Finding the Right Bike: The Ultimate Guide to Bike Fitting


Cycling is an ever-increasing popular sport. Many people are turning to cycling as a way to stay athletic when other high-impact sports – such as running – become too painful. While some people are switching sports, other people are using cycling as a way to stay fit and as part of their usual fitness routine or as cross-training. Still, others love to use the bike as an alternative mode of transportation and fitness, killing two birds with one stone. Even more, as such activities as the Iron Man and triathlons rise in popularity, so does cycling.

However, while cycling is becoming more popular every day, there’s little awareness about proper bike fitting. More often than not, people are heading to the bike store and searching for the right size bike, which is important, but it’s not the same thing as a properly fitted bike. Then, as they put on the miles between the tire and the pavement, the pain increases and so does the effort. This is due to an improperly fitted bike. Unless you go to a professional bike store that offers bike fitting, you’ll end up with many other people who thought cycling was supposed to be relatively painless but instead is leading to injury and discomfort.

With a properly fitted bike, however, you can not only increase your comfort level and decrease your risk of pain and injury, but you’ll also increase your performance.

Bike Size Vs. Bike Fit

Many people confuse getting the right size bike with a properly fitted bike. For sure, you need a bike that is the right size for your height and body. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a properly sized bike is a properly fitted bike. While size can pretty much be summed up as whether you can peddle or not and reach the handlebars, fitting goes into much more detail. Bike fitting means taking into account every contact point between you and your bike.

When you sit on a bike, you make contact with it at five points: each foot, the pelvis, and both of the hands. When your bike fits properly it means that your saddle, handlebars, brake levels and hoods, stem and pedals are all ideally aligned. It also means taking into account your shoes and cleats. While size is all about the frame, the fit is all about how to sit and ride. It’s about movement and alignment. In other words, bike fitting is all about how the frame of the human body works with the bicycle.

What Does A Properly Fitted Bike Look Like?

A properly fitted bike is different for each individual as each person’s body and how it functions – the biomechanics – is completely different. To properly fit a bike means to take a look at those connection points – hands, feet, and pelvis – and adjust them according to your ideal positioning and riding style.

Foot Positioning

For the feet, the ideal position is found by adjusting the pedals, cleats, crank arm length, and even shoes. While many people assume that the bike seat is the source of discomfort, it’s the foot positioning that is often the culprit of many cycling injuries and pain. It’s also one of the most common reasons for knee injuries in cycling. The feet power the bike. Lack of power, discomfort, pain, and inefficient performance could all be the result of improper placement of the foot and pedal. This is why it’s so important to get the foot positioning right during a bike fitting.

Pelvis And Saddle

The alignment of the pelvis means looking at not only the height and tilt but also the type of saddle and clothing choice. The wrong tilt, seat height, or fore/aft could mean an improper cycling position. This could lead to discomfort, pain, and even injury – not to mention a lack of power and performance.

Hand And Handlebar Position

For the hands, the handlebars are examined, as well as the brake levels and hoods. Like the saddle, if the handlebar is in the wrong position, you could be compromising the position and alignment of your body on the bike. Bend in the torso and upper arm should be at a certain degree for maximum comfort and control. Improper bend and hand placement could mean a lack of control over your bike. It could also mean putting yourself at a higher risk of injury.

When each of these equipment pieces is adjusted according to your preferences and proper alignment, then you will have a properly fitted bike.

Why Get A Bike Fitting?

First of all, it is possible to do a bike fitting yourself. In the age of the Internet, there are countless reliable and credible resources available at the tip of your fingers to figure out how to do it. However, even with the best how-to guide on bike fitting you can get your hands on, you still run the risk of missing something. It might seem to be small and inconsequential, but it could impact your performance and increase your risk of injury.

Having a professional or trained specialist do your bike fitting, however, will ensure that nothing is missed. Athletic trainers and physical therapists who specialize in the sport of cycling are the best people to seek out when it comes to getting the right bike fit. This is because they not only take a look at your height. They also evaluate your biomechanics, injury history, comfort level, riding style, and the reason for riding. They’ll analyze your positioning on everything from the handlebars down to the pedals for optimal comfort, adjusting as necessary.

Getting your bike professionally fitted means riding in optimal comfort with optimal performance and decreasing your risk for injury. OSR has trained physical therapists who specialize in the sport of cycling that give you the best bike fit. If you want to be able to ride comfortably, contact us today.