Ha, I realized I wrote all that the other day and neglected to tell you how you can tell if a bike fits you. Whoops. Let’s fix that.

First, the most important thing is stand-over height. If you straddle the top tube and it’s trying to impregnate you, that bike is too big. Unless you are very confident with your crash reflexes any sort of sudden stop has the potential to make your commute highly unenjoyable. Fortunately most bike frames are put together now with slanted top tubes so this is less of a concern.

Next, get someone you trust to hold the bike while you put your bum on the seat and your feet on the pedals. (It also helps if this someone is reasonably strong enough to help you balance on the bike.) When your hands are on the handlebars, there should be a bit of a bend in your elbows. Try to keep your back straight and pull in your bellybutton to your spine, rather than hunching your shoulders and rounding your back. Make sure your pelvis is not pulled under. If you’re banging your knees on the handlebars or your elbows or you just feel generally cramped, it’s too small. Check to see that you can also fully engage the brakes. You can move the levers on a drop bar – actually any handlebar – so if they’re at what feels like a wonky angle don’t worry about it if the rest of the bike feels right. Generally speaking, it’s better to have a bike that’s a bit too small for you than one that’s too big, especially if you are over the age of 25, when your malleability wears off.

Legs and seat height. I hate to tell you this, but unless you are buying a beach cruiser, if your seat is at the correct height you won’t be able to put your feet on the ground while your bum is on the seat. Sorry! Sorry. The only exception to this is if you are winter or off-road biking, where it’s more important that you can get your foot out and down right away for stability. Riding a bike with the seat too low will lead to knee pain, and also decrease your effectiveness. Riding a bike with the seat too high will lead to knee pain and also decrease your effectiveness in bed.

Now that I’ve got your attention – and we’re still on the bike, remember, with your ‘friend’ holding it – put your heel on the pedal and move it all the way to the lowest position. At this angle your leg will be straight.  Pedal backwards, with your heels still on the pedals. If you can do this smoothly, with no jerking, the seat is the right height. If you’re rocking back and forth the seat is too high. Don’t be afraid to adjust the seat in very small increments, like 1/4″ or 0.5 cm or something you think is ridiculous. Also, on most bikes you can move the seat forwards and backwards a bit which will help you adjust the reach.

This is just a basic overview, but it should get you started (bonus: it will also help you adjust bikes properly if you frequent a gym). I strongly recommend you read Geargals’ great post on bike seats  (the accompanying comments, especially Eileen Brodie’s, are also terrific and just as good as the article.) They discuss bike seats – what does and doesn’t work – as well as finer points of bike fit and common errors made in sizing. Although Geargals is oriented towards MTB riding, most of the recommendations apply to all bikes. The advice in that post will also be of interest to men, since men are as susceptible to poor fit and/or posture as the rest of us. Another unfortunate truth I must reveal to you is that gel seats are not the posterior panacea that you are looking for. I know, I know.

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