Bikes are like suits. There’s a chance you can get one off the peg and it fits perfectly but for most people a little tailoring can go a long way to getting that fit just right.
In an ideal world a bike fit should be conducted before you even purchase a bike, as this gives you confidence that you have the right sized bike as a start point.
Getting the right size bike is crucial but it’s also important to choose the right style of bike for your riding needs. Trek for instance have the Domane as their more upright endurance bike but the Emonda and Madone as their more aggressive fitting race bikes.
When setting up a bike it can be tempting to emulate the pros with a slammed stem and a long reach, but though this race style position may work for some for your average rider there’s no escaping certain realities! Most recreational riders don’t have the same level of flexibility and conditioning as the pros so trying to match their position on the latest and greatest race bike isn’t always wise.
In order to optimise your fit there are a few simple parameters that can be adjusted on your bike without spending a penny, these are:
- Saddle rail fore/aft.
- Saddle angle.
- Stack height.
If these adjustments alone aren’t quite enough to get your fit spot on then there are a few cockpit parts that can be changed such as:
- Seatpost: Changing a seatpost for one with more or less offset will change your reach to the bars but also the position of your legs relative to the bottom bracket. Ideally your seatpost and saddle position should result in the front of your knee aligning directly above the pedal spindle when the cranks are in the 3 o’clock position.
- Stem: Changing the length and/or the stem angle will adjust your reach and handlebar drop. In some cases flipping the standard stem over can achieve the desired effect.
- Handlebar – Handlebar width should be proportional to your size with smaller more petite riders suiting a narrower handlebar, whilst larger and broader riders better suit a wider bar. For riders struggling with a long reach there are some short reach handlebars on the market which bring the levers closer to the rider. The shape of the handlebar drops can also vary though most manufacturers have now adopted the compact design so this is rarely an issue on modern bikes.
With all of the adjustments above it is crucial to only adjust one parameter at a time. It’s easy to get impatient and make lots of adjustments at once, however if this doesn’t fix your position straight away it’s hard to know what is and isn’t helping. Be patient and adjust one parameter then go for a ride, review and then make any further changes you need to. With any changes don’t try anything too radical straight away, make changes incrementally.
In addition to making changes to the bike one of the best changes you can make is to yourself. By taking the time to do some exercises that improve strength and flexibility you can seriously help avoid or alleviate any cycling related discomfort or pain. Cyclists often suffer from back and neck pain so exercises that strengthen these areas can be highly beneficial.
Though not all bikes are as easy as others here at Cycle Exchange we do our best to be as accommodating as possible. Drawing on our years of experience we help customers find the right size bike for them and we’re always happy to make some adjustments to help that new bike feel just right.