The cyclist’s features also come into play. Beyond measurements such as the rider’s height and inseam length, the rider’s gender and torso length also come into play. Some people have long arms and short hands while others have short torsos and long legs.
One more specification that comes into play is the type of mountain bike and the purpose for which it will be ridden. Ultimately, the best way to find a perfect fit for you is test driving the bike to have a feel of how it fits.
Why does it matter to find a good fit?
A bad fit can cause injuries and pains. Common injuries and pains caused by bad mountain bike fit include knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain, arm pain, neck pain, hip pain and chest pains. Bad fit also compromises performance. It compromises speed and energy efficiency.
Below are the different parameters to use when determining a suitable mountain bike fit.
1. Frame size:
The frame size is paramount. Consider its size and material. A suitable fit should feel comfortable. You won’t be too high, too low or too stretched out. You should be able to place both feet on the ground while seated. When choosing a mountain bike for riding in rough terrains consider going for a size smaller than your ideal to enhance performance.
2. Comfort when sitting:
Ideally, for a comfortable fit, your shoulders should be relaxed, elbows slightly bent. Slightly bend on the knees at the bottom pedal stroke.
3. Saddle height and saddle position
You’ve got to get your saddle height right. The saddle height is right when your heel is comfortably on top of the pedal in the bottom stroke with a slight bend on the knee.
When trying to determine the right saddle position, begin with a level top then adjust accordingly. Some riders prefer a slightly tipped back saddle to enhance riding downhill and in steep hills. For most riders a flat saddle works. Play around with flat to slightly tipped forward or back saddle to find the best fit.
4. Handlebar reach and height
While beginners may feel more comfortable with handlebars that are set at a higher position than the saddle, some cyclists prefer a parallel position of saddle and the handlebar. In fact, many cross country racers prefer a handlebar height lower than the saddle height to achieve aerodynamic effectiveness when they ride.
As for the handlebar reach, you do not want to have to bend too much to reach the handle bar. Neither do you want to be crouching too much too. The ideal handlebar reach for trail bikes is such that the tip of your elbow is placed at the saddle at a slightly bent position and then the longest finger is falls easily on the handlebar stem. As with all other factors of the fit, to find the best fit you’ve got to ride and feel it.
The tires, rear shock and suspension fork provide adjustable cushioning to the bike. Tire pressure is essential in determining how much shock absorption your bike offers you. The amount of pressure that is appropriate will depend on the weight of the rider and whether or not the tire is has a tube. The average weight rider will do well with 35psi while a lighter rider can do with 30psi. heavier and hard hitting cyclists should aim for 40psi and above.
The fork and suspension pressure depend on the make and model of the bike. Aim for an initial sag of between 1/3 to a 1/4 of the available travel.
In addition to finding the suitable tires, besides pressure consider tire compounds. Tires with a high number of threads per inch will deform with ease in rough terrains therefore improving grip and increasing rolling resistance. Wheels with threads have a less firm grip and are likely to lose traction especially in wet grounds.
While there are adjustments that can be made a mountain bike to achieve a perfect fit, it is best to get a good fit from the onset. Making adjustments can be expensive. Besides, if not done properly, they can compromise the functionality of other parts of the bike.
With that said, before settling for specific ride setup, tweak some aspects a bit and see how it feels. At times, all we need to do is make slight bike setup changes and they will make the whole difference. Many manufacturers and mountain bikes sellers do their best to ensure that their customers get a perfect bike ride. Look out for manufacturer’s guidance to achieve specific fit.
Mountain bikes come in different sizes and styles and it can be difficult to determine a perfect fit for you. The perfect fit goes beyond the size of the bike. Other factors such as the reach stack, handlebar angles, seatback post among others come in play. Manufacturers also give specifications for fitting bikes.