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How to Size a Bike

Riding a bike can be a great form of exercise that provides limitless fun, but accurate bike sizing is important for comfort and efficiency. An improperly sized bike can be difficult to handle and can lead to discomfort in your neck, back and shoulders. A few bike sizing tips can help you find the right equipment for fitness and recreation.


Determine the proper frame size.

Frames come in various sizes so it's important to find one that's the right fit for your body. While wearing the shoes you'll use most often when riding your bike, put one leg over the top tube and straddle the bike with your feet on either side. The proper size frame for a road bike will have 1 to 3 inches of clearance between you and the top tube of the frame. For a mountain bike, you'll want a little more clearance, up to 4 inches. This stand-over height recommendation is the same for men and women.

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Check the seat height and position.

Sit on the bike saddle and put your feet on the pedals. When you extend your leg at the bottom of your pedal stroke, you'll want a slight bend in your knee, ideally about 80 percent of a full leg extension. If you can't reach the pedals while you're sitting on the seat, the saddle is too high. If your feet can easily reach the ground while you're on the seat, it's positioned too low. The wrong seat position can lead to discomfort and fatigue. While your seat can be adjusted higher and lower, it also can be adjusted forward and back. To maximize power when you pedal, the ball of your foot should align vertically with your knee when you extend your leg.

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Get the right saddle.

Bike saddles are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. The size of the seat doesn't necessarily dictate comfort, so a bigger seat might not provide the best feel for you. The saddle should be wide enough to support your bones comfortably. The width of the saddle is not dependent on how much you weigh.

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Check your reach.

If your handlebars aren't positioned properly, it can lead to discomfort in your neck, shoulders and back. When you're sitting on the seat and holding the handlebars, your back should be at about a 45-degree angle. There also should be a slight bend in your arms and you should be able to reach the brakes comfortably. The bend in your arms will help to absorb shock while you're riding and create a more comfortable journey, no matter where you're going.

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