Bike fitting basics

Bike fitting basics

(Photo: Ruby Buiza/CBC)

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Children's bikes

Kids' bikes are measured by wheel size, not frame size. The right size for a child? One where he or she can easily get on the bike, stand with feet on the ground and ride comfortably.

Bike fitting can involve many variables on getting it right. Correct type of bike and size are dependent on your needs and comfort — and each person is shaped differently. There are many methods and theories of proper fit. It's always good to have a reputable bike shop help you.

The following is a starting point for a basic bike fit for beginners and casual riders — those who occasionally commute for work or leisure. CBC Live Right Now spoke to Brent Robinson from Sweet Pete's bike shop in Toronto to give us his starter tips.


Top tube clearance: Bikes come in a variety of frame sizes. To help find the correct frame size for you, one method is to check top tube clearance. Stand over or straddle the top tube and lift the bike, says Robinson. There should be about one inch clearance between the ground and tires.


Sweet Pete's Brent Robinson demonstrates top tube clearance. This bike is too small for him. (Ruby Buiza/CBC)


Seat height/angle: For pedaling efficiency, check for proper leg extension. Most bikes have adjustable seat posts. "You want your leg almost fully extended," says Robinson. "A little bend in the knee - not too much." If you don't feel comfortable, adjust the seat in slight increments.


Correct leg extension with slight knee bend. (Ruby Buiza/CBC)

Once seat height is set, adjust angle to your comfort. For most people, positioning the seat level or parallel to the ground is common. "Seat angle is based on customer comfort," says Robinson.


Top tube length or reach: "As you go up in size, the bike gets longer — longer in the top tube," says Robinson. This can affect you in terms of your reach to the handlebars. If the handlebars seem far away, you can fit to a shorter stem. Too close? You need a longer stem. Handlebars can also be raised and lowered. The stem length and angle determine how far you reach and bend at the waist to reach the handlebars.


You can fit a longer or shorter stem to change the reach. (Ruby Buiza/CBC)

The key? Make sure you're comfortable. Bike fitting could involve trying different sorts of things — it's not plugging in numbers but rider input, says Robinson.

Always do a test ride, recommends Robinson. He says customers may come back after a little while saying they're a little uncomfortable. Handlebars or seat angles may have to be changed again.


Robinson helps customer Mike, seated on a proper size bike. (Ruby Buiza/CBC)

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