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Proper Mountain Bicycle Fitting

by Chris Passas

About Chris Passas

Chris Passas is a freelance writer from Nags Head, N.C. He graduated from East Carolina University in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He has written online instructional articles since September 2009.


Mountain bicycles are available in a variety of sizes, but some simple techniques can help you create a good fit on any size mountain bike. The key to fitting your mountain bicycle is to experiment with basic fitting techniques to find the ideal balance between performance and comfort. Finding a position that works for you can take some time and provide a challenge, but the reward is a greater sense of confidence and security when riding.

Step 1

Step over the bike and stand with one leg on each side of the bike. Grip the handlebars and lift the front of the bike toward you until your pubic area touches the top tube. The clearance from the tire to the floor should be between 1 and 2 inches for mountain bicycles with a full suspension or between 2 and 3 inches for hardtail bikes, according to Trail's Edge Outdoors.

Step 2

Sit on the saddle with your hips square and rotate the pedals until your left pedal is in line with your seat tube at the bottom of your pedaling stroke. Mountain Bike World suggests adjusting the height of the saddle to the point where you can straighten your left leg and touch the pedal with your heel. Pedaling with your seat to high or too low can lead to knee issues and decreased performance.

Step 3

Sit on the saddle and place your hands on the handlebars. You should be able to lift your hands from the handlebars and retain the same position on the saddle without feeling as if you will lose your balance. Adjust the seat forward or back to achieve this balance.

Step 4

With your hands on the handlebars, check the width your hands in relation to your shoulders. Your hands should rest shoulder-width apart, according to Mountain Bike World. If your hands are too narrow or too wide, you may need to change the handlebars on your bike.

Step 5

Check the angle of your elbows while sitting on the saddle and holding the handlebars. Your elbows should be slightly bent. If you have to lock your elbows to reach the handlebars, you may need to replace the stem on your bike with a shorter or more upright stem.

Items you will need

  • Measuring tape
  • Saddle
  • Pliers
  • Handlebars

Photo Credits:

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.