Riding position setup

A comfortable and efficient riding position is the key element in the bike-body interaction. It is therefore very important that your bike is properly set-up and adjusted.

If your bike is adjusted to suit your particular body size and shape you will then feel more relaxed and will be able to ride longer distances with less effort.

Once you have made the adjustments recommended below, ride gently for the next few days to give your body time to adjust to these new settings. To set-up your bike for an optimum riding position you will need a few bike tools and may also need a friend to assist you.

1. Foot position

If you have Shimano SPD shoes/pedals or other clipless pedals you can make this adjustment by clipping your shoes into the pedal and adjusting the cleat fixing bolts. The ball of your foot should be centred over the pedal axle. For small feet and high rpm pedlars place the ball of your foot slightly behind centre. If you have toe clips there should be a 2mm clearance between your shoe and the clip.

2. Saddle position

First adjust your saddle so that the top surface is parallel with the road surface. Then set the saddle height the following way: With the crank arm perpendicular to the ground sit on the saddle and place your heel (shoes on) on the top of the pedal. With the saddle height correctly adjusted your leg should be in the straight “locked” position. Make sure to take account of oversize heels on your shoes if you have extra thick soles.

3. Saddle front/back adjustment

Sit on your bike in your normal riding position with the cranks in the 3 and 9 o’clock position. Your saddle is correctly positioned when your tibial tuberosity (the bump at the top of the shin bone) is 1cm behind the pedal axle. You may need a plumb line and a helper to make this adjustment and you may have to readjust saddle height if you move the saddle significantly.

4. Stem & handlebars

Correct stem height can be between level with the saddle height or 6 cm below. The preferred range is 2.5 to 4.5 lower. As a check ensure that your knee just clears your elbow when seated on your bike with the cranks in the 3/9 o’clock position. To ensure good chest expansion and breathing your handlebars should be as wide as your shoulders.

On a mountain or hybrid bike some riders may prefer a more upright riding position with a higher stem position. Extra wide flat-type mountain bike handlebars may give more stable control on unsealed roads but you may find them uncomfortable on long rides over sealed roads. Bar extensions and narrower handlebars will give you a greater variety of comfortable hand positions and also place your upper body in a slightly lower position to reduce your overall resistance to the wind.

Adjusting to your new position

It takes time to settle in to the new position and you may still have to do some fine tuning.

Overall you should feel much better when you ride and less strained when you arrive back home, improving your cycling fitness.

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