Getting the proper bike size should be among your top considerations when buying a ride. It is almost like a relationship. You can test out other road bikes in the shop–well, almost like a date. However, in the end, you have to choose the one that is most compatible, the one that isn’t a pain to be with every day. And yeah, the one that is worth the bucks.
It isn’t about just the looks, too. Sure, a red-and-gold shiny beast of a bike can give you that extra psychological and mental power. Add the pressure of living up to the high expectations of envious onlookers, and you’ll have the will to pedal faster (while they’re still looking, of course).
However, whether you want a bike simply for transportation or for racing as a hobby, the love for cycling begins with personally enjoying your bike.
How to Get the Right Bike Size
There are two basic ways you can get an appropriately sized bike: first, you can do it by yourself; and secondly, you can be properly fitted at a store by a professional technician.
Whichever way you opt to do, be conscious and careful of the measurements that are being taken.
1. Doing the Measurements by Yourself
If you are constricted by time or have to order abroad, it’s also possible to simply make the measurements yourself and determine your bike size from there.
Here are the basic measurements you should be taking accurately:
- Arm length – measure from the center of your fist to the tip of your collarbone
- Torso length – measure from the V-shaped angle below your neck (the sternum) to your crotch
- Leg inseam – measure from your crotch to your foot
The inseam is usually the most used. For road bikes, it’s also a general rule of thumb to give 1-2 inches of allowance to achieve a comfortable clearance for the top tube. Mountain or commuter bikes get 2-4 inches of clearance.
To ensure that you’ll get the right top tube length for you, you can apply the following formula (use inches):
(torso length + arm length) / 2 = x
x – 6 = top tube length
Simply add your torso length and arm length. Divide the sum by two. Subtract six from the answer. This is ideally how far your seat should be from the handlebars.
There are helpful standardized charts out there too.
Please note that your “right size” will not only be based on your body measurements. This may change according to your skill, perceived comfort, injury, and body weight. If you feel like your body changed since the last time you bought a bike, it may be best to take new measurements or get a professional fitting.
The measurements stated above are exclusively for road bikes. Mountain bikes will need different measurements.
2. Getting Fitted at a Store
As much as possible, it’s always better to get fitted at a store and by an expert. Testing out a bike in person will let you have the overall feel of how it would be to take this bike on the road. It is also advised that you test out the bikes wearing your cycling attire and even your shoes and cleats. Wearing other clothing like jeans could feel uncomfortable.
Aside from the bike frame, other parts like the height of the seat post and stem will also matter. So, while you’re at the store, you can look for other parts and customize your bike to get as much comfort as you can.
Here are some measurements that you should take into account:
- Handlebar width
- Stem length and height
- Grip/ grip tape diameter
- Crank length
- Brake lever position
- Saddle length
- Shoe and cleat adjustments
Remember that it’s all right to take time to try out the bikes in the store. You will actually do the salespeople more favor by not returning five days later and bugging them all over again. But it’s also your right to take advantage of the return policy (ask if there’s one!) if you think you need some modifications.
Why Is It Important to Get the Proper Bike Size?
Some male bikers won’t admit it, but they feel that frame size is related to one’s masculinity. The bigger the bike, the more power its rider seems to have. It’s almost the same psychology that lets you feel more awed with a man riding a bear than a man riding a pony. But hey, we’re talking about road bikes here! A big or pretty bike is only like arm candy. If you want to go far and fast, you’ll want to think beyond just having an ego boost.
If you are a newbie trying out cycling, you’ll likely to be more dedicated if you find your ride comfortable. The happier you are on your bike, the more you’d like to spend on and with it. If you are an amateur or an athlete, your experience will tell you exactly the same.
You have to remember that your “short rides” is probably going to last at least three hours. A few hours of stiff hunching will only bring you injury, and worse, an aversion to going cycling next time.
Entangled with comfort is efficiency. The two are almost inseparable. But getting the right bike size is more than just about the frame. In fact, the most basic thing to look at when you’re getting the right bike size is also getting the correct saddle height.
The general rule is that when your leg is fully extended at the bottom of the pedal, you ought to have a slight bend in the knee.
If the saddle is too high, you’ll be unstable as you’ll need to rock from side to side on your seat to reach the pedals. If your saddle is too low, you won’t be able to maximize your leg power.
In addition, you’ll also want to consider your reach to the handlebar. Nowadays, many road bikes are sized from the seat post to the stem (top tube length) rather than the seat tube length. You know you’re getting the right frame size when you’re not too stretched or too hunched out. In short, you must be comfortable while reaching the handlebar.
Some city cyclists opt for smaller frames because it gives them more control. This enables them to navigate more easily and more flexibly between traffic.
Control, like the perception of comfort, is subjective.
The lighter the bike, the faster” seems to be a popular notion. However, it seems to be nothing but a myth according to some. And that’s good to know especially if one is stupidly considering to get a smaller frame if it means a lighter bike.
A drop of two to three pounds may cost you hundreds of bucks, but on the road, it means almost nothing but a few seconds. When dealing with weight, think instead of its effect on your comfort rather than on speed. Does a heavier bike feel more bulky or stable? Does a lighter bike feel fast or flimsy?
The bicycle is the fastest human-powered form of transportation. Mechanically, 99 percent of the energy exerted by the rider is transferred to the wheels. And as low-carbon impact concerns rise in popularity along with healthy lifestyles, bicycles are growing more and more in demand. Not only are they used by athletes, but by average people for its original intended purpose: transportation.
The more time you spend on your bike, the more it will feel like a friend. But when you’re out riding, the bike needs to feel almost like an extension of your body. And that would only be achievable when you commit to getting the right road bikes size for you.