The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

May 14, 2014

Bike fit basics

Whether you enjoy riding on or off road, pedal casually or competitively, it’s always important to pay close attention to how your bicycle fits your body.

A properly fitted bike will allow you to ride comfortably while producing more power and speed with less effort. A bicycle that fits properly can help improve rider awareness, increasing safety, and help to avoid injuries. In general, when fitting a bicycle, there are five basic elements to consider:

1. Frame size

2. Saddle (seat) height

3. Saddle position

4. Saddle tilt

5. Handlebar position

Frame size

Frame size is perhaps the most important of all measurements because once you purchase the bike, there are very few — if any — minor adjustments that can affect the overall frame. Frame size is not necessarily dependent on your height; rather, it is more a matter of leg length. Simply, the frame should be easily straddled with both feet flat on the ground, and with an inch or two of clearance.

Saddle height

A saddle (seat) set too high or too low can cause pain and lead to injuries of the back and knees, and it will also affect the efficiency of each pedal stroke. As a starting point, set the saddle height so that your knee is slightly bent when the pedal is at its lowest position and the ball of your foot is on the pedal. It is recommended to make adjustments in very small increments and, if applicable, to wear your cycling shoes during the adjustment process.

Saddle position

To check the saddle position, sit on your bicycle — using a friend or a stationary object to keep yourself balanced — and rotate your pedals until they are horizontal (at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions). If your saddle is positioned properly, your forward knee should be directly over the respective pedal axle (with the ball of your foot on the pedal). If adjustments are needed, loosen the seat post and slide the saddle forward or backward, keeping the seat level.

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