Bike fitting is becoming increasingly popular and for about $150, an expert can check your bike’s position to ensure comfortable and safe riding.
Pay four times that amount and you can access a physio-led fit complete with a standard biochemical assessment and even a wind tunnel aero-optimization service.
All of these services come at a price that you may not be willing to pay, which is why we’ve written this guide on how to do a bike fit on your own, especially if you have a fat tire bike, without paying a single dime.
How to Do a Bike Fit
The following steps are as simple as they are straightforward. A proper road bike fit will help you to enjoy a faster and safer ride by maintaining the right position.
Once you learn how to do a bike fit yourself, you’ll never again have to pay someone else to do it for you.
Read on to save your time and your money.
1. Keep the Saddle at the Right Height
It’s worth noting that there’s no single important bike measurement. However, it’s helpful to keep your saddle at the right height in order to bring it into balance with your overall bike setup.
Keeping your saddle in the right height can help keep you in a comfortable stance when biking for long distances, improve pedaling efficiency, and even prevent knee injuries.
The pedal axle is where you should place the ball of your foot while slightly bending your knee. The knee flexion should be at 27 to 37 degrees at the pedal stroke’s bottom dead center.
2. Optimize Saddle Setback
After making sure that your saddle is at the right height, you’ll need to address your bike seat’s fore/aft position measurement.
If you want to ride injury-free then you’ll want to ensure optimal saddle setback. The goal is to prevent the bicycle seat from going too far in the forward position, as this might lead to patella tendon torque and overreach.
The first thing you need to do when applying a saddle setback is to align your knee with the pedal axle while ensuring that the pedals are at a position of 2 o’clock and 9 o’clock.
Get in front of the knee cap and place a plumb line to return to a neutral starting position. This is usually when the plumb line is placed in the 3 o’clock position in front of the pedal axle.
From this point, it becomes easier to make forward and backward adjustments to ensure that you maintain a comfortable riding style.
3. Fix the Position of the Cleat
You can’t learn how to do a bike fit without learning about clear position. This refers to the way in which you place your foot on the pedal which is what regulates your knee angle while pedaling.
Placing your foot in the right direction can also assist in keeping conditions like Achilles tendon and foot numbness at bay.
Wear your cycling shoe and then mark the part where it meets the ball of your foot from the interior. The goal is to ensure that this dot is aligned with your pedal axle whenever you place your foot on the pedal. If that’s not the case, then you should adjust the cleat’s fore/aft position.
Take note of the cleat’s angle and avoid excessively rotating your toes away or in the pedals. Keep your cleat setup as neutral as possible like most pedals, yours might contain a bit of float which is designed to enable pedaling side-movement. You can always make micro-changes from a neutral position.
4. Adjust the Handlebar Reach
One beginner’s mistake that often happens is adjusting the saddle setback in order to adjust handlebar reach. This can completely put your position out of whack and makes it impossible for you to benefit from steps 1 and 2 of your bike fit.
The smart thing to do would be to focus on adjusting stem length and handlebar height instead of fiddling with the saddle and use road bike handlebar tape. The former measurements are often customized and depend on your unique riding style.
For example, racing cyclists often require a more aggressive and lower saddle position as this affords them improved aerodynamics. That’s why their go-to is a longer stem and lower handlebar height.
On the other hand, casual riders and endurance athletes alike often opt for a comfortable upright position as their go-to which means a shorter stem and higher handlebar height. Other contributing factors include hamstring flexibility and your body’s reachability.
If you want an effective starting position, then try to maintain the area between your arms and upper back at a 90-degree angle while keeping your hands on the hoods. Keep the lower back and hips at a 45-degree angle where it’ll be easier for you to make small adjustments to enjoy a more personalized ride.
5. Measure Frame Size
In their sizing charts, most manufacturers often include measurements of the inside leg, height, and gender as determining factors. Frame geometry depends on each individual model so each bike might require a unique size.
If you’re one of those people whose measurements are in between two sizes, then your next best course of action is to figure out your reach. This refers to the span of your arm from fingertip to fingertip, minus your height, and it can also be referred to as your “Ape Index”.
A positive Ape Index refers to an arm span that’s longer than your height and it means you should opt for a size up. If not, then you should op for a size down or a smaller one.
Now that you have read this article, you won’t ever have to pay through the nose to have someone do it for you.
As you can see, it’s incredibly important to understand your unique needs including your unique riding style, measurements, and size in order to figure out how to do a bike fit at home. We highly recommend you get a bike alarm as well to keep your bicycle safe at all times.