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How To Measure Your Bike

May 1, 2011
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Pro riders are so meticulous about their bike fit because they often have to spend entire days in the saddle. But no matter how much distance you cover during your rides, a proper bike fit will make your experience more enjoyable. (Photo: Yuzuru Sunada)

You don’t need to be a pro rider to appreciate the benefits of a consistent position when going from bike to bike or when making component changes on your personal ride. Throughout my own pro career, I would be on at least a few different bikes each season: training bike, race bike and spare bike. The one thing I did each and every time I got a new bike was set my position to the exact same measurements as my previous bike. I memorized my six most important measurements the same way I would memorize my phone number to ensure my bike was set up perfectly each and every time.

Unless you’re planning to change your bike fit for a particular reason, maintaining a position that your body has already adapted to maximizes both your efficiency on the bike and your performance on it. Most importantly, setting up your bike with consistent measurements will also minimize the potential for injury. Everyone’s specific numbers will differ, and a good bike shop will help you figure out yours, but these are the measurements that pros, mechanics, and you should be familiar with…
Level the saddle. Generally a level saddle is the most comfortable and efficient setup.
Measure from the top of the saddle to the center of the bottombracket spindle along the seat tube. Proper saddle height is key for power production and injury prevention.
From the nose of the saddle, drop a plumb line and measure how far the line is behind the bottom bracket. The saddle setback affects your balance point on the bike and its handling.
Measure from the center of the front wheel’s axle to the center of the handlebar. Flexibility and comfort are the biggest factors in handlebar height. Casual riders might have their handlebars even with the saddle, while competitive riders will be anywhere from 2-4 inches below it.

Measure from the nose of the saddle to the center of the handlebar. Like the handlebar height, your reach is also affected by flexibility and comfort. The more stretched out you are, the better your aerodynamics. The trade-off, however, is that you also close your hip angle, which inhibits power production.

Measure the handlebars from center to center. You want your handlebars to be as wide as your shoulders. Any narrower, you compress your chest cavity; any wider, your aerodynamics suffer.


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