Step 5 – Get a Proper Setup Done

 

I briefly touched on bike setup in an earlier article and mentioned the importance of riding the correct size bicycle and then having a bike fitting done. Cycling by nature is highly repetitive and when done over extended periods of time can cause pain and injury if your setup is not correct.

Most bike brands are very similar in size specifications however our bodies differ immensely. Your cycling friend might be 1.75m tall much like yourself but chances are his body, arm and leg lengths are substantially different. This means that he may be comfortable on a medium bike but because of the inseam length of your leg (groin to foot) you are better suited to a large frame. The same is true for body length as this will determine what top tube length (saddle to stem) will fit you best.

bicycle fitCrank arms are available to accommodate shorter or taller riders and while most of us fit into a the 172.5mm and 175mm arm length the manufacturers provide lengths from 160mm up to 180mm for our much shorter or taller friends.

Saddle position and height are next on the list that we need to check, most bike fitment professionals (yes there are professionals that do this) recommend that the knee joints at the bottom of the pedal stroke sits between 104 to 144 degrees on the open angle. The seat post then needs to be moved up and down to get the correct position.

To determine the correct fore or aft position of the saddle we use a plumb line (a thin line or string that has a heavy weight on the end). Firstly turn the pedal until the forward crank arm is parallel to the ground, the one end of the plumb line is placed on the inside of the knee just behind the patella (knee cap) and should fall directly in the middle of the spindle that fastens your pedal to the crank arm. You can then adjust the seat position to ensure the line and spindle stay aligned when seated.

If you were wondering how to take the measurement of the knee angle you can use a tool called a gonio-meter which we will use again to measure the next section of the setup, your reach.

Reach is the well… exactly that, it is how far you are reaching forward with your arms to grab your handle bars. Your reach can be altered by changing the length and angle of the stem, the defacto standard for shoulder angle is 90 degrees and should have most riders sitting comfortably. Stems vary in length from 70mm to 140mm so there will be one to suit your body.

There are dozens of other measurements that can be done but I have mentioned the more important ones that will have the biggest impact on your comfort. As you spend more time on the bike, cover more distance and potentially look for a more aggressive racing position you will learn and feel which dimensions you want to tweak.

Enjoy the ride.

Step 4 - Stay Safe on the Bike
Step 6 – Keep Your Bike in Top Condition

24 Responses to “Step 5 – Get a Proper Setup Done”

  1. Steve

    Nov 14. 2014

    Please make sure you get the right size bike, I bought a 2nd hand bike 6 months ago and was incredibly uncomfortable on the bike, a friend mentioned that he thought the bike was the incorrect size. I took the bike to a shop that traded it in and it has made a huge difference to my riding.

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  2. Louis R

    Nov 23. 2014

    The bike setup that most bike shops offer is very basic, if you have access to a profession bike setup it is well worth it, probably cost you around $60.

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  3. William

    Nov 25. 2014

    And there I thought I could just buy a bike and hop onto it, looks like cycling is getting quite scientific.

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  4. Giulio T.

    Nov 27. 2014

    Wow, as per the previous comment I also thought it was a matter of climbing on the bike, so much to learn and get done even before you get on the road.

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  5. Orson M

    Dec 24. 2014

    Could poor setup be the cause of knee pain? I have had severe knee pain for 3 or 4 months now.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 13. 2015

      It most definitely could be the cause so get the height of your saddle checked and the position of your shoe. If the pain persists then you might need to consult a physician.

      Reply to this comment
  6. Nicholas

    Dec 24. 2014

    I have been riding for a month now and get a sore back, is this setup?

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 13. 2015

      It could be but when I started cycling I had back pain and stiffness for almost 2 months, if you had a setup done then it could just be your back getting used to the position on the bike, again if it persists then get it checked.

      Reply to this comment
  7. James

    Feb 08. 2015

    If I sit on my bike I struggle to touch the ground with my feet, is this right?

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 13. 2015

      Well yes and no, not being able to touch the ground is not an indication of a good setup and if you didn’t have one done it would be a great idea to do so.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Tony Willis

    Feb 17. 2015

    I have had back problems for years (not from cycling) and I got a proper setup done, the guys were great and managed to find a comfortable position on the bike for me using stem angles, let the guys doing your setup know if you have any problems and they can adjust the bike accordingly.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 13. 2015

      Good advice, no matter how small a niggle or injury might be it is always diligent to let the person doing your setup know any history or current injuries.

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  9. Kendrick

    Mar 14. 2015

    Very interesting article and comments, making an appointment to get a setup done tomorrow.

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  10. Darrell D.

    Apr 16. 2015

    After reading your article I went for a setup and had 40mm taken off my stem length and lifted my saddle by 48mm, sounds like a little but according to guy who did the setup these are huge.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Eddie Pfister

    May 09. 2015

    A bit of a rant from me, I had a setup done a few months back and the person who did the setup did not tighten the bolts properly, anyway I ended up crashing and breaking a collarbone. Moral of the story: Check your bolts after a setup.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 13. 2015

      That’s really bad, I hope you took this up with them. Very poor service.

      Reply to this comment
  12. Joe P.

    Jun 03. 2015

    Do you have any advice for neck pain that will not go away, I’m struggling here?

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 13. 2015

      Firstly if this has been going on for months then I would always advise that you see a health professional, then if your neck is okay I would look at the setup of your stem and handle bar, these can be adjusted to find an angle that suits you.

      Reply to this comment
  13. Carlos

    Jun 15. 2015

    I am very interested in this and would like to know where a person can learn how to do setup’s.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 13. 2015

      There are short courses that a person can take to learn very basic setup techniques but many of the top level specialists have spent time with sports physicians and other specialists to learn the trade. I would advise getting hold of a specialist to shadow that they do and learn from them.

      Reply to this comment
  14. Wat M

    Jun 19. 2015

    Hi, I bought a bike a few weeks ago and had a setup done immediately, the guys at the bike shop did it free of charge and it included all the points your article mentioned. Was awesome to read up why it was done.

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