Q&A: It’s a set-up

Having always been riding the ruff stuff, what’s the ideal ride position on a road bike?

Q: For several years I have been the proud owner of a Cannondale Super V. Recently I have moved further away from my work so, after many sleepless nights, have changed codes and picked myself up a Specialized Tarmac. WOW! On a short 15-mile ride it is saving 5-10 mins and still feeling as fresh. My question is, having always been riding the ruff stuff, what’s the ideal ride position on a road bike? Seat height, arm and leg reach, seat angle and so on. I’m 5ft 8in, riding a 54cm frame.

Shaun Farleigh, Devon

A: Shaun, congratulations on your move to the dark side. First off, I reckon your bike is in the right ball park for sizing. Without knowing your relative bodily proportions I cannot say any more. In general, the most important dimension is the reach to the handlebars, and this consists of the top tube length (around 54cm horizontally on your bike) and the stem, which is probably around 10cm. You should be able to access all three main hand positions on the bars including the drops, so be prepared to raise them if this lower position is too awkward to use into headwinds and when descending. This can be done by moving stem spacers to below the stem or by flipping it so it slopes upwards towards the bars.

Your leg position should be nearly straight when your heel is on the pedal in its lowest position (I’m not advocating riding like that, by the way). The measurement from the top of the centre of the saddle to the centre of the pedal spindle, in its lowest position, should be your actual inside leg measurement (floor to crotch without shoes on) plus 10 per cent as a yardstick. Try this and vary the saddle height by 5mm max to get something that is comfortable – mark your seatpost with Tippex to see where you have been/are going. I’m assuming that your saddle is pretty much horizontal and that the brake/gear hoods are angled to provide a flattish platform from the top of the bars. Once set up you could ask a mate to see how you look on the bike. Your hips should not rock when pedalling, which would indicate your saddle’s too high, and your back should have a gentle curve in it rather than being pulled flat or hollow with too long a reach to the bars. Fit a shorter stem in this case.

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