Bicycle Fitting

You and your bike should fit well together whether you are a serious cyclist or just out for some recreation.  Minimizing discomfort, increasing efficiency and preventing pain and injury are all benefits of a proper fitting bike.

Bike diagram

A few things to consider when fitting a bike:

Frame size/height of the top tube

On a properly sized bike you should be able to stand over the top tube with your feet flat on the ground (Fig. 1) and still have enough room to comfortably lift the bike a short distance off the ground (Fig. 2).

Bike height
Fig. 1 and Fig. 2

For mountain bikes or other off-road bikes you generally want more space between you and the top tube (2-3 inches or more) to minimize the chance of injury when stepping off the pedal on uneven ground.


Seat height

Proper seat height is important for comfort and efficiency and to help avoid unnecessary stress on your joints.  

Seat height
Fig. 3 (knee bend) and Fig. 4 (Heel Method)

Note: No two riders are the same; if you find that this is not a comfortable riding position you can try adjusting your seat height. It is important to do this in small increments (approximately ¼ inch at a time). Make sure to spend some time riding after each adjustment to test the new position, a simple spin around the block may not be enough to decide if you have found the correct seat height.


Seat angle/position

A bicycle seat can be adjusted for angle and forward or backward. A level and properly positioned seat places the majority of your weight directly on the sit-bones. 

Seat distance
Fig. 6


Handlebar height/position

Comfort should be the deciding factor for handlebar height. Try to strike a balance that distributes your weight comfortably between your arms and the bike seat. Handlebars that are set too low can cause increased strain on your neck, back, shoulders, arms and hands.  If the handlebars are set too high the majority of your weight will be shifted to your seat which may also cause discomfort. When adjusting handlebar height do not exceed the safety height marked on your stem.


Photos and information provided in collaboration with the MSU Bike Shop.
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Helmets are Essential:

Before riding make sure everyone is wearing a safe and properly fitted helmet. Helmets only work if they are in good condition and you wear them correctly.


Proper bicycle maintenance:

It is very important to keep your bicycle in good working order.  You should have your bike thoroughly checked by a professional at the beginning of your riding season to ensure that it is in good mechanical condition.  A more general check should also be performed at the beginning of each ride:

Riding bicycles is a great way to stay active. Being prepared with the properly sized and maintained equipment will help make the experience safer and more enjoyable.


If you have any further questions about bicycle and helmet fit or safety, check with your local bike shop, club or organization, they can be great sources of information for safe cycling.