Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s the best buy for you. Discover four ways to pick the perfect bike for your body type.
Purchasing a bike without seeing if it’s the ideal fit is like buying a pair of pants off the rack without reading the tags. The only difference is that you’ll know the moment you try on the pants if they fit or not. Investing in the wrong size bike only becomes apparent down the road. That’s when everything from a sore back to a beaten-down bottom can leave you worse for wear. Your poor decision will also leave you with a bike that spends more time hanging in the garage than out riding the trails and streets.
“Choosing a bike that best fits your body can prevent these workout-stoppers from ever creeping up in the first place, letting you ride more comfortably and efficiently,” says John Howard, U.S. Bicycling Hall of Famer and 14-time national champion. Here are four simple tests that will help you find the best match.
1. Sit on the bike and make sure the seat fits your style of riding. A soft, wider seat is better for staying comfortable when traveling short distances, whereas a narrower, firmer seat is the best choice for longer stints, since it prevents your legs from excessively rubbing along the edges of the seat.
2. Take a look at the frame and make sure it’s the right size for your height. Straddle the bike in front of the seat, and plant your feet on the floor. There should be at least one to two inches of room between the top bar and your crotch. If you plan to take the bike off-road (for mountain biking), you may want to have three to four inches total to be on the safe side.
3. Reach for the handlebars. Most bikes are designed for longer torsos, so the handlebars may be too far away when you’re on the seat. If you’re leaning over too far to grab the handlebars, you may be too short up top to use the bike as efficiently. However, you can change the bike’s length slightly by attaching a different-sized handlebar stem (the piece that attaches the handlebars to the frame).
4. Take it for a test ride. It’s the only way to really see if the bike is truly made for you. Your body should feel relaxed instead of being forced into awkward positions. Play around with the bike to see if it maintains control as you adjust by moving your butt back and forth, readjusting your hand positions and pushing it through all the gears. These are all things you’ll need to do when riding later on so it’s best to look for points of weakness now.