Cycling is a healthy, low-impact exercise routine that can be enjoyed by individuals of all ages, from young kids to older adults. It’s also cheap, fun and also good for the environment. Cycling to work or the nearby shops is one of the time-efficient ways for combining regular exercise with your daily routine. An estimated 1 billion people usually ride bicycles daily – for transport, sports and recreation.

However, riding a bicycle that does not fit isn’t fun at all. It is uncomfortable and you also risk injury from being too stretched out or too cramped. However, knowing the size bike that you should get can be a daunting task. Choosing the right sized bicycle depends on the your height, type of bike, your riding style as well as your preference. A correctly fitting bike shall be more efficient, more comfortable and more fun to ride. The below bike size guide will give you general advice on how to choose the right size.

Manufacturers’ Size Guidelines

The easiest way to that you can use to determine the size of the bicycle that suits you is by reading the guidelines that the manufacturers provide.

Nevertheless, no standard sizes are available between bicycle manufacturers. Each manufacturer has a different approach to bicycle design, so it is important that you have an overview of a bicycle’s geometry and how it affects the size of the bicycle.

How Are Bikes Measured?

Bikes are measured basing on the length of their seat tube. This measurement is usually from the middle of the bottom bracket or the middle of the nut that is attached on the crank arms. However, other brands measure up to where the top tube comes across the seat tube, or even the middle of the top tube. As for Mountain bikes, they are measured in inches or in descriptive sizes (small, large medium etc.). Road bikes are measured in centimeters or imaginative sizes while the Hybrid bikes can be measured using any of the 3 ways. Bikes get longer as they increase in size but other brands can be integrally shorter or longer than other brands.

Bicycle Sizing Chart

Sizing charts that use your height and the bicycling inseam (distance from the ground to the crotch) can also offer you with a basic idea about frame dimensions for your bike. The sizing charts are usually available online. Alternatively, you can ask at a local bicycle shop. Bike measurements are usually given for the frame. For mountain and road bikes, this is the distance from the top of the seat to the central part of the bottom bracket. For mountain bikes, you require a bike frame ranging from 10 to 12 centimeters smaller as compared to a road bike. Remember that the chart is just a guideline and the final size that you choose might vary.

Anatomy of the Bicycle Frame

Most Bike manufacturers usually list the dimensions of each element that is on a bike’s geometry, so it is important that you know what each measurement means.

As you get experienced you will find out that a suitably sized bicycle will look in proportion when it is finally set up. Most Manufacturers design frames in different sizes to so as suit the variety of cyclists. Getting the correct size is very important, but it only gets you halfway there. The fine-tuning begins when you select the length of the stem as well as the length of the bars.

Frame Size

Cycling can be hard and also very uncomfortable if you don’t choose the right frame size. If you are too restricted you will not be able to spread out your legs into a complete cycle so as to maximize power. On the other hand, if the frame is very big you won’t get a full cycle from your leg rotation. A fast way that you can use to check a bicycle’s frame size is standing over the frame with your feet down on the ground. If you have one inch or so between the bike’s frame and your crotch then it should be the right bike for you. However, when it comes to mountain bikes the distance to the frame should be more. You can determine the right frame size for child is by making the child to sit on the bicycle’s seat and put the balls of his/her legs on the ground and reach for the handlebars comfortably. Also, make sure that there is a 25 to 50mm space between the bar and the kid’s crotch if he/she is standing over the center bar.

Measure Your Height

To find the right-sized bike, you’ll have to measure your inside leg and your height. For your height, just stand against any wall and then mark the wall using a pencil so that it’s level with the topmost part of your head. You should then measure the distance from the ground up to this mark (having someone helping might make it easier). For the inside leg measurements, stand against any wall and using a book, just hold it between your legs to your groin and ensure it is flat against a wall. You should measure the distance from the book to the floor. In case your height is on the end of the size range, then your reach is most often the deciding factor on which bike size to go for. To know if you have long or short reach, you’ll have to measure the ape index. This refers to your arm span less your height. In case you happen to have a positive ape index, you should go for a larger size. On the other hand, if you happen to have a negative ape index, then go for the smaller size.

The Type of Bike

The type of bicycle that you pick will also affect size of the bike. The style of riding that you use also affects the size. For instance a mountain biker who likes to ride aggressively would love a more controllable bike that has a size smaller than the size that he would normally take. Similarly a cross country racer who is looking out for a flatter as well as speedier mountain bike might prefer a size that is larger than the size that he would normally take. With bikes there is no absolute right or wrong size as it depends on personal preference as well as comfort. The various types of bicycles are explained in our buying guides.

Pedals / Cranks

You should go for clipless pedals or toe clips so as To make sure that your cycling motion is transferred to the bike with great efficiency. Pedals help you to clip your legs in and each pull or push motion that you make will greatly push the bike forward. Although toe clips are usually considered to be more cumbersome than the clipless pedals, they allow you to use both the normal shoes as well as cycling shoes. Clipless pedals are available in different forms for both road and mountain biking. The pedals that are used for mountain biking are two sided, thus making it very possible to easily clip in on rough as well as changeable terrain.

Wheels

The wheel size refers to the measurements of the wheel’s diameter with a mounted tyre. The size is usually written on the tyre’s sidewall. For instance, it might read 26 by 2.2 inches for a typical mountain bicycle size. This indicates that the wheel is 26 inches and the tire is 2.2 inches wide. Wheels are usually categorized in size using their primary use for cycling, touring, off road and BMX. For instance, wheels used for jumps and stunts in BMX shall be smaller to take up the additional loads that might beplaced on them.

Mountain bikes generally measure 26” (559mm) in size and they’re usually recorded in inches. The large size is mostly used in cyclocross and also for large mountain bike riders. Leisure bikes and cruisers are mostly the same size. On the other hand, touring bikes, hybrids and road bikes are likely to have the 700c (metric) wheels that are slimmer (normally between 18 and 25 mm in width). The large diameter rim usually rolls more easily as compared to smaller ones even though some multi sport athletes and triathletes now use the 650c wheels that have lesser rotating mass. The older road bikes might have 27-inch wheels whereas BMX bikes usually come in 2 sizes; either 600 mm (24-inch) or 500 mm (20-inch).

The wheel size for kid’s bikes is different from the rest and it will vary widely depending on the child’s age. Smaller trainer wheels are usually used for young children and they can be raised as their skills and confidence increase. Children aged between 3 and 5 years usually require 300mm (12-inch) wheels, while 5 to 7 year olds require 400mm (16-inch) and 7 to 10 year olds require 500mm (20-inch) wheels. Children over ten years can generally fit bikes that have more than 600mm (24-inch) or even 700mm (26-inch) wheels, which are wheel sizes similar to the adult bikes.

Stand Over Height

Stand over height refers to how tall the bike frame is from the ground surface. The stand over height measurements are up to the top-tube. Ideally, you should have at least 2 centimeters of clearance between the frame and you. In theory, the stand over height is the leg measurement less 2cm. It’s worth measuring the inside leg with shoes on so that you can establish the stand over height.

Handlebars

The position of handlebars is of great importance yet many beginner riders don’t realize this. The wrong angle might lead to back pains, shoulder strain or even soreness in your wrists. In general, handlebars are sized to the bicycle and come in varying widths. On touring and racers bikes they’re usually the same width as the shoulders, whereas on the mountain bikes , they’re usually wider.

Handlebars can be placed at varying heights. On road bikes, the handlebars are around an inch lower than the saddle’s top, whereas on mountain bikes, they’re even lower so as to provide a low center of gravity. Handlebars on hybrids are usually higher for an upright position. In case you prefer an upright position so that you can look around and don’t feel stretched out, you should then set the handlebars higher. Such positions don’t mean that you’re a little less aerodynamic. However, if you have the drop bars you will still be able to get down on a windy day. If you prefer riding in the forward position, you should set the handlebars at the same height as your seat. Whatever you do, always take note of the lowest insertion mark and don’t ever fix your handlebars higher than this mark or else the stem won’t grip the frame properly.

Seat Position

Some riders usually prefer a seat that’s tilted slightly backward or forward. However, most people prefer one that’s pretty much level so that they don’t feel as if they are slipping off the back or sliding forward. It might take some trial and error so as to see what will work best for you. Basically the seat should be well-positioned so that your feet rest naturally above pedals and when you decide to extend the leg through the bike, it’s almost completely straight at the bottom. You don’t have to move hips from side to side so as to reach out to the pedals.

Tweaking the Bike Fit

Once you have decided on a frame size, you can now fine tune your bike’s fit. The next important adjustment to make here is the setting the saddle and bar height. You should check out on how to get the bike seat right before you get started. You might also want to change or adjust the stem because that can also have effects on your reach (how far you’re reaching forward to handlebars) as well as the performance and handling of the bike.

Further tweaks may include adjusting the aft/fore position and tilts of your saddle, the distance to brake levers and the angle of your handlebars. Most of these changes can actually be made in a bike shop. As part of the bike’s fitting session, the bike fit experts will allow you to ride on a fixed trainer so as to check the bike’s position and make sure that everything fits perfectly.

Summary

Once you’ve determined the type of bicycle that suits your needs, you’ll be ready to shop. Nevertheless before you decide hand over your credit card or cash, you should always do a fit so as to ensure the bike is also the right size for you. Fitting the bicycle will go a very long way towards how successful and comfortable it will be. It is also particularly important for kids because buying a bike that they can “grow into” can be dangerous if it is oversize.

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