How to adjust your bicycle

Avoid injury by properly adjusting your bike so it’s just right for you

How to adjust your bicycle

Source: Best Health Magazine, October 2009

According to the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, the average cyclist pedals more than 3,000 times in a one-hour bike ride.

But an improperly set-up bike’frame too big, seat too high, handlebars too low’can cause stress and pain in the lower back, neck or knees. Try these tips to make sure your bike is adjusted perfectly for you.


On a road bike, you should be able to stand astride the tube (the bar between the saddle and handlebars) with one inch (2.5 cm) of clearance between the tube and your buttocks. On a mountain bike, the space should be two to six inches (5 to 15 cm). If you have a ‘ladies’ bike with no crossbar, go by where the saddle and handlebars are located.


The saddle, or seat, should be completely level (the front doesn’t angle up or down). At the bottom of each pedal stroke, your extended leg should still have a slight bend in it, about 20 degrees. And when sitting on the seat, your toes should be able to touch the ground.


While sitting on the saddle, hold your arms straight out in front of you, then tilt forward at your waist until your hands comfortably reach the handlebars. When riding, keep your elbows slightly bent, rather than locked, and hold your wrists in a neutral position (not locked or bent), says cycling coach Jenny Brown of St. Catharines, Ont.

This article was adapted from "Ready, set, ride!," originally published in the October 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.