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How to find the right size bike to fit you

By Julius Jennings, Koolstof Sports Coaching | Thursday, August 23, 2012 7.00am

A comprehensive bike fit to find the right size bike is useful for every cyclist. Whatever your discipline, cycling level or targets, your position on the bike is absolutely crucial for cycling comfort, enjoyment and performance.

There is no need to cycle in pain, risk injuries or throw away performance for the sake of a bad position – a single fitting session can eliminate niggles (lower back pain, a sore neck or painful knees) you’ve endured for years.

Before you start checking your bike fit, make sure you've got a BikeRadar Training account. This free online resource enables you to record and analyse all aspects of your training, log your training routes, get yourself tailored training plans, see how you're doing on our leaderboards, set goals and plan your season with a comprehensive events guide.

The key to fitting a bike is to treat yourself as an individual and not use a formula that says one rule works for everyone. We all have different flexibility, postural and skeletal issues, and a professional bike fitter will take all of these into consideration. 

There are many great bike fitters out there, so find one near you and book yourself in. 

Cyclothon team bike fit

Cycling enthusiasts Chris Holliday and Bob Scarle recently won our competition to join the BikeRadar team for the Cyclothon UK endurance event. To help them with their training, we asked them to come in for a bike fit and fitness test, so that they can use the right heart rate zones for working out. Their expert for the day was Julius Jennings of Koolstof Sports Coaching.

Chris is in his early twenties and is a Cat 4 road racer. He's done a lot of fell running in the past, and as a result of this he had very little lateral movement in his ankle and rode with his toes pointing down. 

We needed to move Chris slightly further back on his saddle and make sure he wasn’t sitting too high, as he was unable to drop his ankle. He'd also had a crash at some point, and one of his brake hoods was twisted, giving him some left shoulder pain. 

A minor adjustment to his bars allowed Chris to reach his brake levers while on the hoods, with his wrists pretty much straight. By changing his centre of balance on the bike we made sure he no longer had any tension running through his shoulders and will be able to relax his shoulders and alleviate neck and shoulder pain.

Julius moved chris back on his saddle : julius moved chris back on his saddle

BikeRadar Cyclothon team member Chris in his new racing position

Bob enjoys riding his bike for fun, and is a mature cyclist. He put his track mitts on for the fit, and told us his hands always hurt on the bike. There were two very simple tweaks we knew we needed to make… 

Firstly, Bob was sitting too far forward and putting too much pressure through his arms, shoulders and neck. But more importantly, his bars had a flat top that wasn’t angled correctly. This meant Bob’s wrists were slightly bent and he was putting way too much pressure through the palms of his hands. Over time, this can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and possibly an operation. Hopefully, Bob will now enjoy his riding without those niggles.

Bob, photographed before his bike fit: bob, photographed before his bike fit

The key to Bob's bike comfort was in a subtle handlebar angle

One piece of advice we can give to all cyclists is not to copy the pros’ positions. Bradley Wiggins looks great in the saddle, but the position suits him and his flexibility, skeletal frame, core strength, limb length and riding style. It won’t necessarily work for you.

In addition to getting a bike fit, we’d always recommend a visit to an osteopath. They’ll be able to make sure your pelvis is aligned correctly. Pilates, core strength and yoga exercises will also help you support your body and add flexibility.

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You can also improve your fitness and train with us on training.bikeradar.com.

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