Bootcamp Blog Part 2 – Getting The Right Fit

Saddle HeightWHEN I was looking for some inspiration for this chapter of the blog I came across the below quote,

When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought for anything but the ride you are taking.

A wonderful quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1896. Just think, even then people recognised the importance of doing a little exercise for mental wellbeing.

But before we rush out on our bikes let’s check a few thing and make sure that our bike fits us properly and we enjoy the experience.

Bike fitting can be as complex as you want to make it, but it all comes down to a few basic features. A bike fit has three basic parameters: correct saddle height, correct saddle-to-stem distance, and correct fore and aft saddle position. The following tips and adjustments will help you achieve these.


Saddle Height

Your saddle height is so important for your power output, so with that in mind we will set up our saddle height.  Put your armpit on the saddle and make sure your middle finger is exactly touching the top of the bottom bracket.  Femur and forearm proportions have been found to correspond therefore this is an extremely accurate measurement technique. This is a good place to start but if you want the scientific approach then try this method. Stand with your feet 10cm apart (this is the average width of most cranksets), place a book between your legs in the same position as your saddle. Measure the height and multiply it by 0.885. This will give you your saddle height.

Saddle-to-stem distance

Simply start by taking your elbow and lean it against the front of your saddle.  Your middle finger should be touching the middle of your steer tube exactly. This measurement will determine the precise position of your saddle relative to the stem. Once you have this position, sit on the saddle with feet on the pedals. Put your pedals parallel to the floor (in the 3 & 9 o’clock position). Your knee should be behind the axel of your pedal.


Saddle to stem


Saddle angle

Your saddle should be as level as possible, it is fine to allow 2-3 degrees of adjustment but remember if you go further than that you will find yourself fighting to stay on the saddle on a long spin. It is better to look at saddle shape and padding than actual angle. Ladies will find a slightly wider saddle more comfortable as the sit bones are positioned wider in women than men. Also some saddles have cut-outs or grooved sections to take pressure off more delicate areas, therefore look at saddle choice rather than overall adjustment.

Stem Height and Length

Stem height and length has a direct correlation with the fore and aft saddle position.  There is a slight amount of room to play with this measurement however because it has a lot to do with your flexibility.   However, it’s been found that there’s a fundamental connection between torso rotation and finger size.

For pro rider positioning, determine the stem length using the 3 finger rule.  From the top of the headtube to the top of the steertube there should be 3 fingers of space.  No more, no less.  For women retaining water at times of the month this measurement may be reduced to two fingers.  For older men, commuters, and touring cyclists the 4 finger rule (and in extreme cases the 5 finger rule) is used.

PRO Positioning

Your stem length isn’t adjustable but this is something that should be checked carefully when buying your bike. Reach your thumb so that it’s at 90 degrees to your index finger.  Your middle finger should reach exactly to the end of your stem when your thumb is anchored to the middle of the steertube section. As this is not adjustable I would recommend that you talk with your local bike shop when buying your bike they may be able to swap or change it out foe a better fitting stem, or if you are refitting your bike look at the online bike stores for the best prices.

Stem Length

This is not a definitive guide to bike fitting but a starter guide with some techie bits added to help. If you want a professional bike fitting go to your local independent bike shop and they should be able to help you.

Next time we will be chatting about common aches and pains that you might feel while cycling and what that might be telling you.

Shoulder to shoulder, we will take to our better fitting bikes and convey the message that “It’s OK not to feel OK and it’s more than OK to ask for help.”

Yours in sport,