Getting the perfect Mountain Bike fit: Get The Most From Your Bike in 5 Steps

Top 5 tips to help you find the right mountain bike fit and setup.

With over 20 years of experience in mountain biking, we know a thing or two about getting the perfect mountain bike fit. Here are our top tips to help you find the right bike fit and set up.

When it comes to mountain biking, comfort is key. You need a bike that feels good to ride, and that means getting all your “contact points” adjusted correctly.

You may jump to the relevant topic by using one of the links below, or you may read on for all the information you’ll need to set up your mountain bike.

#1 – Saddle Height
#2 – Saddle Position
#3 – Mountain Bike Saddle Position
#4 – Mountain Bike Handlebar Height
#5 – Control Positions

#1 – Mountain Bike Saddle Height

It’s critical to set the saddle height correctly, too low and you’ll put unnecessary strain on your knees; too high and you won’t be able to put enough power through the pedals. The ideal saddle height is one that allows you to have a slight bend in your knee when your foot is at the bottom of the stroke, or if your heel just touches the top of the lower pedal with your leg straight, and your crank is at the bottom of its stroke, that’s when you’ll know your saddle is at the right height. If you have to tilt to one side on the saddle to achieve this position, then it simply means that it’s too high.

Getting the perfect Mountain Bike fit: mountain bike seat height

A good rule of thumb for maximum seat height is to measure your pant leg from the top of your waistband to the ground, then add 5 inches (or 13 centimeters).

This is all based on efficient pedaling for cross-country trail riding. You will want to set your saddle lower for difficult descents – a task made easy by dropper posts.

#2 – Mountain Bike Saddle Position

Many mountain bikers ride without adjusting the saddle angle, which can lead to discomfort and decreased performance.

Keep your saddle level on top for cross-country riding efficiency. Some riders may prefer a tipped-back stance while doing tricks and stunts or descending steep hills, though.

A few will prefer the nose of the saddle slightly tipped down for comfort on long climbs. Experiment with your saddle angle until you find what works best for you and the type of riding you do most often.

mountain bike seat angle

Because saddle rails have a lot of slide and angle adjustment, you need to be careful when choosing a seatpost. Some seatposts have set-back clamps while others have clamps that are in line with the top of the post. Keep this in mind when trying to achieve your desired saddle position. Set the saddles too far back and the bike will feel front-heavy, possibly even too light at the front when climbing. When your saddle is positioned too far forward, it can restrict your riding position and make you feel as though you’re putting too much body weight on the front of the bike.

If a bike has the perfect reach for you, and the fork is set up correctly, then you’ll most likely end up with the saddle in the absolute center position. If you’ve got long arms for your height, though, you may need to put the saddle further back; short arms will require an inline seatpost and putting your saddle forward.

You can also use stem length and handlebar position to fine-tune how you sit on the bike.

Handlebars, how far away from the saddle?

To start, sit on the bike and place your elbow at the nose of the saddle. Then, see how far your longest finger stretches along the stem- this will give you an idea of forearm length which is generally a good indicator for full arm and torso length. From here, experiment with different stem lengths and handlebars until you find a comfortable ride position.

Getting the perfect Mountain Bike fit: mountain bike reach and top tube length

If you’re looking for a posture that is both fast and efficient for trail riding, most people find that their longest finger reaches approximately halfway between the top of the steerer tube and the handlebar center. You can then adjust your seat position, stem length, and height, as well as handlebar type to fine-tune ride, and feel from that point. Some handlebars have more backsweep than others – this sweep angle (the amount bars are tilted back) will determine how much your wrists are angled when gripping the bars – so experiment until youfind what feels best for you.

The sweet spot for fast and efficient trail riding is when your longest finger reaches halfway between the top of the steerer tube and the handlebar center. You can fine-tune ride feel by adjusting seat position, stem length, and height, as well as handlebar type. Some have a more generous backsweep than others; you can experiment with different positions to find what works best for you.

#3 – Mountain Bike Handlebar Height

The height of your handlebars directly correlates to the bike’s quality of ride. Several elements such as stack height, steerer tube length, and stem rise play into how high or low your bars should be. Some cyclists are more comfortable with their bars level with the saddle while others–especially cross-country racers–prefer them much lower for a flat posture that optimizes speed perfection.

Stem length and height is a vital setup preference

# 4 – Control Positions

There are three key elements to setting up your brakes correctly: lever angle, lever throw and reach, and shifter position. You can adjust the position of the brake levers and shifters on the handlebar to find a comfortable setup for you. most brakes also allow you to adjust the lever reach, so you can find a setting that works well for your hands. And finally, some brakes let you adjust where on the pads they compress when engages- this is important to get just right so you don’t rub your thumbs on gear shifters!

mountain bike controls

You may also reduce the bar width: trimming an inch off either end of a handlebar might make a noticeable difference in your ride quality. You could also get better control with a larger bar that swivels a few degrees backward or forwards in the stem. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new things; just do it for a couple of rides to discover the benefits and drawbacks of each option.

A that’s our how-to article on Getting the perfect Mountain Bike fit! This will help you understand more about how to get a comfortable and efficient ride. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

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