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10 ways to improve your bike-fit

Having the correct position on your bike is integral to maximising your performance, preventing injury and enjoying a comfortable ride. Here are a few tips on how to improve your bike-fit yourself.

A really accurate bike-fit is a complex issue, particularly as there are a multitude of companies offering different ways of measuring and adjusting your position. One of the key

things to consider is your motivation for getting a fit, as this can inform the type of bike fitter you should see. If you have an injury or are uncomfortable on your bike, it is unlikely that bikefit alone will solve the problem – although it will almost certainly help – and in this situation you should see a physiotherapist or other medical expert in conjunction with your bike-fit.

Certainly, one of the best ways to make gains is by visiting your local bike shop for a professional fit using hi-tech equipment that will evaluate the positioning of your saddle,

cleats and handlebar for the most comfortable and efficient position to sit on your bike. However, most riders can make useful improvements at home with patience. Remember your bike is adjustable but your body is adaptable, and a good fit also comes from working on

your posture. Your position on the bike can be improved with the appropriate stretching and strengthening routines.

Here are 10 recommendations for conducting your own bike-fit.

1. Rule number one with all adjustment is to only change one thing at a time, and to do it in small amounts that can easily be reversed if needed.

2. Rule number two is that bikefit is an incredibly personal thing and there is no single right fit. These tips will give a good starting point though.

3. The best place to start is with cleat/foot position on the pedal. There are a number of adjustments that can be made: fore and aft, inside and outside, and the actual angle. To get the fore/aft position, locate the pedal axle directly behind the knuckle of the big toe. You should be aiming to feel like you have a stable platform to push against.

4. The angle of the cleat, and the position inside and outside, are best done by an experienced fitter, but you can get an idea by pedalling hard then twisting your foot and checking that you have float in both directions. If you don’t, move the cleat by a few degrees in the same direction. For example, if you can twist your toes anti-clockwise but not clockwise, then turn the shoe upside down and move the cleat a couple of degrees anticlockwise (the shoe is flipped so clockwise becomes anti-clockwise). Be careful with adjustments here and remember that there is enough float in most systems to compensate for small inaccuracies.

5. The next thing is to alter the saddle height and angle. First, make sure the saddle is horizontal or pointing up or down by no more than two degrees. It’s possible to get inclinometer apps for mobile phones if you want to be really accurate here.

6. Next, find a hill that takes three minutes to climb. Ride up it and see if you can pedal through the bottom of the pedal stroke with no loss of control or fluidity. If you can,

raise your saddle 3mm and repeat the climb. Repeat this process until you find that you’re struggling to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke with smoothness and control. Once you

have found this point, drop the saddle 6mm. If you didn’t have that smoothness and control to start with then lower your saddle in 3mm increments and repeat until you do. Now drop the saddle another 3mm. This method takes care and concentration but will reward you

with an efficient, power-enhancing and safe saddle height.

7. Next is the saddle fore and aft. With your cranks horizontal, sit in your riding position and run a plumb line down from the front of your kneecap. This should line up with the axle of your pedal. If it’s forward of this, move the saddle back and if it’s behind this, move it forward. There is room for a little adjustment either way and it is also important that you are comfortable and balanced on the bike, with light hands and an even distribution of loading between the front and back of the legs. If you suffer from hand numbness, neck ache and/or premature quad/front of leg fatigue, you probably need to put your saddle further back. If you suffer from lower back ache or fatigue and find the right saddle height doesn’t resolve this problem, there is a chance that your saddle is too far back.

8. If you made any major adjustments in point seven, it is now worth checking your saddle height again.

9. Once you have the cleat, saddle height and setback adjusted, it is time to move on to adjusting the reach and drop to the handlebars, i.e. how high your bars are and how far from the saddle they are. If you did a good job with your previous adjustments then this should feel fairly obvious. With the cleats and saddle set correctly, most riders have a window of about 20mm in length and drop to the bars, which feels comfortable and stable. If you are riding fast then go long and low; if you are more leisurely, then choose shorter and taller. Bear in mind that the more flexible you are – your ability to bend over and touch your toes – then the more likely it is that you will be able to comfortably bend over while pedalling and reach your handlebars easily.

10. Once you have finished, mark everything with tape, measure it and write it down. It will now be much easier to reassemble if you strip anything for any reason.


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