Photo by Trevor Block
Whether you’re in a bike shop, browsing the classifieds or at a garage sale, it’s worth being selective. Test-ride different bikes, and don’t be afraid to go further than just around the block. There’s lots of useful advice out there on how a bike should fit, but in the end, you alone are the best arbiter of what’s comfortable for your body.
ONE Find the right size frame. Make adjustments to seat and handlebar height until you’re comfortable. If you still find yourself uncomfortably cramped or stretched out, try another size frame. If it’s easier to get on and off a bicycle without a high top tube or a “diamond” frame, try a step-through – they’re great for both men and women.
TWO Consider your body position. Pay attention to your back, neck, wrists and hands as you ride. Pain, discomfort or numbness suggest that something about the setup (i.e., the parts that make up the whole) isn’t right for you – whether it’s the position or shape of the handlebars, the seat, the type of pedals or the geometry of the frame. Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to find a comfortable fit that works for you.
THREE Saddles matter. A lot of your weight rides on an upright bike’s saddle, so having one that’s comfortable is important. Springs can help absorb bumps and vibration from the road. Padded saddles, gel inserts and cut-out anatomical holes may be comfortable at first, but if they prove painful over time, try a simple saddle made of sturdy springs, a metal frame and a piece of good leather (Brooks is a well-known manufacturer).
FOUR Remember your riding environment. A heavy cruiser or Dutch-style bike is great for flat terrain. But if you live in an area with lots of hills, it’s good to choose a bike that’s relatively light and has enough easy gears for climbing.