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How to Fit a Bike - Is This the Right Size for Me?

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Proper Handlebar Adjustment
How to Fit a Bike - Is This the Right Size for Me?

Notice the handlebar height on this woman's bike, set slightly above the level of her seat. The higher setting allows her to sit in a comfortable upright position.

Janie Airey/Digital Vision - Getty Images

The goal of handlebar height adjustment is to find the position where you can ride comfortably without putting strain on your back, shoulders or wrists. There is a lot of personal preference here, and a fair amount of variation between body types, so don't be afraid to experiment until you find the setting that is best for you. And remember, the staff at your local bike shop are always happy to offer advice on finding the proper fit.

Generally, the following guides may be used for different types of bikes:

  • Road bike: on a road bike, the top of the bike's handlebars should be a bit lower than the top of the saddle, in the range of an inch or two. This allows for a definite forwarding-leaning, more aerodynamic ride.

  • Mountain bike: on a mountain bike, the handlebars will often be set even lower, perhaps three to four inches below the saddle. The point in this is to provide a low center of gravity, particularly if you're going to be riding off the pavement. so as to give a lower center of gravity. Also, mountain bike riders often come out of the saddle to negotiate bumps, logs and other obstacles, and the lower handlebars provide a better, more balanced position in distributing the rider's body weight across both wheels.

  • Hybrids and Cruisers: With these bikes, where you're sitting much more upright (in contrast to road and mountain bikes) the handlebars will be raised correspondingly higher, approximately an inch or two (or more) higher than the seat. This means much more of your body weight will be borne by your rear, instead of your shoulders, wrists and arms.
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