For the uninitiated, bike sizing sometimes seems like a mashup of measurements, labels, lengths, and random qualifiers. Unlike shoes where there’s some consistency between brands and even a handy little tool to put your foot in to get an exact answer, bike fitting boils down more to the rider’s preferences, flexibility, and riding style as opposed to just body measurement. In today’s post, we’ll breakdown the keys to picking the right size bike for you to enjoy the mountain.
The first thing to check is standover height. Standover height is a measurement of the distance from ground to the top of the top tube with the bike standing upright. When you’re riding, you want to be able to stop, place your feet flat on the ground, and not have to tilt or lean the bike to avoid contact with the top tube. Doing that tip-toe, hop, and lean, to keep from tipping over not only looks silly, it can be a good way to go down on uneven and offroad terrain.
To weed out sizes by standover height, simply take a measurement of your inseam from the ground (your pants inseam measurement will usually only be to the cuff of your pants). Compare that number to the standover height for the bikes and make sure you’ll have at least an inch or two of clearance when it comes time to dismount!
Luckily, most mountain bikes use a less aggressive top tube than road bikes, so hopefully you won’t run into too many sizes that are “too tall” for you. But you’ll be able to eliminate all the sizes that you wouldn’t be able to hop on and off comfortably.
Reach / Leg Extension
The next thing to consider when comparing bike sizes is your preferred reach (from the saddle to the bars) and leg extension (from the saddle to the pedals). There’s no shortage of research and advice into the ideal geometry and ratio for power transfer, aerodynamics, etc… but unless you’re going pro, the most important thing is being comfortable.
If you already have a bike you love, it’ll be as simple as measuring your current ride. Jot down your reach, leg extension, and get a general sense of the rise or drop from the bars to the saddle too. A low saddle puts your body more upright on the bike while a high saddle will have you in a more aggressive, leaned forward position. Then, just compare those measurements to the models you’ve been looking at and find the one whose fit matches the bike you’re already comfortable on!
If you don’t already have a bike that fits you, there are general calculations you can find online to guesstimate your reach and leg extension, but the best way to get the perfect fit is just to pop into the shop to get measured up and take some test rides! That way you’ll get a feel for a lot of different set-up options and you’ll be able to make minor adjustments until you’re at a fit that feels natural. Then, you’ll be able to apply that newfound fit to whichever line of bikes you like best!
Color / Appearance
This may seem like a surprise, but the look of a bike will probably be one of the biggest influences on your ride time and enjoyment. At ASO, we always thought the best bike is the one you ride and, if your bike’s not getting you excited to hit the mountain, you’ll probably end up doing something else with your day.
That’s why style, color, graphics, etc… may not make a performance difference for the pros, but for the average rider, being able to hop on a bike that excites you, reflects your personality, and is all-around-awesome can make all the difference. So sure, it’s not a physical “fit”, but finding a bike that “fits your style” will play a huge role in how much you enjoy your time in the saddle. Remember how much more fun running looked in those light up shoes versus regular old sneakers? Find a bike that lights you up the same way and you’ll be pushing the pedals every chance you get!
And that’s it! Take a few measurements to help you narrow the field, swing by the shop for a more personalized fit and some test rides, and then choose the bike that revs you up for riding. We’ll see you on the mountain!