Always difficult to determine if your bike is the correct
size for you by
riding it. If you hurt after riding, is it the bike or muscles fighting
Here is one method of determining proper bike dimensions. It came from
of the trainers of the Postal Team after the 1999 Tour d' France
Frame: Measure your inseam from crotch to floor with bare feet
apart, then multiply by 0.67. This equals your road frame size, measured
along the seat tube from the center of the crank axle to the center of
top tube. As a double check, this should produce 4 to 5 inches of exposed
seatpost when your saddle height is correct. When the crankarms are
horizontal, the top tube should be right between your knees when you squeeze
Handlebar: Bar width should equal shoulder width to open your
better breathing. A bit too wide is better than too narrow. Make sure
hooks are large enough for your hands. Modified "anatomic" curves
more comfortable to your palms. Position the bottom, flat portion of the
horizontal or pointed slightly down toward the rear hub.
Brake Levers: Move them around the curve of the bar to give you
compromise between holding the hoods and braking when your hands are in
hooks. Most riders do best if the lever tips touch a straightedge extended
forward from under the flat, bottom portion of the bar. The levers don't
to be symmetrical - remember Andy Pruitt's rule. If your reach is more
comfortable with one lever closer than the other, put 'em that way.
Stem Height: Start with the top of the stem about one inch below
the top of
the saddle. This should give you comfortable access to every hand position.
As time goes by, think about lowering the stem as much as another inch
all at once) to improve your aerodynamics. If your lower back or neck
complaining, or if you notice you've stopped using the drops, go back
Never put the stem so high that its maximum extension line shows, or it
be snapped by your weight on the bar.
Top-tube and Stem Lengths: Combined, these two dimensions determine
Depending on your anatomy and flexibility, your reach could be longer
better aerodynamics, or it may need to be shorter for back or neck comfort.
For most riders, when they're comfortably seated with their elbows slightly
bent and their hands on the lever hoods, the front hub will be obscured
Saddle Height: This is the biggie. You'll find various methods
calculating this critical number. Here's the one I like best. It has become
known as the LeMond Method, because Greg brought it to us from his Renault
team in the '80s. (Invite a friend over so you can help each other and
wind up with primo positions.) Stand on a hard surface with your shoes
and your feet about six inches apart. Using a metric tape, measure from
floor to your crotch, pressing with the same force a saddle does. Multiply
this number by 0.883. The result is your saddle height, measured from
middle of the crank axle, along the seat tube, to the top of the saddle.
Add 2 or 3 mm if you have long feet in proportion to your height. If
suffer from chondromalacia (knee pain caused by damage to the underside
the kneecap), a slightly higher saddle may feel better. However, it should
never be so high that your hips must rock to help you reach the pedals.
this formula results in a big change from the height you've been using,
the adjustment by 2 or 3 mm per week, with several rides between, till
reach the new position. Changing too fast could strain something.
Saddle Tilt: The saddle should be level, which you can check by
yardstick along its length and comparing it to something horizontal like
tabletop or windowsill. A slight downward tilt may be more comfortable,
be careful. More than a degree or two could cause you to continually slide
forward, putting pressure on your arms and hands.
For/Aft Saddle Position: Sit comfortably in the center of the
into the pedals, and set the crankarms horizontal. Hold a weighted string
the front of your forward kneecap. For most of us, the string should touch
the end of the crankarm. This is known as the neutral position. Loosen
seatpost clamp so you can slide the saddle to get it right. Seated climbers,
time trialists, and some road racers may like the line to fall a centimeter
or two behind the end of the crankarm to increase pedaling leverage. On
other hand, track and criterium racers may like a more forward position
breeds leg speed. Remember, if your reach to the handlebar is wrong, use
length to correct it, not fore/aft saddle position.
Feet: Some of us walk like pigeons, others like Charlie Chaplin.
footprints as you leave a swimming pool will tip you off. To make cycling
easier on your knees, shoes cleats must put your feet at their natural
This is a snap with clipless pedal systems that allow feet to pivot freely
("float") several degrees before release. Then all you need
to do is set the
cleats' fore/aft position, which is easy. Simply position them so the
part of each foot is centered on the pedal axle. If you experience discomfort
such as tingling, numbness or burning (especially on long rides), move
cleats rearward as much as a centimeter.
Crankarm Length: In general, if your inseam is less than 29 inches,
165-mm crankarms; 29-32 inches, 170 mm; 33-34 inches, 172.5; and more
inches, 175 mm. Crankarm length is measured from the center of the fixing
bolt to the center of the pedal mounting hole. It's usually stamped on
back of the arm. If you use longer crankarms than recommended, you'll
leverage for pushing big gears but lose some pedaling speed.
Frame: If you ride trails, sometimes you'll be getting off the
bike in a
hurry when you least expect it. This makes it nice to have plenty of
clearance between your crotch and the top tube. You'll get it when your
mountain bike is about four inches smaller than your road bike. This isn't
critical if you'll be riding only on pavement or smooth dirt roads, but
there's no advantage to having a frame any larger than the smallest size
provides enough saddle height and reach to the handlebar. Smaller frames
lighter, stiffer and more maneuverable. Because manufacturers specify
size in different ways, use the stand-over test. When straddling the bike
while wearing your riding shoes, there should be at least four inches
your crotch and the top tube.
Saddle Height: Long seatposts (350 mm) are common, which is why
frames can be
relatively small. However, the post should never be extended so far that
maximum extension line shows or it could snap off. Like on a road bike,
knee should remain slightly bent (20 to 25 degrees) at the bottom of the
pedal stroke. For a precise calibration, use the LeMond Method in the
position guidelines. Sometimes, though, you'll want to put the saddle
lower. On a descent this will help you keep your weight low and rearward
better control. On rough ground it keeps you from being jackhammered by
Saddle Tilt: Because you're moving around a lot, a level seat
essential. You might find that a slight nose-down tilt reduces crotch
pressure and stops your shorts from snagging when you sit down. Go easy
you'll be sliding forward and putting extra pressure on your arms.
Fore/Aft Saddle Position:Use the same method given to roadies.
slide your saddle to get the correct knee-over-pedal relationship, not
change your reach to the handlebar. That's why stems come in different
Stem: The length and height are important for weight distribution
control. When you're climbing, for instance, you need enough weight on
front wheel so it won't pop up and you can steer. The stem should put
1-to-2 inches below the top of the saddle, and be long enough to give
about a 45-degree forward lean with flexed elbows. If yours doesn't do
it's easy to find one that will. Stems come in a wide range of extensions
rises. For the type with adjustable height, make sure it's inserted deep
enough to bury the maximum extension line.
Back: Your position is good when your back makes about a 45-degree
during normal riding. If you're more upright, you won't get as much pedaling
power from the gluteus muscles in your butt. The glutes are as important
your quads for making the bike go. A forward lean also reduces the weight
your saddle so impacts aren't as severe, and it helps the front wheel
Hands and Wrists: Angle the brake levers so that your wrists are
when you're crouched over the saddle and braking, like you do on a downhill.
Set the levers close enough to the grips that you can squeeze them with
finger or two and still hold the bar firmly. Avoid white knuckles. Keep
thumbs under the bar (not resting on top) so your hands can't slip off.
Handlebar Width: A wide (long) bar improves slow-speed steering.
(short) bar gives a quicker response and fits better through tight
singletrack. You can trim a bar with a hacksaw or pipe cutter, but before
do, move the controls inward and take a ride to see how the shorter width
feels. Then before you cut, leave a little extra if you want to install
bar-ends. In general, new bars come in widths of 22 to 25 inches. If your
present bar is more than a couple of years old and you've had a few crashes,
consider replacing it with a new bar of the desired length rather than
resizing it. A fatigued bar can snap at the stem.
Handlebar Sweep: Most bars have a slight bend of about 5 degrees.
some arm and wrist comfort and has the effect of moving the bar a bit
Keep this in mind if you change bars, because it may mean you'll need
change stem length, too. A bar with an upward bend (rise) lets the stem
lower or have less upward angle. A rise bar is typically wide for good
Bar-ends: Install these short, forward extensions to get a longer
position on fast, open trails, and to have better leverage when climbing.
Choose a model that curves inward to protect you hands and reduce the
of hooking bushes or branches on narrow singletrack. Angle them upward
degrees. Bar-ends can be installed on most handlebars, but aren't recommended
on some ultralight models.
Crankarm Length: This should vary with the size of the rider,
which is why
bike makers usually vary it with the size of the frame. In general, longer
cranks provide better leverage at the expense of pedaling speed. For trail
riding, leverage is what you want. Go for crankarms that are 2.5 or 5
longer than your road bike size.