So you got yourself a shiny new bicycle. Do you just jump on and ride? Or do you need to spend a little time setting the bike up to fit your needs and riding style? Unless you are only planning to ride around the block, your bike needs to be adjusted correctly. With bicycles, one size definitely does not fit all.
A bike that doesn’t fit you properly can be tiring to ride. In extreme cases, it can lead to excessive wear on your knees or damage to the Achilles tendon. In general, there are three areas that need to be looked at and adjusted to set up your bike so it fits properly.
Cleats And Pedals
Most serious riders use special shoes fitted with cleats. Those cleats interlock with a retainer clip on the pedals to keep your feet in the correct position and to prevent them from slipping off while you ride. The cleat position can be adjusted forward or backward on the bottom of your shoes.
Too far forward extends your leg and may lead to tendon damage. Too far back decreases power, which means you will use more energy. Ideally, the cleat should position the ball of your foot directly over the spindle the pedal rotates around. When adjusted properly, your foot will travel in a circular motion while you ride. You will be more comfortable and expend less energy, so you can ride further and longer. It will also give you more power for climbing hills.
New riders may feel insecure having their feet locked into the pedals. The tension on the retainer clip on the pedals can be adjusted. Start off with light tension that allows you to disengage your feet easily. After you gain confidence with the cleat system, you will be able to increase the tension.
Saddle height and position
Your bicycle seat can be made higher or lower. At the proper height, your knees should make an angle of between 35 and 40 degrees. The seat can also be moved forward and back. The ideal position will place your knees directly over the pedal spindles.
Professional bike shops use a computer program like the one from Retül. Several sensors are attached to the riders ankles, knees and hips to help the person doing the fitting get accurate information on how the bike fits the rider. This makes adjustments more accurate and less intuitive.
Just like seats, handlebars can be raised or lowered and moved forward or back. In general, men have longer arms than women and so a bike set up for a man’s body may be completely wrong for a woman rider. The proper setup reduces strain on the arms and shoulders, which allows the rider to go longer distances in comfort.
The Total Package
When all the proper adjustments have been made, your bicycle should provide you with many miles of healthful and comfortable riding. So before you set out on that 100 mile trek you have been dreaming about, make sure you get input from a trained professional to maximize our enjoyment of riding.