Adjusting your bike

Bike fit is how you adjust your bike to suit your unique height, inseam, torso and arm length. A well-adjusted bike will increase your comfort, efficiency and enjoyment. Further, a very poorly fitting bike can cause strains and injuries. Most local bike shops can help you make minor adjustments to improve your overall bike fit. Beyond that, comprehensive professional bike fits are available through some bike shops, sports medicine or physical therapy clinics. A professional bike fit may even be covered by your health insurance plan as a physical therapy treatment.


Different styles of bikes are sized differently. Below is a general summary of how bicycle sizing works based on height, inseam length, and type of bike and the length of the seat tube. Try a variety of bicycles to hone in on the best size for you. Many bikes have a horizontal top tube. In that case, you want one to three inches of clearance between the top tube and your inseam when you are standing straddling the bike. Next, the length of the bike should suit your torso and arm length. When seated, you should be able to reach the handlebars comfortably with a slight bend in your elbows. You should feel neither hunched over nor stretched out. Women tend to have shorter torsos relative to height, which affects several aspects of bike fit. Women's specific bikes are designed to improve overall fit for women, but they do not guarantee the best fit for all women.


5'0" - 5'3" 24 - 28" 40 - 50 cm 13 - 14" XS
5'3" - 5'6"  27 - 29" 46 - 54 cm 13 - 16" S
5'6" - 5'10"  28 - 32" 50 - 58 cm 15 - 18" M
5'10" - 6'1" 31 - 34" 56 - 60 cm 17 - 20" L
6'1" - 6'4" 33 - 37" 58 - 64 cm 19" +  XL



While seated, place the ball of your foot on the pedal, and rotate the pedal to the lowest point so that your leg is extended. In this position, there should be a slight (five to ten degrees) bend in your knee. If your knee is bent more when fully extended, your saddle needs to be raised. If your knee can be hyper-extended, or if your hips must rock back and forth to pedal, your saddle needs to be lowered.


The saddle should be horizontal, not tilted up or down.


While seated, place the ball of your foot on the pedal, and rotate the pedals so the cranks are horizontal. Your knee should be directly above the center of the pedal. If your knee is forward of your pedal, adjust your saddle backward. If your knee is behind the pedal, adjust your saddle forward.


Some saddle soreness is natural if you have not ridden a bicycle in a while. This should subside as you ride consistently. However, if soreness continues, you may want to readjust your seat or consider trying a new seat. In fact, many local bike shops allow exchanges so you can find the right seat.


Handlebars can be raised, lowered, rotated and even replaced. Handlebar width should be about the same as your shoulders. When seated with your hands on the grips, your elbows should be slightly bent. Your wrists should be in line with your forearms, not bend in an unnatural way. Problems with elbows and wrists can be addressed by adjusting the height of the handlebars and/or the length of the stem that connects the bars to the bike.

Brake Position

You should be able to easily reach and comfortably apply your brakes. The position, angle and reach of brake levers can be adjusted. If you have small hands and use drop bars, shims can be inserted into the brake levels to bring the levers within reach.