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Fitting your bike

If you find your bike isn’t feeling very comfortable, you may only need to make a few small adjustments to your seat (saddle) or handlebars. If you’re sizing up a kids’ bike, we have tips on that too.

Saddle angle

Saddles should be set with their tops level, or parallel to the ground. Tilting the saddle’s nose up is uncomfortable. Tilting the saddle’s nose down will cause you to drift forward onto the handlebars. Pushing against the bars might make your shoulders tense up.

Saddle height

To determine correct height, sit on the saddle with both heels on the pedals, and pedal backwards slowly. The saddle is at the correct height when each leg straightens fully as the pedal passes the bottom. Your hips should remain level on the saddle. If they roll, the saddle is too high and your legs may over-extend, which can damage your knee joints. If your knee is bent when the pedal passes the bottom, the saddle is likely too low. Some new riders may prefer a slightly lower saddle height, so they can reach the ground more easily. This is better for your knees than having your saddle too high.

Setting the saddle height with your heels on the pedals, ensures your knees will have a slight bend when you put the balls of your feet on the pedals. This keeps knee joints stable and protected.

Front to back

Bring the cranks parallel to the ground, then place the ball of your foot on the front pedal. If the saddle is in the correct position, a line drawn from behind your kneecap would fall through the pedal’s axle.

Ride with the new position for at least a couple of weeks before making any changes, and then only make small changes (not more than 5mm at a time).

Handlebar height

Correct height allows you to lean forward comfortably, without straining your back, neck, or wrists. Depending on the type of bike your ride, and your flexibility, you may want to adapt these guidelines slightly. If you’re not particularly flexible, you may prefer a higher or shorter handlebar stem, to bring the bars in closer and allow you to sit more upright.

Type of bikeHandlebar height
Urban2.5cm above to 2.5cm below the level of the top of the saddle
Mountain5cm to 10cm below the top of the saddle
Touring2.5cm to 5cm below the top of the saddle
Sport/performance5cm to 10cm below the top of the saddle

Handlebar angle

You can change the angle of your handlebars by loosening the handlebar clamp on the stem and rotating the bars. Try out all the hand positions you’ll use when you ride to make sure the angle is comfortable. Remember to tighten the clamp when you’re through.

Stem height

Your stem sits on a stack of spacers, and is clamped to the steering column by two 5mm Allen bolts. An adjusting cap sits on the top of the column, and is anchored by another 5mm bolt. You can change the height, by removing some spacers, but be aware that doing so may change the headset adjustment (the bearings in which the fork turns). To make sure it isn’t too loose or too tight, it might be best to have this adjustment done at a bike shop.

Kids’ bike fitting tips

When you’re fitting bikes for kids, the basics are similar to adult bike fitting. Look for a comfortable reach to the handlebars and adequate standover height to get on and off the bike easily (this will partly be determined by how big the wheels are). You can also use the heel-on-pedal method to estimate seat height; see the section on saddle height above.

Kids’ bikes are often designed with growing riders in mind. They’re low to the ground for ample standover height, and usually come with relatively long seat posts you can adjust as the child gets taller. A tip for parents looking to stretch the use of a bike out a bit: search for a slightly longer stem as a child's upper body and arms grow, and a longer seat post as a child's legs grow. Note: not all kids’ bikes will be easy to modify – this is just one reason why investing in a quality bike from the start is key.

For more tips on getting out with young riders, check out our article on biking with kids.

MEC bike service

Keep your ride rolling smoothly or get components updated by a professional mechanic to optimize performance and comfort. We service all makes and models: all-mountain rides, trusty commuters, high-performance road bikes and everything in between

Tune-up packages range from basic to premium, or you can choose individual bike services and repairs. Not sure if your bike needs work? Bring it in for a free inspection. We’ll look it over, and if it needs service, help you decide on the best package for your bike’s condition.

Contact your nearest MEC store for details.

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