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.

Four Tips For Riding Your Bicycle in Bad Weather

Riding your bicycle in bad weather can be a chore or a challenge. Here are four tips for bad weather cycling to help you overcome those obvious challenges and maybe even have some fun while you’re out there dodging rain drops and snow flakes:

Tip 1. Equip yourself and your bike for the weather. If it’s rainy, be sure you have good rain gear to wear for the trip. Be sure your bike is equipped for rainy weather, too. Keep the brake pads in top shape and, assuming you have a road bike with fenders, check that there is adequate clearance between tire, brakes, and fenders. You might want to adjust the angle of your fenders if your bike permits, so as to minimize the back-splatter from rain on the street or trail. Also, if you’re carrying spare clothing or important documents and riding to work, make sure you have sturdy, waterproofed saddle bags or paniers. In snowy weather, especially if you ride streets or trails that are not adequately cleared of snow and ice, consider riding without fenders. You might even want to look for wider and/or knobby tires for better traction in snow or ice.

Tip 2. Ride with even more caution than usual. If you’ve ridden much in urban settings especially, you know that automobile traffic sometimes fails to notice bike riders are even around. Knowing how cyclists are almost invisible to many drivers, be especially cautious riding in any sort of traffic if it’s raining, sleeting, or snowing. Don’t assume drivers will act sanely for weather and road conditions, much less do so around a bicycle. Take your usual precautions of a “defensive cycling” nature, then add an extra note of caution. Adhere carefully to designated biking lanes and assume that motorists may fail to recognize the bike path. If your town or cycling location permits, bad weather may be the time for you to get off the street entirely in some cases and take to the walkways (being vigilant not to disturb or run over pedestrians, of course.

Tip 3. Use some common sense about the route you ride. Do you normally ride in congested areas, perhaps as you commute to work? Are you out there facing down cars and trucks on high-traffic throughways? Forget being aggressive even in good weather, but especially in bad weather. (If you don’t understand why, read Tip 2 again.) Look for low-traffic back routes as an alternative. If there is a great deal of ice on the streets or roads, an off-road trail might actually offer you better traction and be a good alternate route to get you to work or shopping or wherever you’re headed. Obviously, if some times of day are better than others because of prevailing weather quirks, and you have any flexibility for scheduling your bike trip, adapt accordingly. Whatever you do, look for safer routes and safer travel times when you’re cycling in nasty weather conditions.

Tip 4. Work with the weather, not against it. Which is just another way to say: Be very careful and understand your limitations based on the rain, sleet, snow, high winds, and other climate facts-of-life you are facing. If necessary and you have the luxury, ride a heavier, sturdier bicycle with wider tires in ice and snow. Make sure you show a little common sense based on the weather, observing all safety “rules of the road.” And by all means wear bright, easily visible clothing. Be sure you turn on whatever lights and shine up any reflective surfaces on your bicycle.

Don’t let the weather get you or keep you down if you love to ride your bicycle. With some care and common sense, these four tips for riding your bicycle in bad weather will give you a good start to getting along in rain, snow, or sun. Enjoy your ride!