The Joint Ventures' Blog

Bike Fitting Tips

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Winter is behind us and spring weather allows for all of us to get outside and do the things we enjoy. Cycling is an excellent way to exercise as well as an alternative form of transportation for getting around town. But you can’t just hop on any bike and go. You need to make sure that you and the bike fit each other, no matter why you’re cycling. 


There are several types of bikes, and all have components that need to be adjusted to the user and the type of riding being pursued. It is especially important to adjust the bike to fit the user in order to avoid injuries or aches and pains than can occur in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, and knees. Many local bike shops have professional bike fitting services that can help you with the specifics. Depending on how complex the fitting process is, prices usually range from $75 dollars and up. It is highly recommended to have a professional check you and the bike out and see if everything is lining up correctly. For a quick way for you to do it yourself, here are some helpful tips:

Frame Size This is perhaps the most important aspect of a bike fitting. Bikes come in sizes, usually described in inches or centimeters. To determine if a bike’s frame fits your body, you can do a quick measure called the stand over height. Wearing the same shoes you’ll be riding in, straddle the bike’s top tube. You should have 1 inch (2.5 cm) of clearance between your crotch and the bike’s top tube. If the frame has a sloping top tube, you may have 2 inches or more of clearance.

Frame Size (measured from top tube to ground. Usually depicted in centimeters)

Foot position If you use bike shoes that attach to the pedals, it’s very important that your foot is aligned correctly on the pedal. The ball of your foot (right behind your big toe) should be aligned with the axle of the pedal where it attaches to the pedal crank. If you don’t use cycling shoes, you should aim to have the ball of your foot in the center of the pedal.

Foot position on pedal. Joint of big toe is aligned with axle of pedal where it connects to the crank arm.

Seat Height Ask a friend to hold the bike steady while you sit on the seat, or place the bike next to something sturdy like a railing or tree. At the bottom of the pedal stroke (pedal crank in the 6 o’clock position), your foot should be level with the horizon and your knee should be slightly bent. (Technically, it’s a 30 degree bend in the knee---aim for 80-90% of a fully straight knee).

Seat Position (forward/back) The seat can slide forward or back in order to place you closer or further from the handle bars.  With the pedal cranks level with the horizon (in the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions), your knee should be aligned over your forefoot.

Stem Height and Angle The stem is the piece that attaches the handlebars to the frame of the bike. This piece determines how far you must reach with your arms and bend at your waist to reach the handlebars. If the stem needs to be adjusted, you should take the bike to a mechanic at a bike shop. To determine if the stem height and angle are correct, sit on the bike and have a friend hold the bike steady or place it next to something sturdy so you can balance easily. Place your hands on the handlebars (the top portion on a road bike). Your torso should be leaning forward at a 45 degree angle and your elbows should have a slight bend while you rest weight on your hands and when you reach for the brakes. 

                                Mountain Bike                                                 Road Bike

Notice that on both types of bikes, the torso is at a 45 degree angle and there is a slight bend in the elbows. Also notice the slight bend in the knee when the foot is in the lowest position of a pedal stroke (6 o’clock position)

If you have any questions about Bike Fitting Tips, please feel free to stop by my office at our Kenmore Square location, or email me at Erin.Futrell@JointVenturesPT.com

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