Cyclopedia: Bike Fit and What You Can Adjust

Looking for that perfect combination of efficiency and comfort? These days the wide array of cycling equipment makes it easier than ever to have both without compromising.

One of the most common fit errors among cyclists is that if the reach to the handlebars is too long, the simple fix is to slide the saddle forward to decrease that reach. Actually, this is not a good solution. The best fit is designed around having the rider’s legs in a proper position relative to the pedals. If you move yourself forward too much, you may be messing with that relationship (legs to pedals).

Below are some basic tips for achieving a good bike fit. These tips are specifically for a road bike fit, but most of the principles will work for mountain or lifestyle bikes as well.

  1. Foot on pedal – the ball of the foot should be positioned directly over or just forward of (1mm to 2mm) the pedal axle.

  2. Saddle height – saddle height can be checked by sitting squarely on the saddle with the pedal at the lowest point of the pedal stroke. This point is found with the pedal down and slightly forward, or with the crank arm parallel with the seat tube. The rider should unclip and place the middle of their heel over the pedal axle. The rider’s leg should be completely extended or fall just slightly above the pedal. When the ball of the foot is over the axle, this should provide just a slight bend in the leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

  3. Saddle fore/aft – with the pedals at the 3 o’clock position, or the crank arms parallel with the ground, a plumb line should be dropped from the small bump below the kneecap. This line should fall directly through the center of the pedal axle for a neutral fit. If the plumb line falls behind, the saddle should be moved forward. If it falls ahead, the saddle should be moved back. Please note that the fore/aft adjustment will affect the saddle height. Moving the saddle forward will decrease the distance to the pedals. Moving the saddle back will increase the distance to the pedals.

  4. Handlebar reach – the handlebar reach should provide full extension which is still relaxed without overextending or straining. There should be just a slight bend in the arms while on the hoods (or tops) of the brake/shift levers. A simple check of reach is to casually glance down at the handlebars while on the brake/shift hoods. The hub of the front wheel should be hidden from sight by the handlebar. If the hub can clearly be seen behind the handlebar, chances are the stem is too long.

  5. Handlebar height – handlebar height is one part of the fit that is determined more by the rider than the fitter. Much of that comfort level depends on your flexibility. Don’t try to go too low (i.e. bent over), even if you think it will improve your aerodynamic position, because you’ll end up pretty uncomfortable. Since handlebar height is directly related to reach, the hub vision test can be used with handlebar height as well. If the rider looks visually strained in the shoulders, or complains of uncomfortably reaching for the bars, but sees the hub clearly in front of the bars while in the hoods, it is probably an indication of the bars being too low.

Please remember that these tips are very general and nothing is a substitute for having your bike fit by an experienced professional. Likewise, there will be variations depending on factors such a flexibility and biomechanical limitations. Let your body be the judge. You shouldn’t be uncomfortable when you ride. Chronic pain or discomfort is your body’s way of telling you that an adjustment needs to be made. Your Fuji dealer will always be your best resource to achieve the perfect fit of body to machine.

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2 Comments

  1. Paul Guy

    Since bike sizing seems to jump in 2cm increments it can never be exact.
    Would it be correct to say the only adjustments that can be made without effecting the overall posture is raising or lowering the seat and the length of the handlebar stem

  2. Brian Dunne

    Thank you for your comment.

    No, because if you raise or lower the seat height without raising or lowering the handlebar the same amount you will be effecting the angle of the rider’s back.

    To assist us with sizing we use Body Scanning in the store. It is a computer based sizing system that enables us to measure arm length, shoulder width, pelvic bone height, etc. to determine perfect fit. Once we feed in the measurements, style of bike, and back angle of rider, Body Scanning gives us all of the dimensions needed to achieve a perfect fit.