Having a good fit between yourself and your bicycle is important for ensuring comfort and stability when you ride, whether it’s just cycling to the market to pick up some milk or cycling to the next state. An improperly fitted bike can lead to blisters, saddle sores, back pain, knee pain and numbness in the hands and feet. A proper setup makes your pedaling more efficient, improving performance and reducing fatigue.
The first step in setting up your bike is to adjust the seat to the proper height. If the seat is too high it can cause pain in the back of the knee and your hips will move from side to side as you pedal, causing discomfort. While in your biking clothes, check to see that your leg is fully extended as you pedal backwards with your heels on the pedals, without having to “reach” for the pedals. Then, if you move the balls of your feet onto the pedals, into the position they would be while cycling, your leg should be just slightly bent at the knee when the pedal is at its lowest. If the seat is too low, it can cause pain in the front of the knee and in the quadriceps muscles of your thighs.
Next, adjust the angle of your seat by starting with it parallel to the ground. If you find it is putting pressure on your pelvis, angle it down slightly. If you feel as though you are being pitched forward, angle it up a bit, as this position will put excess strain on your hands and arms. The angle should be no more than 3 degrees out of parallel, however.
To get the ideal forward and aft seat position, place your forearm and extended hand parallel to the ground and in front of the seat, with your elbow just touching the front of the seat. Move the seat forward or back until your middle finger is just touching the middle of the handlebars.
Pain in your shoulder, back, neck or hands may indicate that your handlebars are not properly adjusted. You should be able to reach all positions of the handlebars comfortably without having to strain to reach them, and without having to lock your elbows. Riding with your elbows slightly bent will act as a sort of shock absorber so your hands and shoulders will not have to absorb all the bumps in the road. Your weight should be evenly distributed between the seat and the handlebars, so if your arms fatigue easily, raise the handlebars up slightly. If your bum is sore, lower the handlebars so your arms take more of the weight.
Just a little extra time spent in setting up your bike properly will reward you with many hours of enjoyable, comfortable cycling.