How Should You Setup Your Bike?

Article by John Miller

How Should You Setup Your Bike?

While we are happy to provide you with general guidelines on setting up your bike, we have observed that these guidelines will help some cyclists but not all. We highly recommend a professional bike fit if you are suffering pain or discomfort while cycling or if you’d like to optimise your cycling efficiency.

More information: Bike Fit Brisbane

General Bike Setup Guidelines

Riding Position Set Up

A comfortable and efficient riding position is vital. Your bike must be correctly set up and adjusted. A tailored bike will suit your particular body size and shape; you will feel more relaxed and can ride longer distances with less effort. The notes below are the most common settings that work.

Foot Position

  • Centre the ball of your foot over the pedal axle.
  • Small feet and high cadence pedlars place the ball of your foot slightly behind the centre.
  • If you have clip-less pedals, you can make this adjustment by clipping your shoes into the pedal and adjusting the cleat fixing bolts.

Saddle Position

Set the saddle height the following way. With the crank arm perpendicular to the ground and heel (shoes on) on the top of the pedal:

  • Your leg should be in the straight “locked” position.
  • Allow for oversized shoe heels or extra-thick soles.
  • Your saddle top surface should be parallel with the road surface.

Saddle Front/Back Adjustment

  • Sit on your bike in your normal riding position with the cranks in the 3 and 9 o’clock positions.
  • Position your saddle correctly. The correct position is where your tibial tuberosity (the bump at the top of the shin bone) is 1cm behind the pedal axle.
  • You may need a plumb line and a helper to make this adjustment, and you may have to readjust saddle height if you move the saddle significantly.

Stem and Handlebars

  • Correct stem height can be somewhere between level with the saddle height or 6 cm below. The preferred range is 2.5 to 4.5 lower.
  • Check your knee clears your elbow with the cranks at 3 and 9 o’clock position.
  • To ensure good chest expansion and breathing, your handlebars should be shoulder-width.
  • Some riders may prefer a more upright riding position with a higher stem position on a mountain or hybrid bike.
  • Extra-wide flat-type mountain bike handlebars may give more stable control on unsealed roads, but you may find them uncomfortable on long rides over sealed roads.
  • Bar extensions and narrower handlebars will give you a greater variety of comfortable hand positions and place your upper body in a slightly lower position to reduce your overall resistance to the wind.


  • If the handlebars are too far away, you will be very uncomfortable.
  • Sit on your bike in your normal riding position, and your arms should be at 90 degrees to your torso.

Adjusting to Your New Position

It takes time to settle into the new position, and you may still have to do some fine-tuning. Overall you should feel much better when you ride and less strained when you arrive back home.

What if None of this Works?

If you can’t get comfortable after making these adjustments and riding for a while, then your bike may not be the right size for you. It would be best if you considered visiting a physiotherapist with a particular interest in bike setup or a cycling store professional.

More information:

Bike Fit Brisbane

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