Adjusting Your Bicycle to Fit You

How your bike is set up has an enormous effect on how you ride. The position of the saddle [seat] and handlebars help to determine the type of performance the rider can expect.

Three parts of the rider’s body are in contact with the bicycle: the hands, the feet, and the seat. First, consider the seat tilt.

Bicycle saddles can be extremely uncomfortable. The tendency is to angle the saddle forward in an effort to make it more comfortable. This position makes the rider slide forward off the saddle, and causes the rider to have to put too much weight on the hands. A saddle that is mostly level is the best choice. Choose one that is comfortable for you.

How high should the saddle be? The general ideal is to have the saddle high enough that the rider’s extended heel should just touch the pedal at the bottom of the pedal’s rotation. Since most people pedal with the ball of their feet, this position gives just enough flex in the leg.

The type of riding you plan to do will determine how far forward the seat should be. If you are racing, your body will be leaned forward to make the most of a lower, more aerodynamic profile. In this position, the saddle will need to be farther back. If you are touring, however, and maintaining a more vertical profile, you will not want your saddle to be more forward.

When the objective is speed, and the seat is farther back and the rider’s body is leaning forward, the handlebars need to be further forward and down about 2-3″ below the saddle range. It the rider is upright and taking in the scenery, the handlebars should be about level with the saddle and farther back.

Proper adjustment of your bicycle will increase your comfort and help you better enjoy your bicycling experience.