Chapter 3: inspection, adjustment, and lubrication

Fitting Your bicycle

Your position on the bicycle is largely a matter of personal preference blending comfort, efficiency, and balance. Every positioning choice involves some measure of compromise. The compromises you make in adjusting the bicycle to your position should match the type of riding you do and your goals in cycling.

As an example, a very aerodynamic position generally involves being bent deeply over the handlebars. For racing, a deeply bent position may help a rider increase his or her speed. But for casual riding around town, an aerodynamic position may be uncomfortable. However, casual riding usually does not involve high-speed riding where aerodynamics are important. So there isn't a hard-and-fast rule about how to sit on a bicycle.

Generally, you should be comfortable. If you have not ridden a bicycle for some time, it is normal to go through a period of adaptation to the bicycle as you get used to the muscular demands of pedaling and you become accustomed to the pressure of pedals, handlebar, and saddle. But after this period, a bicycle should be comfortable and not cause aches, pains, or numbness.

This section explains the effects of adjustments. The specific sections in Chapter 3 explain how to make the adjustments.

Handlebar position

Handlebar position, the angle, width, and height of the handlebar, is largely a matter of personal preference. The handlebar and saddle work together to balance the rider on the bicycle.

Handlebar height

The higher the handlebar is, the more weight will be on the saddle. And the reverse is also true. Generally, most of the rider's weight should be on the saddle. To accomplish this, the handlebar should be within a few inches, higher or lower, of the same height as the saddle. A lower handlebar position is better for speed, a higher one is better for comfort or balance.

Handlebar angle

As you move the handlebar, you can also rotate it in the stem to change the angle of your hands and wrists. Your hands should be comfortable.

If your hands, arms, or shoulders are uncomfortable or numb you may need to adjust the handlebar or select components more suitable to your personal needs; consult your Gary Fisher dealer.

You can also position the controls on the handlebar, and you will probably need to do this if you rotate the handlebar in the stem. You should be able to easily operate all controls without much movement from your normal riding position, and without having to stretch to reach the controls. With some brake levers, you can change the reach, the distance from the handlebar to the lever.

Adjusting the handlebar is explained in Chapter 3.

Seat position

The seat, the part you sit on when riding a bicycle, is held in place by the seatpost. This configuration allows three adjustments: seat height, seat angle, and seat fore-aft position. The three settings work together to create a good position. Proper setting of all three adjustments  is important for your comfort, pedaling efficiency, and safety.

Seat height

Seat height primarily determines the extension of the rider's knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Extending the knee is the primary source of pedaling power, so seat height is very important to most cyclists. If the seat is too low, power will be low. But if the seat is too high, stress is placed on the knee and lower back.

When wearing your shoes there should be a slight bend in your knee in a proper riding position; with the ball of your foot on the pedal (Figure 1).

Leg extension with proper seat height

Figure 1:

Leg extension with proper seat height

Seat angle

Seat angle determines the support of the pelvis, as well as saddle pressure. If the saddle nose is tipped up, the rider will sit on a wider portion of the saddle. But in this position, the rider may feel excessive pressure in the front of their crotch. If the saddle nose is tipped down, pressure in the front of the crotch will be diminished, but the rider will sit on a narrower section of the saddle. Ideally, a balance is struck between the proper support width and evenly distributed pressure. First try riding with the top of the seat parallel to the ground. With proper adjustment, the right bicycle seat will be reasonably comfortable even for long rides.

Seat fore-aft

The seat can also be adjusted fore-and-aft by sliding it on the seatpost. This adjustment changes the distance from the seat to the handlebars. It also changes the weight distribution on the bicycle. Weight distribution on the wheels affects handling.

As the saddle is moved fore-aft, the weight distribution between the seat and the handlebar also changes. As the seat is moved forward, generally the weight on the handlebar is increased. As the seat is moved back, weight on the handlebar is lessened. But as the seat position is changed, the angle of the hip also changes. As the seat moves back, the hip angle gets tighter, putting more stress on the lower back.

Adjusting the saddle is explained in Chapter 3.

Warning—Extended riding with a poorly adjusted saddle, or one that does not properly support your pelvic area, can cause injury to your nerves and blood vessels. If your saddle causes pain or numbness, re-adjust the saddle position. If after adjustment your saddle still causes pain or numbness, consult your Gary Fisher dealer about further positioning or replacing the saddle with one that better fits you.

Position of the feet on the pedals

The foot position on the pedal determines efficiency and power in the pedal stroke. The position also changes how the muscles work, affecting the biomechanics of the lower leg through the knee. Generally, the foot should be at a comfortable side-to-side angle, with the ball of the foot directly over the pedal axle.

Toe-clip size

If your bicycle is equipped with toe-clips and straps, make sure the toe-clips are the right length (size). Toe-clips come in different lengths to fit different foot sizes. Often they can also be spaced with washers. Toe clips can also be moved side-to-side to accommodate foot width or angle. For more information, see Pedal toe clips.

Cleats for clipless pedals

If your bicycle is equipped with clipless pedals, you should ride in cycling shoes with an attached cleat.

The cleat can usually be positioned for both angle and fore-aft adjustment. For more information, see Clipless pedals and Clipless pedal manuals.

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