How to Fit a Bike

July 05, 2022 | Sports, Summer, Wellness

Cycling season is off to a great start here in the capital! We are blessed with so many great trails, areas, and organizations that manage the infrastructure for cycling. Even though cycling season has begun, it is important to make sure you have a bike that fits you appropriately so that you are getting the most out of your ride and avoiding overworking your body. There are a few key areas that need to be adjusted: frame size, seat height and position, as well as handlebar height and reach. For a more in-depth fitting visit one of the many great bike shops in Ottawa! 

Frame Size

The frame is the skeleton of the bike, and what everything is built off of, similar to our own bodies. When choosing a frame, stand over the straight tube of the bike with both feet flat on the ground. For road or hybrid bikes, there should be 1 inch of clearance between the tube and your groin. Mountain bikes require 2 inches of clearance in this area for the rougher terrain. For more guidance on how to do this refer to the diagrams by this local bike club

Seat Height

To fit the proper seat height the bike should be supported so that you can sit on the seat with both feet on the pedals. With one foot straight down at the bottom of the pedal stroke you should have a slight bend in the knee. If there is too much bend in your knee and the seat is too low you will over strain your knee and experience discomfort. If the seat is too high you will struggle to get a full stroke with push down and lose efficiency. 

Seat Position

Your arm length will be a determinant of how far back you position your seat. With the bike still supported, position the pedals both horizontal at the 3 and 9 position. If you drop a plumb line or string down from the front of your knee it should intersect the pedal/your foot just in front of the middle of the pedal. The seat position also affects efficiency of the stroke and can cause knee discomfort if too far forward or back. 

Reach

Again with the bike supported, sit on the seat and adjust the stem length of the handlebars to achieve these body angles: hinge at your hips to tilt your upper body/trunk at a 45 degree angle with your arms at 90 degrees to the handlebar. This reach is most important with road bikes for performance. With more casual riding you can sit more upright for comfort. A helpful video to achieve these angles is here

Handlebar Height

Start with the handlebars at the same height as the seat. If you want a more upright and comfort posture raise the handlebars 2-3inches above seat height. If you want a more performance, forward leaning posture adjust the handlebars 2-3 inches below the seat height. Start small with adjustments to the handlebar height as too low of handlebars can increase hunching in the upper back and cause neck and back pain. 

Where to get help

Many local shops are able to assist in bike fittings so please contact the one nearest you. Along with having proper fitting and alignment of your bike, it is also crucial to keep your body in proper condition. Maintain your health with proper nutrition, exercise and self care during this cycling season. At CURAVITA our health care providers are available to help keep your body moving and answer your questions. Contact our Byward clinic at 613-860-8600 or our Glebe clinic at 613-237-9000. You can also book online at curavita.com