Bike Fitting Basics

October 29, 2018
Bike Fitting Basics
Bike Fitting Basics

There’s nothing more valuable than a well-fitting bike, one that seamlessly integrates with every fiber of your being to deliver the comfiest ride imaginable. An ill-fitting bike is a pain in the rear – in more ways than one – and can even lead to some nasty, lasting injuries.

Making sure your current bike, or future bike perhaps, is dialed into your exact specifications is vital. This isn’t a guessing game folks- it’s an extremely technical, scientific procedure that we’ve put down into our own unique, online algorithm – BodyFit.

BodyFit is a fantastic tool, but if you don’t know how to use it, or don’t really understand how a proper bike fit can reap a vast array of benefits, then it’s relatively useless. To help you out, we’ve thrown together this handy guide detailing all the bicycle fitting basics that you should need to choose your perfect, two-wheeled machine…

What is a bike fit?

A bike fitting is the marrying of rider and bike, a state of harmonious synchronization to achieve the most efficient and comfortable position possible – in other words, it’s putting you on a bike that fits, and fits well. It’s not a new craze by any means, but the old guard who perfected the technique of sizing you up simply by getting you to stand next to a bike are certainly passing. They’re slowly being replaced by super high-tech computer systems, ones that can track thousands of data points on a rider’s ideal position in just one quick session.

There are certainly two extremes when it comes to a bicycle fitting, the lazy size-up by eye on one end, and the high-tech systems aforementioned on the other. The key is to get a bike fit that falls right in between, one that isn’t too much of an overkill but can still completely change your cycling experience.

Why are they so important?

A proper bike fit is essential for all kinds of riders, but especially new ones just starting out. Riding styles aren’t created overnight, they’re something that many people spend years honing and perfecting. It’s incredibly hard to try and find your own unique style if you’re stuck with an uncomfortable bike.

The most seasoned of cyclists will rant and rave about how a bike fits, lecturing you on just how a small tweak in saddle height can boost your power by a whole 10 watts. To most, that means very little and a lot of the time, a bike that’s optimized for power can actually be quite painful to ride – just look at the position that some professionals have to squeeze into aboard their aero time trial bikes.

Comfort is the biggest reason all new riders should seek out a proper bike fit, not only will it improve your experience on the bike, but it’ll also mean that you can ride for a whole lot longer. A good fit is also important for preventing injuries, especially those of the overuse kind. If you’re stuck in a labored position, or can’t quite get comfortable in your saddle, then your joints – knees and hips primarily – are going to experience a lot of strain, eventually leading to injury.

Ultimately, a bike fit will get you to a point where the bike almost feels like an extension of yourself, leaving you to enjoy the pleasures of the passing scenery rather than focusing on shifting your weight here and there, trying to get comfortable. That’s a place that all of us want to be on our bikes, in a state of maximum comfort while discovering new and fascinating things about the world around us.

Is it worth it?

In short, yes, bike fits are definitely worth it, especially when considering all the comfort and injury prevention benefits that they bring. However, not all bike fits are made equal and some can be just a massive waste of both time and money.

A super high-tech bike fitting can cost nearly as much as the bike you’re being fitted on, seriously burning a hole in what may be your already empty pockets. They also take a long time, sessions varying from two to three hours, then you end up having to wait weeks for the results to process. For those yearning for the most efficient pedaling style possible to squeeze out every last drop of power from their machines, then these bike fits are perfect – but for the average Joe just looking for a comfortable, urban cruiser, they’re not the nest idea.

Like choosing the perfect bike, selecting the right kind of bike fit really depends on you – the rider. It’s also worth bearing in mind that as you develop as a rider and become more experienced on the bike, your position and style is going to change. A looser bike fitting with more emphasis placed on comfort, rather than precise power, is going to be able to better accommodate these fluid and ongoing changes to your position.

There are a wealth of DIY guides out there and for the average rider, these often suffice. But if you really want the assurance that a proper bike fit provides, then you may just want to look into some online, bike fitting tools.

BodyFit – Bike Fitting Made Easy

At sixthreezero, we’ve pioneered the unique, fully customizable bike fitting experience – BodyFit. The proprietary algorithm factors in both your height and weight to calculate which size of bike is best suited to you, one that will provide the utmost level of comfort.

Unlike a lot of other online bike fitting tools, BodyFit stores all of your personal stats, meaning you can browse other product pages and they will automatically tell you if they fit. Choosing the perfect bike is often the hardest task for any rider, let alone a complete newbie. This BodyFit tool does a lot of the decision making for you, while also making sure that you’ve been matched with a bike that suits your exact style.

As you can imagine, a bike feels completely different out on the road than it does in the store, let alone one you bought online. That’s why we offer the 365-day test ride option – should you not fall madly in love with your new machine, or notice a few little niggles, you can send it straight back to us free of charge.

Putting it into Practice

Now that you’re clued up on the bike fitting process and know all about the online tools for selecting the ideal size, you’re ready to go ahead and purchase your perfect bike. At sixthreezero, we specialize in both hybrid bikes and comfort bikes, two of the best kind of bikes for cruising in and around the city. Unless you buy these from our store, however, they’ll come neatly packaged but disassembled – leaving the building and fitting up to you.

All the components will come in the exact size you specified by using our unique BodyFit tool, but they’ll need some slight tweaks and adjustments to make them as well-fitted and comfortable as possible. That’s where you and your DIY bike fitting knowledge come in:

Saddle heightDialing in your saddle height affects your whole bike setup, so make sure you find the comfiest position possible. To begin adjusting, get on the bike and rotate the pedal so it’s at the 6 o’clock position.

Keeping your foot flat, there should be a slight bend in the knee, if not, keep moving your seat upwards until you get to around 30 degrees of flex. As a general rule, if you can stay seated on the saddle with your feet flat on the floor, it’s way too low.

The great thing about saddle height is that it’s easily adjustable, so if you find it slipping, or feel like you’re a little too high or low, you can grab a hex key and solve the problem in a matter of seconds. Once you’ve found the absolute, perfect height, be sure to mark it on the seat post just in case it slips, or you need to disassemble it for traveling.

Saddle setbackOnce you’ve got the height locked down, the next step is sorting out the setback. This is the most important part of the bike fit for preventing lower back and neck injuries caused by overreaching.

By sliding the saddle forward and backward, you’re trying to find the spot where you knee lines up with the pedal axle while the pedals are level at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock position. This can be done by eye, but for a more precise fit, grab a helper and get them to hold a length of string with a weight at the bottom from your knee – if it lines up with the pedal, then you’ve got it, the perfect setback.

Handlebar reachIt’s not only saddle setback that affects reach, and making tiny adjustments in the handlebars can be just as helpful for preventing niggling back and neck injuries. You’re looking for an upright, comfortable position, so aim for a 90-degree angle between your upper back and arms when you put your hands on the bars.

If it’s not quite right, just loosen the bolts holding the handlebars and tilt them until you reach the ideal position. In the end, this is personal for every rider so choose the angle which feels most comfortable for you.

And there you have it, all the bike fitting basics you’ll need to not only choose the perfect bike but also put it together all by yourself. Go and try out our BodyFit tool now and see which one of our bikes is the most suited to you.

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Bike Fitting Basics