What’s Your Workout: Does Your Bike Fit You?

Posted on May 05, 2011

Posted in: Cycling,What's Your Workout

Small, Medium or Large? It’s not that simple.

I bet that everyone reading this blog knows their shoe size, their shirt size and their pant size….but do you know your bike size? Yes, your bike size. A bike should fit you. From personal experience, I can tell you that finding a bike that fits is much less traumatic than finding a swimming suit or pair of jeans that fit.

Does An Average Person Need a Bike Fitting?

You bet. Whether you are riding to the park or riding in a triathlon, you need a proper fitting for your bike. This is not a ‘small, medium or large’ sort of deal, either. Everyone is unique. Our bodies are not perfectly symmetrical. Often times one leg or one arm is shorter or longer than the other. These differences, if not accounted for, can lead to pain and eventual injury. The goal of properly fitting your bike is to maximize your comfort and minimize the potential for injury.

Chain Reaction exterior

Chain Reaction exterior

What Does a Bike Fitting Entail?

A lot more than you might think, but never fear…there are professionals out there who are happy to help. I purchased my bike at Chain Reaction Cyclery in Appleton and had a great experience.

Niki, the store owner, began by speaking with me about how I planned to use my bike and the amount (and type) of biking I would be doing. She put my bike on a trainer and asked me to sit on it while she performed a variety of measurements using a number of tools, strings and weights I had never seen before. (if I had paid more attention in geometry class I might have had a clue)

I sat on the bike the same way I would if I were riding outside and then pedaled several times while Niki made a series of other adjustments. Who knew how many things could be adjusted on a bike? Turns out, the most minor of adjustments can make a significant difference in the comfort of your ride, especially adjustments to the saddle.

Niki at bike shop

Niki at her shop

Adjusting The Saddle

Let’s face it. Getting used to a new bicycle seat can be an adventure. If you saddle is not fit properly, that ‘adventure’ turns into a ‘nightmare’ really fast. Your bike seat should be level and in a good position to support your body. Tilt it too far forward and you will slide down the seat. This puts added pressure on your hands and knees….not to mention a really uncomfortable wedgie. Over time, poor saddle position can cause unnecessary injury. Tilt the seat too far back and you will create uncomfortable pressure points. No further explanation needed, right?

Handlebar Adjustment

There are all sorts of different adjustments that can be made here. You can change the width and the height as well as how close or how far away they are. This is critical because improper positioning can cause neck, shoulder, back and even hand pain. Niki adjusted my handlebars a bit lower because I was planning to participate in some triathlons. She told me that recreational bikers might want their handlebars a bit higher.

Why Can’t I Do It Myself?

Well, the truth is, you can. However, there are so many adjustments that can be made and the adjustments can be so slight that I highly recommend that you take the time and money to have your bike professionally fit. The time and expense will save you from pain and potential injury in the long run. It can also maximize your efficiency and increase your enjoyment. Any reputable bike shop will be able to fit your bike, but not all bike shops offer the same degree of expertise. I suggest you find someone like Niki, but if you are determined to do it yourself, take a look at this Performance Bike video on fitting a road bike first.