee to Pedal – A suggested knee angle at dead-bottom-centre is 35 degrees while the foot is in the pedal position.
  5. Handlebars – The position of the handlebars affects the comfort of your hands, shoulders, neck, back and the overall handling of the bike. For the recreational rider, the width of the handlebars should allow the hands to be slightly wider than the shoulders. For the road cyclist, hands should be approximately 2cm wider than the shoulders for comfort and optimum handling of the bicycle.

Since a good bike fit involves so many factors it’s recommended that cyclists go to a bike fit specialist before getting in the saddle. After your fitting, you may have to go back for some minor adjustments to get the most out of your bike.

    References from the SIRC Collection: 

    1. Finding the Right Bike Fit for You. PT: Magazine Of Physical Therapy. October 2, 2006;14:4-5.
    2. How-to: Bike-Fit Assessments to Prevent Pain and Injury. PT: Magazine Of Physical Therapy. June 2, 2006;:3-4.
    3. Ill-Fitting Bicycle May Increase Risk of Injury. PT: Magazine Of Physical Therapy. September 2004;12(9):78-80.
    4. Lobby M. A PERFECT FIT. Triathlon Life. Fall2011 2011;14(4):70-71.
    5. PRACTICAL GUIDE – BIKE SET-UP IN CYCLING. Sportex Medicine. July 2008;(37):8-9.
    6. Schultz S, Gordon S. Recreational cyclists: The relationship between low back pain and training characteristics. International Journal Of Exercise Science. July 2010;3(3):79-85.
    7. YOUR FIRST FEW MONTHS: FINE-TUNE THE FIT. Bicycling. April 2006;47(3):138.