Bicycle fitting guidelines

View of bicycle handle bars riding down open road

Fitting your road bike can ensure a more comfortable, smoother, efficient and safer ride. There are several points that greatly impact your comfort while riding, including such things as the proper positioning of your saddle and handlebars and getting the right size frame.

It is recommended that you consult with a bicycle-fitting specialist at your local bicycle shop to be expertly fitted. For proper measurement, it’s important to wear your cycling shoes during the fitting. Always let the fitter know when something doesn’t feel right. The fitter is there to help you find the most comfortable components and adjust the bike as needed. Here are a few guidelines for fitting your bike, so you know what to expect.

Get fitted for these bike components

Frame size is based on the length of your leg. The frame should be easily straddled with both feet flat on the floor and a one-inch clearance between your crotch and the tube. If the tube on the frame is sloped, you can expect a two-inch clearance.

Saddle selection is recommended to find the most comfortable seat for you. Often people test a seat’s comfort by pushing down on it. The best way to find the right seat is to sit on them. Take your time because an uncomfortable seat can lead to a very poor ride.

Saddle height should be set so that you have a slight bend in your knee (80 to 90 percent of full leg extension) when the ball of your foot is on the pedal and the pedal is at its lowest point.

Saddle position is right when your knee is directly over your forefoot. To precisely measure this, a plumb line positioned at the bottom of your kneecap should lead to the ball of your foot. For most people, the tilt of the saddle should be parallel with the ground. It should not be positioned too much in any direction. A downward tilt can cause your pelvis to slide forward and this places strain on your back, arms and shoulders.

Handlebar position is based on preference and comfort. Place your hands on the handlebars like you normally would when riding. You may feel the most comfortable when you have a slight bend in your elbows as extended arms can cause strain. Bikes with an adjustable stem can be set properly for the best handlebar position for you. When racing, the handlebars positioned below the seat height are better for speed. When you’re not racing, the handlebars tend to be most comfortable when they are even with the seat or slightly higher than the seat. You’ll want to make sure it’s not too much of a reach to hit the brakes.


After you are fitted and actually ride your bike, if something just doesn’t feel right, even after a few weeks, you can return to the bike fitter to make the proper adjustments so you are comfortable. We hope these guidelines ensure you receive a proper bike fitting leading you to have a comfortable and safe cycling experience every time you are on the road.

For added safety, consider bicycle insurance from Markel. Markel Bicycle Insurance provides coverage for your bike and the things that are important to you like your spare parts, cycling apparel and accessories (Plus we also offer competitive fee reimbursement if you are unable to race!). You can also get roadside assistance and have nationwide 24-hour emergency service with up to 35 miles of transportation per breakdown – all for only $12 a year per bicycle.

View of bicycle handle bars riding down open road
This article is intended for general informational purposes only regarding non-insurance matters and is not designed to provide professional advice.
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