One of the most important factors of bike safety is to make sure that your bike is the right size. Many riders, particularly children, own bicycles that are too big for them. Because bicycles a"Bike shop"re expensive, parents will often purchase them for their children to “grow into.” Riding a bicycle that is the incorrect size can be extremely dangerous, as it becomes easier for the rider to lose control and injure themselves.

Choosing the right bike size can seem overwhelming at first—but the process is actually very straightforward. Visit your local bike shop, and select several bikes that look roughly your size. Try out each step with each bike, comparing fits to determine the best size for your body.

Step 1

Stand over the frame of the bike with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Make sure you are standing over the top tube of the frame, not sitting on the bike seat. There should be roughly two inches of space between the top tube and your body. Typically, this top tube that reaches from the bike seat to the handlebars is found on men’s bikes, but not always on women’s bikes. If the bike you are testing does not have this top tube, estimate where the height of the tube would be and judge accordingly.

Step 2

Once you have determined if your bike has the correct frame size, you will need to adjust the bike seat to ensure it can be set at a height that is comfortable for you. Even though it may feel intuitive to sit on the bike seat and place your feet on the ground, your feet should not be able to fully reach the ground. When you are on the bike seat, there should be a slight bend in your leg as it reaches for the bottom pedal. When your bike seat is at the proper height, you should have to come off the seat and straddle your bike in order to stop.

Step 3

After your bike seat is positioned at the correct height, you will need to make sure the seat is level. You can manually adjust the position of the bike seat so that it is as level as possible. You do not want the seat to tilt forward or angle backward, as this will be both uncomfortable and inefficient for you as a rider. Make sure your weight is centered on the seat so that you can focus on pedaling and not on constantly shifting your body.

Step 4

Now, you will want to adjust the handlebars of your bike. The ideal handlebar height keeps you from straining your back, wrists, or shoulders. It will take some trial and error to determine what is most comfortable for your size. For specific suggestions for different types of bikes, click here.

The higher you set your handlebars, the more upright your torso will need to remain. Although handlebar height is largely preference-based, make sure to never place your handlebars above the minimum insertion mark. This mark exists to ensure your handlebars are placed deep enough inside the bike to safely remain in place. If raised too high, your handlebars could break or come out of the bike.

Asking for help

Associates at bike shops are trained specifically to help you find a bike that fits, so never be afraid to ask for help. Taking the time to find a bike that will work with your body size will help you get the most for your money and will help you ride safely and comfortably. For a more detailed explanation of the above-mentioned steps, visit’s How to Fit a Bike—Is This the Right Size for Me? page.

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Oines and Creative Commons.