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Whether you ride on-road or off, pedal casually or competitively, it’s important to pay close attention to how your bicycle fits your body. A properly fitted bike will allow you to ride comfortably and safely, avoid injury, and produce more power, so you can go faster with the same or less effort.

In general, when fitting a bicycle, there are five basic components to consider.
  1. Frame size is not necessarily dependent on your height; rather, it is more a matter of leg length. Simply, the frame should be easily straddled with both feet flat on the ground, and with an inch or two of clearance for a road of hybrid bike and about four inches of clearance for a mountain bike.
  2. Saddle height should be set so that your knee is slighly bent when the pedal is at its lowest position and the ball of your foot is on the pedal. A saddle, or seat, that is too high or too low can cause pain and lead to injuries of the back and knees.
  3. Saddle position can be checked by sitting on your bicycle (hold onto a friend or a stationary object) and rotating the pedals until they are horizontal. Your forward knee should be directly over the respective pedal axle when the ball of your foot is on the pedal.
  4. Saddle tilt can be gauged simply by feel or by using a carpenter’s level. Generally speaking, your seat should be level with the ground. If the saddle tips too much in either direction, pressure will be placed on your arms, shoulders and lower back.
  5. Handlebar position and distance is mostly a matter of personal preference because it affects shoulder, neck and back comfort. Typically, handlebars are positioned higher for comfort (a more upright riding position) and lower for improved aerodynamics.

Always Wear a Helmet!
A bicycle crash can happen at any time; however, according to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, a properly fitted bicycle helmet reduces the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent. The following are tips to help ensure the correct helmet fit.

  • The helmet should be level on the head, and it must cover the forehead.
  • The Y of the straps should meet just below the ear.
  • The chin strap should be snug against the chin so that when you open the mouth very wide, the helmet pulls down a little.
  • Put your palm on the front of the helmet, and push up and back. If it moves more than an inch, more fitting is required.
  • Shake your head around. If the helmet dislodges, work on the strap adjustments.
  • Do not wear a hat under the helmet.
  • All helmets sold in bike shops must be approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and should carry a CPSC sticker.

From the ChiroHealth newsletter, March 2011.

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