Do you want to know the number one factor that determines how comfortable your ride will be on your bike?
It’s not the type of seat you have, although that is admittedly important. It’s also not the wheels, but they will certainly make your ride smoother.
And no, it isn’t about the budget you spend either. One of my first bikes was comfortable, but it was a very cheap road bike, compared to the bike I ride today.
If you want to ensure that you will be as comfortable as you can possibly be while riding your bike, then you need to find a two-wheeler that is sized perfectly for you.
What size bike do I need?
With the help of a reliable bike size chart, the 3 methods in this article and the extra information I included, you should be able to quickly find the bicycle that will fit your body the right way.
So that you can ride comfortably for extended stretches of time.
How can I check if the bicycle is sized right for my body?
One way to find out if the bike you’re considering purchasing is going to fit you properly is to physically examine how it lines up with your body. This involves being in the same location as the bike.
Method 1) The Step-Over Test
You can try something known as a step-over test to see the fit of the bike in relation to your frame.
What you’ll want to do is to stand over the middle of the bike’s frame, the part that’s also known as the top tube.
While standing upright, check to see how large the space is between your body and the bike.
Ideally, there will be at least an inch of clearance if you’re checking out a road bike and about two inches of space if what you’re examining is a mountain bike.
For those on the market for a cheap hybrid bike, it’s best to look for a two-wheeler that provides at least one inch of clearance if you’re planning to use it more frequently on the road.
Tip: Check out the article: the 8 best hybrid bikes under 300 dollars for some goog and affordable hybrid bikes.
If you’re just buying a bike online, it obviously won’t be possible for you to check the size of the bicycle via the step-over test. In that case, you will have to rely on the measurements of your body to find out the fit of the bike.
Your height will obviously be a factor that has to be considered. The taller you are, the bigger the bike frame has to be.
But height is not the only relevant measurement when it comes to bike fitting.
Why the Inseam Measurement Is Essential to the Process of Selecting a Bike Frame Size
Along with your height, your inseam is the other essential measurement you need to know before purchasing any kind of bike.
By failing to take your inseam measurement into account, you are putting yourself at risk for getting hurt while riding.
A lack of space between the bike and your inseam could lead to the frame bumping into you if you have to come to an abrupt stop. That is not a pleasant experience and it would be best if the bike you bought protected you from it.
Method 2) Measure Your Inseam
So, what is the inseam?
The inseam refers to the distance between the ground and your crotch. You might have heard of inseam being referred to during the process of making pants.
To measure your inseam, you can take a large book with a hardcover and then standing against a wall.
You will then have to straddle the book with the spine facing up and then note where the spine of the book touches the wall.
From there, you just have to measure the distance between the mark on the book and the ground to obtain your inseam measurement.
Similar to your height, the size of the bike frame has to go up along with the measurement of the inseam.
Calculating Your Own Bike Size Chart
When you know your inseam, you can calculate the right bike sizes with the following formula, and create your bike size chart within a minute.
Hybrid Bike - inseam in cm x 0,685 = your frame size
Mountain Bike - inseam in cm x 0,66 = your frame size
Road Bike - inseam in cm x 0,70 = your frame size
Imagine your leg inseam is 74cm, then the best frame sizes for you are:
Hybrid bike: 51 cm
Mountain bike: 49 cm
Road bike: 52 cm
Method 3) Bike Size Chart By Height
Road Bike - Bike Frame Size Chart
|Height (inches)||Height (in cm)||Frame Size (in cm)||Size|
|4'10"- 5'0"||148 - 152 cm||47cm - 48cm||XXS|
|5'0"- 5'3"||152 - 160 cm||49cm- 50cm||XS|
|5'3"- 5'6"||160 - 168 cm||50cm - 53cm||S|
|5'6"- 5'9"||168 - 175 cm||54cm - 55cm||M|
|5'9"- 6'0"||175 - 183 cm||56cm - 58cm||L|
|6,0"- 6'3"||183 - 191 cm||58cm - 60cm||XL|
|6,3 - 6'6"||191 - 198 cm||61cm - 63cm||XXL|
Mountain Bike - Bike Frame Size Chart
|Height (inches)||Height (in cm)||Frame Size (inches)||Size|
|4'10"- 5,1"||148 - 158 cm||13" - 14"||XS|
|5'1"- 5,5"||158 - 168 cm||15" - 16"||S|
|5'5"- 5,9"||168 - 178 cm||16" - 17"||M|
|5'9"- 6'0"||178 - 185 cm||17" - 18"||L|
|6'0"- 6'3"||185 - 193 cm||18" - 19"||XL|
|6'3"- 6'6"||193 - 198 cm||19"+||XXL|
Hybrid Bike - Bike Frame Size Chart
|Height (inches)||Height (in cm)||Frame Size (inches)||Size|
|4'10"- 5,1"||147 - 155 cm||14"||XS|
|5'1"- 5,5"||155 - 165 cm||15"||S|
|5'5"- 5,9"||165 - 175 cm||16"||M|
|5'9"- 6'0"||175 - 183 cm||17"||L|
|6'0"- 6'3"||183 - 191 cm||18"||XL|
|6'3"- 6'6"||191 - 198 cm||19"||XXL|
Account for Upper Body Positioning
It’s not just your lower body that has to be comfortable on the bike. You should also be able to ride the bike with your upper body not suffering from any strain.
Get on the bike and then position your upper body in such a way that it creates a 45-degree angle with your hips and a 90-degree angle with your arms.
If you are unable to do this, you probably need to adjust the placement of the bike’s handlebars.
This type of positioning reduces the amount of strain placed on your body while also enabling you to generate a sufficient amount of pedaling power.
Notably, upper body positioning is only important if you are using a road bike.
When using expensive or budget mountain bikes (check out this review for the best mountain bikes under 500 dollars), hybrid bikes, fat tire bikes, or college bikes, that specific type of body positioning is not something you need to maintain.
Getting Your Bikes Saddle’s Position Right Is Crucial
Saddles that are positioned too high making it more difficult for you to pedal. Plus, sitting on an elevated saddle for a long time can result in you experiencing pain in your back and knees.
Those same issues are going to affect you if the saddle is positioned too low.
You’ll know that the height of the saddle is where it needs to be by checking the positioning of your leg while you’re cycling.
When your foot is at the lowest pedaling point, your leg should be bent about 90 percent of the way. In that position, you will be able to pedal with force while remaining comfortable.
The Fore-Aft Positioning of Your Bike
It’s also important to check the fore-aft positioning of your bike.
The fore-aft positioning accounts for the distance between the seat of the bike and the handlebars. You must get the fore-aft positioning right to ensure that you can remain balanced and comfortable while riding.
An easy way to see if you have your fore-aft positioning right is to use what’s known as the KOPS or knee over spindle method.
To practice this method, you will have to acquire a plumb bob and then sit on your bike with one pedal at 3 o’clock and the other at 9 o’clock.
Dangle the plumb bob in front of your kneecap and then see where it makes contact with the pedal’s spindle.
The line of the plumb bob should go through the spindle. If it doesn’t, then you will have to make adjustments.
Should the plumb bob fall ahead of the pedal spindle, you will want to move the seat back to adjust for that. You will have to inch the saddle forward if the plumb bob falls behind the spindle.
Lastly, the saddle must be positioned parallel to the ground while you’re riding the bike. This will prevent pain from building up in your feet.
Tip: Read my detailed guide & reviews of the 8 best comfort bikes of 2020.
How should I position the handlebars of my bike?
The manufacturers and brands of the bikes are usually the ones that take care of how the handlebars are positioned on the bike, but still, you can make adjustments based on your riding preferences.
Cyclists who want to be more aerodynamic for faster riding will want to have their handlebars positioned at around the same height as the saddle.
Your body weight is also being shifted forward in this direction and that should make it easier for you to pick up speed.
If you’re planning to use your bike to go on more trips through forests and similar locations, then it would be better for you to raise the handlebars. You'll find this kind of handlebars on the popular 6ku bikes, one of the best fixed gear bikes of the moment.
How Important Is Proper Bike Fit?
Sometimes, when I’m on the market for a new bike, I find myself wanting to rush through the whole process because I just want to get on my new steed and speed away.
The bike fitting process can be time-consuming as well and I can understand why some people would rather bypass it if possible.
Here’s the thing though: If you don’t take the time to measure the bike according to your frame, you are needlessly putting yourself in a compromising position.
It’s much easier to get into an accident if you’re operating a bike while simultaneously trying to get comfortable.
Plus, even if you avoid accidents, you’re subjecting your body to unnecessary amounts of strain that come from using an improperly sized bike.
Invest the time and the money needed to ensure that your bike will fit your specific body.
How can you tell if your bike does not fit you correctly?
The clearest indicator of an ill-fitting bike is pain. You will feel pain on different points of your body. Your limbs and your backside are the parts of your body that will experience the greatest amounts of pain.
Pain is the result of your body parts being forced into unnatural positions or if the bike simply hits you when it shouldn’t because it’s too small for you.
The loss of pedaling power is another indicator that your bike is not properly configured to your body. If you made a change recently to your bike that is making it more difficult for you to pedal fast, consider reversing that change.
What can you do if your bike does not fit your frame?
On rare occasions, people don’t have to spend money on their new bikes because they are gifted to them. A bike always makes for a great present, but there is a downside to receiving a two-wheeler as a surprise gift.
If the bike was purchased by someone who doesn’t know your measurements, then there’s a good chance that it will not fit you right in at least a few ways.
Not all is lost, however.
An issue with the bike saddle can be easily addressed. You can adjust it first and if that doesn’t work, replacement is an option.
Handlebars can similarly be adjusted or replaced to fit your frame better. Even the pedals of the bike can be swapped out if they are causing you discomfort while you’re cycling.
Technically, the frame of the bike itself can be replaced. However, if the frame is too small or too tall, you may be better off trading it in for a different model.
Replacing only the bike’s frame is expensive and impractical.
Are some bikes specifically designed to fit a woman’s frame?
Bikes designed for men are not necessarily exclusive to them. Women can use those bikes with no issue if their frames can comfortably fit the larger dimensions.
Other women with smaller frames will find it challenging it to use a men’s bike because of those bigger components. In that case, there are women’s bikes that feature smaller frames and narrower handlebars.
TIP: Check out the 10 best women's cycling shorts for 2020 right here.
How should a bike fit a kid rider?
For the most part, you gauge how well a kid’s bike will fit your child the same way you would evaluate a bike you’re getting for yourself.
The only difference is that the bike seats are usually positioned in a way that promotes upright riding. That encourages kids to ride while keeping their eyes on the road and their speed levels should not reach dangerously high levels with the seat positioned that way too.
Also, remember to get a bike that fits the frame of your child in the present.
TIP: Check out the Best Bike for Teens Review (+ Buying Guide) right here.
Buying a bike that will fit your child better in the future but in a worse way now will only make the riding experience more difficult and uncomfortable.
A properly-fitting bike is crucial to the joy of cycling. When it all clicks and you’re out riding on the open road or a good trail, the feeling is incomparable.
By referencing the information above and the included bike size chart, you will be able to find the bicycle that fits your body like a glove, and from there, you can enjoy one of life’s greatest hobbies.
If you want to know more about different bikes, read guides and reviews, or want to browse through the site. Start right here.