You have just bought a road bike off the internet, and everyone tells you that you need a proper fit. The problem is you don’t have the money to go and get professionally fitted. Well, we are going to give you some guidance and help.
It is worth noting if you have physical injuries and you are worried about making them worse. You should see your physio or doctor and get the professional advice you need. The second thing to note is that bike fits are all about parameters.
A road bike is more important than it is on other forms of bikes. The reason for this is that you tend to spend a long time in position on a road bike, in other forms of cycling this does not happen. You will also be riding with a high cadence this means if you get your knee extension wrong your body will let you know about it fast.
Always listen to your body it will always be able to guide you on your bike fit. There is an old rule that knee pain at the back of your leg is too high. If the pain is at the front, your saddle is too low. This idea is just a rule of thumb though. One of the most common mistakes with fitting though is that many road cyclists have their saddle too high. Possibly because they want to look like the pros with their lofty seatposts.
Bike fit angles
It is about getting your body in a safe set of angles, angles that work well for your joints biomechanically. There is no one right or wrong angle. In fact, during a week the angles of your bike fit can change. If you have spent all week at a desk nine to five, you can not expect your body to contort into a bike riding position as if you been out riding all week.
Your bike fit will change as you age. As you get fitter, or indeed if you stop exercising. It’ll change if all you do is cycling and your body adapts to that. It’ll change if you trip over something and get a slightly stiffer back. This means you can use a bike fit you got last year as a basis but be aware that parts may have changed.
The easiest way to get a bike fit at home is with an app and a turbo trainer. There is an iOS app called Bike Fit Fast. It does a great job, they sadly though do not want to develop an Android version. Hopefully, then you have an iOS device or access to one. The other thing you will want is bright colored sticker dots, and you can then put them in the right place to give you a good degree of accuracy with the app.
Road bike pedals
After you have set all this up, you will want to be honest with yourself. The worst thing you can try and do is give yourself a race position when your body can’t hold it. That will not be a fast position. A more comfortable position is always going to be a faster position for the majority of people mainly because you will want to go and ride your bike.
A good first place to start is to look at your feet. You will want to fit your cleats correctly, or we will be starting from an imperfect start as we look at you on the bike. A point to remember is that cleats and pedals offer float. Float is the amount of rotational movement from the center that the cleats will allow. If you have knee pain, more float is better. It will enable your body to correct for minor errors. Zero float does not do this, and you will want a doctor to fit your cleats correctly.
The reason why float is good is that the knee does not just move up and down, but it also twists during the pedal stroke. This then affects the rotation and pronation of the foot/ankle. If you run zero degree cleats, you massively reduce the degrees of motion your body has to make this happen. You will tend to see more knee problems in folks with zero degree cleats than with float.
The general rule for setting fore/aft for your cleats is that take the first metatarsal and the fifth metatarsal, the first bony protrusion on the outside of the foot, and align the pedal spindle, so it bisects these two points. You can then alter from this position. Remember that a more forward position on the cleat causes more and up and down movements in the heel. A forward position can then cause issues with the Achilles' tendon. A rearward cleat position helps spread the pressure created when pedaling more easily. Putting your cleats here can help ease hot foot (forefoot pain). Triathletes also favor it as it helps when you get off the bike and have to run a marathon.
As well as all this you will want to check yourself walking in the mirror. By doing this, we can sort out your cleat. If you with your toes forward you should set up your cleats to mimic this when you are on the bike. If you walk with toes out/heels in then, you need to set the cleats up to mimic this and also to make sure the heel does not clip the cranks when it drops in. So what we do here is we move the cleats towards the inside of the shoe and move the cleat back a bit. If you are pigeon-toed, then you need to have your heels pointing slightly outward.
Now you have an idea of your cleat positioning it about nailing some degree parameters for the rest of your position. Bike Fit Fast will be quick and easy to do this with and is easier than getting friends with goniometers to help you. The cheat sheet is.
Hip angle - 55-70°
Elbow angle - 150-160°
Knee angle extension -35-40°
Road bike saddle height
To start in this process, you will want to set your saddle height correctly. Over the years I have found the Greg Lemond method to be a great place to start your fit using. For this, you will need a book and a measuring tape. Take yourself and stand flat against a wall. Place a book between your legs to where it may cause some discomfort if you carry on going upwards. Drop the measuring tape from the book to the floor and measure the distance. It might be easier if someone helps you. I’d measure in centimeters as well.
You then take this measurement and multiply it by 0.883. You then take this number and set your saddle at this height, measuring from the center of your bottom bracket. You will then want to take 3mm off for cycling shoes and cleats. The position should mean that when your pedal and cranks are at the bottom of your pedal stroke, your knee angle is 35 to 40°.
A quick tip for working out if this angle is correct. Sit on your bike, leave your pedals at around the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, your legs hanging free. Look at them or take a video or photo on your phone. Look at your legs this is where they naturally want to sit. They will be a bit crooked. They will not be totally straight. They should look the same when you are clipped into your pedals.
If the position feels wrong to you, then move it up and down in small increments till you feel totally happy. Don’t stay in the same position if it is hurting you.
Road bike handlebar height
Now setting your handlebars is a bit easier with the app I have recommended. It is a bit more of an issue without a helping hand. There is no really cunning method except feel. Set up reach and handlebar height to something similar to your old bike, if it is your first road bike start at the highest position.