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There is no chance of having a satisfactory experience, let alone developing full power and endurance, unless your bike fits you. Here's how to make sure it does:

If you haven't already, read up on how to set the angle of your saddle and how to set the height of the saddle.

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First consider the contact points between you and the bicycle – the saddle, pedals and handlebars. It is where these points are in relation to the style of bike, your body shape and size, and your fitness and flexibility that will determine how efficiently and comfortably you will be able to propel the bike along without the risk of injury.

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Every single person is different, so everyone’s bike set up should also be different. You can have two people, same height, same age and fitness who could ride the same bike completely differently due to their relative proportions.

One might have a short torso and arms but gangly legs, requiring a higher saddle and shorter frame, the other could be all arms and upper body with short legs, so sizing a bike just on height alone (which many bicycle dealers and brands do), is fundamentally flawed.

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Listen to your body, as it will certainly let you know if it feels your bicycle is an incorrect fit. Cycling should be enjoyable and not create aches and pains. If you have a neck or lower back ache after riding you could be too stretched out, if you have a pain in your knees your saddle height or foot position could be wrong. Don’t ignore these signs; take advice from a professional in and get it right.

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You don’t need to be a professional cyclist to benefit from the correct set up, a correctly fitted bicycle will optimise the performance and enjoyment of any cyclist from a leisure riding OAP to a medal hunting junior racer. You can put the most powerful athlete on the world’s most high performance bike, but without the set up, they'll never reach his potential.

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Online bike fit

Bikes should have the saddle height set so that the leg muscles can drive the pedals efficiently. As a general rule, when you are sitting on the saddle of the bike with the pedal furthest away from you, your leg should have a slight bend at the knee, or your leg should be straight with your heel on the pedal. If the saddle is set at the correct height, you may not be able to touch the floor when you are seated, however, when stationary, you should be standing over the frame and not poised on the saddle.

Your upper body position on the bike will largely be determined by the style of bike you chose. A hybrid style commuting bike will have quite an upright position putting little pressure on the neck and lower back, whereas a road (racing style) bike will have a much more aggressive position for getting up to speed. You must factor in any injury history you may have and be realistic about what your body can cope with.

You can get some good online resources to guide you on fitting or you can visit a bicycle retailer and take advice, but whatever you do, get properly fitted up if you want to get the most out of owning a bike.

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No stone is left unturned when you go for a bike fit.

If you want to make sure you are in the best position possible then you can take professional advice but we wouldn’t advise paying for an advanced bike fit analysis just to see if your saddle height is OK, most shops will spend the time with you for free on such things. However if you want to buy a new bike, particularly a road race style bike which are normally available in closer incremental sizes than hybrid or mountain bikes, then a proper fitting is advisable.

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There are three places where you can be measured up correctly. At a specialist bike retailer or custom frame builder with their own jig or an indoor trainer, at a specialist retail outlet which offers a fitting using a computerised measuring and analysis system, or by a specialist fitting expert who will examine every aspect of your cycling set up including flexibility, power output optimization, aerodynamic potential, foot position discrepancies – the works. There are also some systems online that can help you measure yourself at home but it isn’t as accurate as having an expert cast an eye over you.

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Frame builders sometimes have their own adjustable jigs that save the time spent swapping parts over on a real bike set up on a turbo trainer.

Also worth a read:

Simple Cycle Commute Training

Buying your first bike

10 Road Bikes for Under £1,000

6 Healthy Bites for the Bike