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Fit yourself on your bike

Some general rules for setting yourself up to be comfortable and fast

While a professional bike fit is the optimal way to ensure you’ll get the best fit on your bike, for many that might not be an option due to the pandemic, or for a myriad of other reasons. So, if you have to wait a bit to nail your position with a pro, or find yourself on a new bike and want to set yourself up as best you can, here are a few very basic tips you can use to help you get comfortable on the bike.

Ideally these tips will serve as a temporary solution so you can remain comfortable on your bike until you can get someone to check you out for a more detailed fit. Many will find they can actually dial in a pretty decent fit by simply following some general rules and being attentive to what they’re feeling on the bike, too.

Seat height

There are a few different ways you can estimate your seat height. There are two different formulas you can use based on your inseam.

  1. Measure your inseam and multiply that number by 0,885. The resulting number should be the distance from the top of your saddle to the centre of the bottom bracket.
  2. You can also set your saddle height from the top of your saddle to the centre of your pedal spindle with your crank arm set at the bottom of the pedal stroke (6 o’clock) at 109 per cent of your inseam length.

Basically your knee should be slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

Saddle position – fore and aft

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You’ll need someone to help you gauge this one. Use a plumb line to ensure that you’re knee is lined up over the pedal spindle. Make sure you do this while riding in your aero position with your elbow on your tri bars – that will often set you up a bit further forward than you’d be on a regular road bike.

Saddle position – angle

Triathletes often tilt their saddles slightly downwards – emphasis on the slightly – to make things a bit more comfortable while riding in an aero position. Start with the saddle parallel to the ground, then tilt it down just a bit. If you find yourself constantly sliding forward and feeling like there’s too much weight on your arms, it’s probably tilted too far down.

Cleat position

There are those who say you need to start with this before you do any other adjustments to your bike fit. The centre of your cleat should sit about half a cm behind the ball of your foot. Another way to gauge the position is to draw a line on your shoe between the bony protrusions on the inside and outside of your feet (first and fifth metatarsals) and line up the centre of your cleat on that line.

In terms of left/right alignment, you can start by lining your cleats up along the centre of the shoe, Since cleats typically have some float, you’ll likely find that to be reasonably comfortable. You can also get a general feel for how your feet naturally line up by sitting on a bench and letting your legs hang down and seeing how your feet comfortably hang – either slightly inwards or outwards – and adjust the cleats based on that, too.

Front end height and reach

This will be very dependent on your experience and flexibility. Since most of us doing a home bike fit won’t have a bunch of different length stems to throw on the bike to adjust the reach, you probably won’t have too many options on this front. While sitting up with your hands on the bars, your arms should be slightly bent.When in an aero position, your shoulders should be anywhere from slightly behind your elbows to directly over them.

In terms of bar height, an ideal position is as low as possible, but if that’s uncomfortable, you’ll end up considerably slower because you won’t stay in an aero tuck. So you’re much better to start off higher (using more spacers below the stem to get you higher) and then gradually moving yourself lower as you get more experienced.

Adjust accordingly

The tips listed above are very general and, since we are all built differently, it’s important to listen to your body and make adjustments accordingly based on what you’re feeling. These general rules should at least get you started towards a comfortable and efficient fit.