Finding the right bike saddle height can be a bit of a process, but it’s the foundation of a good bike fit. Just imagine you’re Goldilocks, and have to go through the process of having it too hight, too low, and then just right. Once you find the perfect spot, you’ll want to mark it somehow. That way if it gets readjusted somehow (like your kid borrows your bike), then you can easily find the sweet spot again.
Why Bike Saddle Height Matters
Ensuring that your seat is at the right height will make a difference when it comes to how much power you transfer to the pedals, and how much energy you use to move forward. It also effects how comfortable you are on your bike, which simply results in being able to spend more time in the saddle. You’ll be able to ride longer and push yourself harder. Riding with the wrong bike saddle height will most likely result in pain and injury in the knees, lumbar vertebrae, and the ankles.
How to tell if your bike saddle height is too low
Riding with your seat too low is a common mistake for beginners, as it can be easier to get on and off that way. A saddle too low or too far forward can cause tendonitis of the patella or quadriceps, which will both show up as pain in the front of the knee. So, if you have pain in your kneecap after riding, you will want to try adjusting your saddle height and position.
Get someone to hold you steady on your bike, or balance yourself in a doorway. Hop on and get into pedalling position, while letting your legs dangle straight down. Pedal backwards until one leg is at it’s lowest point. Your heel should barely be able to touch at the bottom when your leg is fully extended. If you can easily reach make your saddle height higher.
How to tell if your bike saddle height is too high
A saddle that is too high will cause the hips to rock back and forth. Not only does this detract from pedalling efficiency, but it can also be extremely uncomfortable. Discomfort can show up in your lower back or as knee pain (especially in the back of the knee).
Have someone watch you ride from behind, whether out on the road or on a stationary trainer. The hip wobble should be easy for them to see, and you’ll want to bring your seat down a little. Or, if you bring your foot to the bottom of the pedal stroke, your heel should barely be able to touch at the bottom when your leg is fully extended (see photo above). If you can’t touch the pedal at all, then lower the seat.
When you get a new saddle
Generally speaking, most beginner cyclists set their bike seat position initially and then adapt to it, but that’s not the best option. This is particularly true when changing from one saddle to another. The differences in padding thickness and design can throw off your bike seat position drastically. Changing saddles should always include taking a good hard look at seatpost height.
If your new saddle is making you uncomfortable, don’t adapt to it before adjusting the seatpost to get your actual position exactly the same as the old one. Knowing how your seatpost is integrated with your saddle will allow you to change your position or saddle as needed to keep you the most comfortable on the bike.
Bike geometry is the collection of measurements (lengths and angles) that make up a bike frame. In short, everything on a bike can be changed, but the geometry cannot. Looking at geometry charts on manufacturer’s websites can be confusing, but all those numbers translate into very real and understandable concepts.
There is a lot to know about bike geometry, but understanding the basics can go a long way in ensuring you choose the right bike for your style of riding. Bike geometry can help you understand how a bike will handle, feel, and how comfortable it will be to you.
Most bike manufacturers provide bike geometry charts within the description of the bike, but what is included does vary. Most will include frame size, head and seat tube lengths, top tube length, wheelbase, and chainstay length. Others will also include stack and reach measurements, fork rake, bottom bracket drop, and trail.
Stack and Reach
Stack and reach are the two fundamental elements that can help you determine right away if a bike will fit you. This is especially important because it helps standardize fit between size and manufacturer. Even if a bike is labelled as “medium” or 53cm, the actual fit can differ by up to 2 cm.
- Stack is the vertical distance (in cm) from the center of the frame’s bottom bracket to the top of the head tube, where the fork passes through the frame. It gives an indication of how tall a frame is.
- Reach is the horizontal distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the top-centre of the head tube. This gives an indication of how long a frame is excluding the stem.
Head Tube Angle, Fork Rake, and Trail
The head tube angle is the angle of the head tube in relation to the ground, with the angle being either ‘slack’ or ‘steep.’ The classic head tube angle for a road bike is 73 degrees, so a steeper angle (higher number) will mean less effort to steer making it better for high speeds. A more slack angle (lower number) may require more effort to steer, but perform much better at slow speeds.
Head tube length is just what is sounds like. Longer head tubes result in a more upright riding position. Short head tubes lower the front of the bike, putting you in a more aerodynamic position.
Fork Rake (Offset)
Fork rake or fork offset is the distance between the steering axis and the wheel center. Whether the fork is curved forward or is straight, but angles, if the offset is the same then it will handle the same. Generally speaking, less fork rake will increase the trail as the center of the wheel is moved back from the steering axis, and more fork rake means less trail.
Trail is a bit more complicated, and can be difficult to wrap your brain around. Think of it as the tire patch trailing behind the steering axis, determined by the head tube angle and the fork rake. The steeper the headtube angle, the less trail there will be.
Its impact on the feel of the bike is arguably more important and much simpler. A small amount of trail will result in a fast handling bike, meaning it will require less rider input and will handle well at high speeds. The downside is a certain amount of twitchiness, making for a rougher ride. A large amount of trail will result in a slow handling bike, so it will take more work from the rider to steer at high speeds, but will feel more stable and smooth.
Bottom Bracket Drop
The bottom bracket drop is effectively how low you sit on the bike. It is measured by the vertical distance the center of the bottom bracket sits below the wheel axis.
The lower (more) the bottom bracket drop, the better the bike will corner and the faster it will respond (as your center of gravity is lower). The issue is pedal clearance, because the bottom bracket can only be so low before the pedals will catch ground while leaning into a corner.
Less bottom bracket drop will feel more stable at slow speeds, but will be reluctant to corner. This means more input from you through the handlebars to corner.
Seat Tube Angle
The seat tube angle is the angle of the seat tube in relation to the ground. This angle will generally be between 71-74 degrees, and doesn’t vary as much as the head tube angle. You can effectively influence the seat tube angle by changing the saddle position to be more slack or steep.
Chainstay length is the horizontal distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the rear axle.
The chainstay length impacts the length of the wheelbase (distance between front and rear wheel axles) as well as the handling of the bike. Bikes with long chainstays will have more stability, as well as allowing room for panniers, making great touring and endurance bikes. Performance bikes, however, will have a shorter chainstay length for sharper handling.
Each measurement on its own can give you a snapshot into how a bike will fit and feel, but they all rely on each other. To get an idea, try looking at two bikes with very different geometry and then ride each one, paying attention to how it handles. You can then refer to those charts, picking out elements that worked and others that didn’t. For more information, getting a professional bike fit is always a great place to start in figuring out what will work best for you and your type of riding.
Neck pain from cycling is one of the most common injuries, but it is often left unaddressed. Pain of any kind is your body telling you something, and shouldn’t be ignored. Typically, the discomfort is localized in your anterior deltoids, upper trap muscles and neck extensors. This can be attributed to a few causes such as bike fit, head positioning when riding, and muscle tightness.
What Causes Neck Pain
As a beginner cyclist it’s important to work with a bike fitting specialist and tweak one thing at a time, ride for about a week, and assess the changes. This allows you and the fitter to pinpoint the exact solution or cause in order to improve riding conditions.
Often neck pain from cycling is linked to having a high seat post in relation to your bars. When the seat post is too high it can place you in an aggressive position, which your body may not be ready for. It’s a better tactic to gradually increase the aero position as you get used to cycling. Additionally, if your road or aero bars are too far away causing you to overreach you can place unnecessary strain on these muscles. The solution would be to place the bars closer in relation to your body so you’re in a “tucked” position when riding.
It’s natural to try and keep your head up on your bike, looking forward to ensure you don’t swerve off the road. The key is to learn to look up with you eyes, rather than your entire head. Keeping your head down puts less strain on your neck, and allows you to ride for longer periods of time without irritating the muscles.
As a beginner cyclist you are now forcing your body to use muscles either it hasn’t in other activities or in a different way. This leads to tightness, muscles spasms, and pain. However, there are a few stretching exercises that can be completed which will lead to disruption of the pain-spasm cycle.
How to Treat Neck Pain from Cycling
Stretching is the best way to keep the neck muscles relaxed and prevent neck pain. Adding these stretches into your routine (or building a routine around them) will help keep you pain free, or address any neck pain you may already have. Hold each one for 20-30 seconds, and repeat at least twice.
Stand with your back straight, feet shoulder-width apart, and your arms at your sides. Look straight ahead and relax. Let your head drop forward by bringing your chin to your chest. Keep your back straight and your eyes on your toes as you hold this position. You can put your hands behind your head and pull down gently to extend the stretch.
This stretch is for cyclists who experience muscle tension at the back of their neck after spending extended periods of time on the bike.
Neck and bend rotation
Stand with your legs slightly apart, your back and neck straight, and look forward. Your hands can be at your sides, or clasped behind your back. Lower and rotate your head to the left, looking down toward the ground. Relax into the stretch, trying to extend the movement. You should feel the stretch along the right side of the neck. Bring your left arm up and gently pull down on your head to lengthen the stretch. Repeat the movement, lowering your head to the right.
This stretch is especially important for track and road racers who spend a lot of time in an aerodynamic position, creating tension in the neck and head extensor muscles.
Lateral neck bend
Stand with your feet slightly apart, back and neck straight. Raise your right arm and place it on the left side of the head, with your forearm going over top of your head. Your fingers should be pointing towards the ground, with your fingertips touching your ear. Gently pull down on your head, leaning so your ear is approaching your shoulder. Keep your shoulder down and relaxed throughout the stretch. Repeat with your left arm reaching up to the right side of your head.
Rear neck pull
Turn your head slightly to the left. Raise your left arm and place your hand on the top of your head, fingers pointing down the back of your hand, forearm resting on the top of your head. Even though your head is turned, keep your neck and back in line with your body. Gradually pull on your head, rotating so your face is near your armpit.
Sit or stand, keeping your neck, shoulders, and torso straight. Looking straight ahead, imagine there is a star in front of your with a vertical line, horizontal line, and two diagonal lines. Trace the vertical line, looking up at the ceiling and then bringing the chin down to the chest three times. Next, follow the horizontal line side to side once. Finally, trace the two diagonal lines once each. Return to the starting position and repeat three more times. This is a great stretch because is combines flexion, extension, rotation and lateral rotation to give you a complete neck stretch.
An uncomfortable bike saddle can quickly turn your bike from an instrument of joy to one of torture. Not only can it be extremely painful, but it can also lead to long term injuries or saddle sores as you contort your position on the bike trying to lessen the discomfort. There are a number of factors that contribute to how comfortable bike saddle is, but the most important one is you.
We are all built differently, so there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to a perch for your unique bottom. What feels comfortable to one person, will feel like torture to another. So, we will outline some things to look into before starting the search for you dream saddle, but keep in mind that it will likely come down to trial and error.
You may think that the wider the saddle, the more comfortable it would be, but this is not the case. Neither are narrow saddles the be all end all when it comes to finding the best fit. The first step towards finding the most comfortable bike saddle is to measure the distance between your sit bones. This can be done with an “Assometer” at your local bike shop, or at home with a piece of paper and a pencil. Once you know the distance between your sit bones you will want to add 2 cm, 1 cm past the sit bones on each side.
If a saddle is too wide, the nose of it can start to rub on the inside of your quads. If it is too narrow then you sit bones will not be your main point of support for your weight. The pressure will then come down onto soft tissue, which can be extremely painful over any amount of time or distance.
The popularity of cut outs largely came from a 1997 study. It claimed that reduced blood flow caused by saddle pressure could potentially lead to erectile dysfunction and permanent reproductive failure in men. Although this has since been disproved, the concern is still there. It comes down to personal preference and what feels most comfortable to you.
A test to see if you might benefit from a center cut-out is to sit on a hard wooden chair or bench and lean forward without arching your back to where you can rest your elbows on your knees. Sit like this for a few minutes and if you find that there is adverse pressure and discomfort on the soft tissue being pressured then you will most likely benefit from a cut-out in your saddle.
Softness / Firmness
It’s easy to think that the more padding a saddle has the more comfortable it will be, but it actually puts more pressure on sensitive areas. It can pinch and chafe rather than support your sit bones. The ideal firmness will put enough weight on your sit bones, while still providing enough padding to be comfortable. Some riders prefer no padding at all as it puts the pressure exactly where they want it, but that isn’t the case for everyone.
There are two general shapes for saddles when viewed from above: T-shaped and pear-shaped. If you have issue with chafing or your quads rubbing together, then T-shaped will be the better option for you. A pear-shaped saddle can be good fit if you shift your position a lot while riding, as there will be more evenly dispersed support.
The second aspect of saddle shape if how flat or rounded the surface it. When viewed from the back, how much curvature does the saddle have? You want it to be slightly curved to keep you centered on the saddle, but not so curved that there is pressure on the central areas between your sit bones.
Looking at saddles designed specifically for men or women may be a good place to start, but don’t let it dictate your decision. Women typically have wider set sit bones, and therefore require slightly wider saddles. That being said, many women find mens saddles that work perfect for them, just as many men ride on womens saddles.
Comfortable Bike Saddles
The B17 design was first introduce in 1910, so it may seem odd to be highlighting it here. However, the fact that this saddle has changed very little over the past century speaks to “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” It was made for those long distance tours, with a wider shape and a slim, short nose making it ideal for a more upright position on the bike. Handmade in Birmingham, this leather saddle molds to your bottom over time, giving you the ultimate personalized support.
Unlike the Brook saddle, the X series has no break in period, and is quite comfortable for most riders right from the start. The leather top is supported by a stiffer laminate layer glues to the underside, striking the balance between comfort and durability. The slot shape is meant to eliminate perineal pressure, sit bone pain, and saddle sores.
Bontrager Montrose Elite Saddle
Intended to be one of the more all-purpose saddles on the market, the Bontrager Montrose Saddle has been perfected year after year. It uses something called inForm BioDynamics to optimize your natural movement on the bike. This helps eliminate any restrictions on your legs or power output, whether racing or heading out for a group ride.
It may not look like much, but this simple design is one of the more popular in recent years. Available in three shapes to suit your position on the bike, you can find a specific fit to your riding style. It brings together the perfect combination of comfort, performance, and unique construction. Plus, with the waterproof microfiber, the Fabric Scoop is durable and will stand up to years of use.
Weighing in at just 122.1g, this saddle is for racers who are worried about adding any weight to their bike. The stiff design allows for an efficient transfer of power, and is made for those who ride in an aggressive position.
This light (155g), low-profile design and narrow carbon fibre injected shell is built for the faster riders who prize long-term support. The comfort comes from the shock-absorbing ‘Vector Wing’ rather than padding, so the flat profile will suit hardened racers, but can seem harsh for casual riders.
It is extremely important to find a saddle that not only fits your contour, but is also comfortable. Your saddle is the most important comfort piece on the bike as it holds the majority of your weight, so don’t rush into it. Even with the right size saddle, flat-ness, firmness, and cut-out preference, you may have to adjust your saddle further through minor tilt adjustments.
If you have wide feet, you know the feeling. A numbing pain and screaming pinky toes that have had enough of being crushed into the side of an ill-fitting cycling shoe. The good news it: you’re not alone. There are specifically made wide cycling shoes to cater to your aching toes.
Clipless pedals are a must when it comes to efficient pedalling on a bike, but their coinciding cycling shoes can be a little unforgiving. Unlike regular shoes, cycling shoes are rigid, most often made from materials that do not stretch out over time. So, if you’re feet measure somewhere in between hobbit feet and flippers, then here are some of the best options out there.
Before You Buy New Shoes
Getting a pair of specific wide cycling shoes, or at least a brand that has a bit more breathing room, is going to be your best option. However, before you make the investment, make sure you’ve tried everything to make your current shoes work.
- Try ultra-thin socks – Assuming it’s not below freezing where you’re riding, trying a super thin pair of socks could help create enough space in your shoes to make them work. Check out Castelli’s line of thin cycling socks, or Swiftkick Aspire. Even if they don’t fix the shoe problem, they are great cycling socks to have.
- Get a bike fit – Make sure the problem really is being caused by shoes that are too tight, and not an improper bike fit. If your cleats are not in the right spot, or if your saddle isn’t adjusted properly, it can cause pain in your feet. It’s worth a visit to your local bike shop for a bike anyways if you haven’t had one.
Finding The Right Fit
If you’re buying shoes in a store, you can actually take the insole out and measure it against your foot if you’re not sure how the shoe should feel. Your heel should be right at the back of the insole, and there should be 3-5mm from the end of your toes the top of the insole.
If you’re buying online, you will need to measure your foot. Get a regular piece of paper and put it on the floor, right up against a wall. Place your foot on the paper, with your heel pushed against the wall. Draw a line at the end of your big toe. Measure the length in cm, and add 5mm to the number to establish the length of shoe you need. You will also want to measure the circumference of the widest part of your foot. You can then reference these numbers with sizing charts from the manufacturer you choose to buy your shoes from.
Wide Cycling Shoes
It can be tempting to just go a size bigger when you’re purchasing cycling shoes for some extra room, but this can actually cause even more problems. The extra length may feel good on your toes while you’re in the store, but it will cause your feet to slip within the shoe when you’re clipped in. Not only will this feel awful, but it can cause your cleat to be placed too far forward, taking a toll on your power and efficiency.
That being said, there are shoes made specifically for wide feet that will ensure your toes are nice and comfy, but keep your foot is locked into the correct position. See the following for some of the best options out there.
Shimano has the most options when it comes to the wider fit, offering regular and wide sizes on most of their shoes. The Shimano RP3 cycling shoes are a great entry level shoe, with a fiberglass reinforced nylon sole and three adjustment points for the perfect fit.
Exactly the same as the CX237 shoe, the wide version gives an additional 15mm wiggle room compared to the regular width. With a carbon sole, and two micro-adjustable Boa dials, you have the ability to make adjustments to the fit of the heel and forefoot so you get a secure fit without sacrificing your circulation.
They may be harder to find, but Bont Cycling has a few heat-molding shoe options that make them popular for those with wide feet. The Riot and Vaypor models both offer a custom fit through heat-molding that can be repeated until you are happy with the result.
The Shimano R321 was released in 2016 with heat moldable Custom-Fit technology applied through to the upper, insole, and heel cup. This does not, however, allow for a widening of the shoe in general, so they have a wide version available in each size. The sole construction itself gives an extra 11mm of adjustment range, so you can find the ideal shoe-pedal connection.
Bike seat position is a personal thing; it’s delicate. Professional roadies obsess over seat height down to the half-millimeter. Dialing-in your bike seat position can require hours and hours in the saddle. The relationship between saddle and seat posts is critical, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Bike Seat Position – It Changes
Dialed-in, bike seat position can be difficult to ascertain and maintain and even when you do get it right, it can change due to a plethora of factors and variables. Sometimes you run the same seat height for thousands of miles only to discover that your body has changed, requiring a change in saddle, seatpost, or both. Sometimes you have a nagging pain in your back, thigh, calf, or other body part that won’t go away. Sometimes you realize you’ve been running the wrong seat height all along because you just haven’t given it enough thought.
Starting with a few basics is important if you’re new to cycling. All bikes have a seatpost. The seatpost is the tube that connects the frame of the bicycle to the saddle where you sit. Seatposts are vertically adjustable, allowing the frame to accommodate riders of different sizes.
All of the above reasons to change or alter your saddle height require a good, hard look at your seatpost, saddle, and how your bike fits your body. If things don’t measure up, moving your seatpost, or changing your saddle might not be enough for optimum performance regarding seatpost and saddle height. Use the methods provided in this article to find your ideal saddle height and set-back.
- Seatpost Diameter: Diameter is the first dimension to consider when changing, working with, or choosing a seatpost. It must correspond to the internal diameter of the seat tube on the bike’s frame inorder to have a snug fit. Most contemporary road bike frames accept a standard seatpost of 27.2-mm or an oversized 31.8-mm, but but other sizes between 21.15 and 35mm can also be found. Whatever the diameter, don’t try to force a big seatpost into a smaller sized seat-tube, or use a smaller seatpost in a frame that’s made for a larger diameter. Even if it seems like it fits, at some point it will come back to haunt you.
- Big Versus Small: Oversized posts add stiffness and strength for optimum power transfer as well as resistance to bending. More narrow posts however can be more comfortable over rough surfaces because they tend to have a little more cushion, primarily because they do bend and flex.
- Seatpost Length: Seatpost length is another variable. The amount of post emerging from the frame depends on frame size, geometry, and your own body dimensions. It’s important to have a minimum amount of post remaining inside the frame. Too much post extended above the frame makes for a leverage ratio that can crack or snap the post or actually break the frame itself. Most posts have a “minimum insertion” line etched on the shaft. It’s never a good idea to violate the minimum insertion rule. If your post is too long and bottoms out on the water bottle bolts, you can cut the post to shorten it. Just make sure you don’t cut it too short should you need to raise it in the future.
- Clamps and Saddles: The majority of seatposts rely on clamps designed to accommodate saddles with a dual rails underneath which use bolts to secure the top part of a clamp to the rails of the saddle. The clamp bolts can be loosened, allowing you to slide the saddle forward and back to your preferred position. Most seatpost clamps also adjust for tilt enabling you to fine-tune your fit with the nose up or nose down but level is generally ideal. The tilt adjustment is one of those that you should ride for a few days or even weeks. The right amount of tilt can seem uncomfortable at first, but later on, you will thank yourself for getting it in the most comfortable position.
Bike Seat Position
Setback is a design element of a seatpost. Setback refers to a bend or curve in the upper section of a seatpost that positions the saddle toward the back of the bike instead of directly above the center of the seatpost. It’s beneficial on frames with extremely vertical seat tubes, offsetting the rider from a vertical position. Some riders also prefer a setback because it puts them and the saddle in a more efficient position to utilize the quad and hamstring muscles more effectively.
Seatposts are available with a “set-forward” position. This position puts the rider with more of their torso over the pedals. These harder-to-find models are sometimes used on time-trial or triathlon bikes to provide maximum power on flatter terrain. If you’re concerned about setback, getting a professional bike fit or determining your fit on your own is highly recommended to determine how much setback is needed for your frame and body or if you and your bike even need setback on your post.
It’s probably not an option for die-hard roadies, but some bikes with drop bars have borrowed technology from mountain bikers. The dropper post is an automatic seatpost that can be adjusted on the fly. The road bike version has two settings, one for cruising and one for descending. Flip a switch, and the dropper post lowers to lower your center of gravity to go faster on the downhill, with better stability, while staying out of the way to more easily move around; particularly ideal on the mountain bike. When you reach the bottom of a descent, another touch of the lever shoots the post back up to your traditional height for optimum performance on flat ground.
The right saddle can make a world of difference in bike seat position and comfort. When changing a saddle however, you want to maintain the exact same seat height. The distance from the rails to where your sit-bones lie on a saddle needs to be considered when changing a saddle because of all the variables in saddle design and type. A different saddle could actually raise or lower your position by almost a centimeter in either direction if you just leave the seatpost itself at the same height.
Adjust Versus Adapt
Generally speaking, most beginner cyclists set their bike seat position initially and then adapt to it but that’s not the best option. This is particularly true when changing from one saddle to another. The differences in padding thickness and design can throw off your bike seat position drastically. Changing saddles should always include taking a good hard look at seatpost height. If your new saddle is making you uncomfortable, don’t adapt to it before adjusting the seatpost to get your actual position exactly the same as the old one. Knowing how your seatpost is integrated with your saddle will allow you to change your position or saddle as needed to keep you the most comfortable on the bike.
Over the years, the number of gears on bikes has steadily increased. Today’s normal, generally speaking, is 22 gears through two chainrings and 11 sprockets. However, not only has the number of gears increased, but also the range of sizes for the chainrings and sprockets. Yes, this has allowed riders to fine-tune the gearing on their bike, but bike gear ratios can also be really confusing.
First, you need to understand that the size of chainrings and sprockets define the gearing on a bike. You can determine the size by the number of teeth (T) involved, but more important is the ratio. The ratio speaks to the way that the sprockets multiply the effort made with the chainring.
Bicycle gears began with the introduction of the train drive, making the bicycle a lot more efficient. Historically, bikes were fixed gear, meaning one revolution of the pedals was equal to one revolution of the back wheel, for a 1:1 ratio. With a train drive, however, a single turn of the chainring can produce multiple revolutions of the rear sprocket and wheel.
Example: A 39T chainring is paired with a 12T cog, giving us a ratio of 39:12 or 3.25. So, one complete rotation of the crank will make the rear wheel rotate 3.25 times.
Do bike gear ratios matter?
In short, yes. If your gears are too easy, you’ll get dropped on those flats as you spin out. On the other hand, if they’re too high you’re not going to be able to maintain an efficient cadence on steep climbs. Having the correct gears for you can impact the following:
- Power Output – Your power output, measured in watts, is the most important factor in determining your speed. Bicycle gearing presents resistance, allowing you to transfer this power (through torque and cadence) from your legs into forward movement. Your gears should allow you to get the most from your power, which is varies from rider to rider.
- Cadence – Cadence is the amount of times your foot completes a full pedal stroke in one minute (also known as rpm). First, you need to know what your preferred cadence range is. Do you like to spin in an easier gear, or push at a lower cadence but higher gear?
What are the choices?
As mentioned previously, gear ratios are determined at the crankset and the cassette. Essentially the lower the number of teeth on the chainrings results in an easier gear, and the lower the number of teeth on the cassette creates more resistance (harder gear).
Cranksets set the tone for bike gear ratios on your bicycle. In general, there are three size options that will dictate your gearing and also set your bike up for its intended use.
- Standard (Double)- A standard crankset has a one hundred thirty millimeter bolt circle diameter (or BCD, Campagnolo cranks have a one hundred thirty five millimeter BCD). Almost always, the chainrings on standard cranks are 53 teeth and 39 teeth. Today it is still the choice for most cyclists, unless you will be tackling the steepest and longest of climbs consistently in your rides.
- Compact – Compact cranksets allow a wider range of gearing options with their 110 millimeter BCD. Most often they will come with a 50 and 34 tooth pair of chainrings, but increasingly you will find 52 tooth and 36 tooth pairings. The former is a great all-around combination, especially if you are tackling significant climbs. The latter gives an easier gear for climbing and still has a big enough chainring to not lose very much top-end speed when compared to a standard crankset on the downhills and flat.
- Triple – Until compact cranksets came out, triples were the only way to get a bike dedicated to climbing. The third chainring makes for a slightly heavier and more complicated shifting system. Today you will almost exclusively find them on touring bikes and mountain bikes.
Your cassette will fine tune the gearing of your crankset. The flatter your riding, the closer your gearing should be on your cassette. You will encounter fewer difficulties on your daily rides. With eleven speed cassettes, you could get an 11/25 (referring to the smallest and largest cogs) cassette and never be overgeared and never have more than a two tooth gap between cogs.
The biggest cog on a cassette you can use with a short cage rear derailleur is 28 tooth. Paired with a compact crankset, it is sufficient to ascend all but the longest and steepest climbs. If you need lower gearing, you can get a medium or long cage derailleur and get up to a 36 tooth cog. Note that you may have large gaps between cogs, although that is offset by your ability to get over serious difficulties with relative comfort.
With cassettes less than 11 speeds, you will not have all of the potential options available to you, but you can still find a cassette that will suit your needs. Large cogs are still available and so are cassettes with small gaps between cogs. The small sacrifice you make is not having both large cogs and smaller gaps.
At the end of the day, you want to find the right gear setup so that you can forget about gears altogether and enjoy the ride! Click here for more information and charts to help you find the right gear ratio.
It can be tough to find that perfect tire pressure for both mountain biking and road biking, because there is no easy answer. The perfect tire pressure can vary from day to day depending on the conditions, the type of trail, or the weight of the rider.
If you’re used to riding on smooth, paved roads, it can be difficult to switch your thinking around. The goal of tire pressure for road biking is to minimize the surface area of the part of the tire that makes contact with the road. With mountain biking, however, in many cases you actually want to increase the surface area to create better grip on the terrain.
What is PSI?
Psi stands for ‘pounds per square inch’ and is measured by a gauge that is included with most bike pumps. Check out “How to use a bike pump” for a step by step guide.
What is the right tire pressure?
As mentioned above, there really is no “right” pressure, just the right pressure for you. However, the best starting point is around 25 Psi for tubeless tires and 28 for tubed tires. Invest in a quality tire pressure gauge and use it consistently, as readings can vary depending on the gauge.
Your tires will most likely have manufacturer’s minimum and maximum pressure printed on the side. The max pressure will not be an issue for most mountain bikers (you will run below this number), but take note of the minimum pressure. If you go below this number, you are more likely to risk sidewall damage or pinch flats. Likely your perfect Psi will be somewhere between these two numbers.
Generally speaking lower psi will allow for a smoother ride, as your tires will absorb more of the trail, roll faster, and increase traction (surface area) on the trail. If your Psi is too high, you will find your tire bounces off every little rock or root, making for an uncomfortable ride.
Things to consider:
- Weight – The heavier you are, the higher your tire pressure will need to be to counteract the pressure you are putting down on the tires. 30 Psi may feel too hard for a 130lbs rider, but will be too soft for a 250lbs rider.
- Style – Do you huck yourself off drops and ride down rocky hillsides with aggressive abandon? If so, then you will need to run a slightly higher tire pressure. Contrarily, if you are a bit more reserved, always light on your bike and finding the smoothest lines, then you can run a lower pressure without risking a pinch flat.
- Volume – Gone are the days of the uniform 26in tires, with plus size 27.5 and 29ers becoming increasingly popular. When switching up to a larger size, you are also increasing volume, which means you will need to find a new magic number that works for you.
- Rim width – The rim width determines just how low you can go without compromising performance. The wider rim, the lower pressure you can run, as it will support the tire better than a narrow rim.
- Construction – The outer casing of your tire and the TPI (threads per inch) will determine how the tire feels with more or less pressure.
- Conditions – If it has been raining for weeks on end and you’re heading out onto to slick, muddy trails, lower tire pressure will give you more grip and stability.
- Terrain – Perhaps one of the more important elements to think about before heading out, your tire pressure can vary from trail to trail. Fast and flowy trails can handle a lower tire pressure to absorb those small bumps and have you feel like you’re flying. However, if the terrain is full of jagged rocks and drops, the same tire pressure will have you on the side of the trail with a flat in no time, so you’d want to bump that tire pressure up before heading out.
Finding the Magic Number
Finding your magic Psi is more of a trial by error than a science. A great place to start would be to choose a short section of trail (the type of trail you usually ride) and start at 27 Psi. Ride the section, taking note of whether the tire is compressing to the rim often or is glancing off small obstacles. Increase or decrease the pressure little by little, riding the same section and noticing the difference in grip and speed.
You will be able to run a lower pressure with tubeless or tubeless-ready tires than with a tube-and-tire setup.
The Number 1 Mistake Beginner Mountain Bikers Make
Everyone believes that more pressure = faster, but in mountain biking that is rarely the case. High tire pressure reduces traction and slows forward momentum when hitting a bump.
Professional cross country mountain bikers will run as low as 18 psi in a tubeless tire. Although you may not be a professional, your goal may still be the same, to have the smoothest and fastest ride possible. So change your thinking, less is more.
Changing the pedals on your bike can be a lot trickier than you may think. I’ll admit, I still get confused every time with the unusual pedal threading. That being said, there’s no need to take your bike into a mechanic every time you want to switch over your bike pedal.
Whether you’re travelling with your bike and need to dismantle it, or you’ve invested in some new pedals, armed with the proper tools and instruction you can have them switched over in no time.
What You’ll Need
- Pedal wrench – A pedal wrench has a long handle, and is much thinner than a regular wrench. You may also be able to use a regular 15mm wrench for some pedals, but a specific pedal wrench does make the job a whole lot easier.
- Waterproof bike grease – Before putting pedals back on, you will want to put a thin layer of bike grease on the thread to keep them from tightening too much and seizing.
- Hex wrench – A 6-8mm hex (Allen) wrench is only necessary if your pedal does not have the flat surface on the axle.
What type of pedals do you have?
Have a quick look at your pedal for flat spots on the axle, near the crank arm, that your pedal wrench can grab onto. If there are no flat spots on the bike pedal axle, then you will likely need to use a hex wrench inserted into the end of the pedal axle, on the inside of the crank arm.
Removing a Bike Pedal
Try to have your bike upright on the ground, rather than flipping it upside down. Make sure you have the chain on the largest chainring so if your hand slips you’re not hitting the sharp chainring.
Removing the right pedal
The right pedal is like a traditional nut that you turn counterclockwise (lefty-loosey). Face the drivetrain side of the bike, rotating the crank arm to the 3 o’clock position. Place the pedal wrench on the flat spot between the pedal and the crank arm at the 9 o’clock position and push the wrench downward. Continue turning the wrench until the pedal is loose enough to turn the rest of the way with your fingers.
Removing the left pedal
The left pedal is the opposite of a tradition nut, loosening clockwise. Face the non-drive side of the bike and rotate the crank arm so it is at the 9 o’clock position. Place the pedal wrench on the flat spot between the pedal and the crank arm at the 3 o’clock position and push the wrench downward. Continue turning the wrench until the pedal is loose enough to turn the rest of the way with your fingers.
What to do if a bike pedal is stuck – If the pedal is old and rusted, or has been over-tightened, then you may need to apply a penetrating oil on the section attached to the crank arm. Wait for it to soak in, for most this is around 10 minutes, but you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s guidelines. If it is still not loosening at all, make sure you are turning the wrench the right direction!
Removing pedals with a hex wrench
Removing pedals with a hex wrench is essentially the same process, but you will be fitting the end of the wrench into the back side of the pedal thread. The pedal thread direction is the same, but keep in mind the appearance of the wrench turning clockwise or counterclockwise can look different as you are seeing it from the inside of the pedal.
Installing New Pedals
Before installing new pedals, use a cloth to clean any dirt from both the crank and pedal threads. Apply a thin layer of grease to the pedal threads, as this will make the pedals easier to remove next time, and will keep them from seizing.
Look on the flat surface for a “L” for left and a “R” for right to see which pedal is which. Begin threading the new pedals on with your fingers, making sure you’re turning the right way. If it’s resisting don’t force it, as the pedal should go on smoothly with very little resistance. Turn the right pedal clockwise to tighten, and the left counterclockwise.
Once you have it as tight as possible with your fingers, only then use your pedal or hex wrench.
You want the pedal to be tight, but you also want to be able to take it off again, so don’t tighten too much!