Determining what size bike you need is one of the first steps of purchasing a new bike and will play a tremendous role in how much you enjoy and ride the new bike. The type of riding you plan to do will first determine the type of bike and then what size bike you should be riding. First you need to decide if you plan to ride on the road, off road, or a combination of both, this will determine what size bike you need. General hybrid bikes for instance may be marked simply as small, medium and large while other more serious road bikes are sized in centimeters, such as 52cm or 54cm. This article will describe why the correct bike size maters and how to determine what size bike you need.
What Size Bike is Most Comfortable?
General comfort is the first part of determining what size bike fits you. Some people have longer legs while other people may have longer torsos, which directly affect the size of the bike needed. An older rider for instance may want a more upright position to be more comfortable which may require a smaller frame size and an adjustable handlebar/stem. A rider looking to be faster and positioned lower on the bike can ride a size bigger or have a longer stem to stretch out their body and arms more. Online charts can give you recommend sizes based on a persons height, but physically sitting on the bike in your local bike shop will give you a better judgement. Some local bike shops will even let you demo the bike for several hours to see how the bike feels underneath you.
What Size Bike to Prevent Injury?
An incorrect size of bike could potentially cause an injury; this improper size can lead to severe ligament and tendon damage. A bike that is too big is likely to cause damage to your achilles tendons or put a strain on your neck and back. To small of a bike and there’s risk of developing patella tendonitis. These are just a few common injuries people develop for an incorrect size bike, but many more injuries are possible. A rider will also decrease their handling ability on the bike if it is the wrong size as well, which could result in a more serious accident or crash. Cycling will strengthen your cardiovascular and muscular systems, but if riding is causing damage to other parts of your body, you could be doing more long-term damage than good.
What size bike is the Most Efficient?
A proper fitting bike is also going to make sure you are getting the most out of the ride. When the legs are being over or under extended it is resulting in a loss of power being applied to the pedals. With less power being applied to the pedals you are going to ride slower and your legs will begin to fatigue more quickly. There are many things to consider when finding the most efficient position on the bike. Saddle height and horizontal position over the bottom bracket are two of the most common parts to adjust, but handlebar width, angle, and length are equally as important to a proper fitting bike. To get the most efficient position on your bike it is best to have a professional fit done by a certified bike fitter.
What type of professional fit to get?
There are many types of professional fits to determine what size bike to ride and “how” to ride it. Ranging from a complementary fit after purchasing a bike at a local shop to a fit that costs hundreds of dollars, it may be difficult to choose. For someone just getting into cycling up to an avid cyclist, a local bike shop employee should be able to perform a proper fit and setup. This type of fit is normally complementary with a new bike purchase or may be relatively inexpensive. A more experienced rider or a rider that is racing competitively should consider a more specific fit. This is going to be a much more expensive fit but will pay off in efficiency and aerodynamics. There are “schools” that certify individuals in bike fitting. Companies such as BG Fit and Retul Fit have specialized in creating a bike fitting experience that takes every detail of an individual’s ergonomics into affect.
In conclusion, going to your local bike shop and physically sitting on the bicycle you want is going to give you the best idea of what size bike you need. Remember the importance of a correct fitting bike so you can be comfortable, injury free, and fast! The charts below can be used as a guide to help get an idea of the correct size you may need.