Bike Set Up Guidelines from City Physiotherapy Adelaide CBD

Being comfortable on your bike is important so that you don’t injure yourself.  If your bike is properly set-up and adjusted your muscles will work more efficiently as well. We all have different body shape and sizes so it is important that your bike is adjusted to suit your particular needs, hence making you feel more relaxed increasing your ability to ride longer distances with less effort. The following diagram and notes below demonstrate the most common bike set up settings that work.


Foot Position

  • The ball of your foot should be centralised over the pedal axle.
  • Small feet and high cadence pedlars should place the ball of your foot slightly behind centre.

Saddle Position

Set your saddle height in the following way:

  • Sit on the saddle with the crank arm perpendicular to the ground and heel, wearing shoes, on the top of the pedal.
  • Your leg should be in the straight “locked” position.
  • The top surface of your saddle should be parallel with the ground.

Saddle Front/Back Adjustment

  • Sit on your bike in your normal riding position with the cranks in the 3 and 9 o’clock position.
  • Your saddle is correctly positioned when your tibial tuberosity, the bump at the top of the shins, is 1cm behind the pedal axle.
  • You may need a plumb line and someone to assist to make this adjustment. Nb. You may have to readjust saddle height if you move the saddle too much.

Stem and Handlebars

  • Correct stem height can be anywhere between level with the saddle height or as much as 6 cm below with the preferred range is 2.5 to 4.5 lower.
  • Check to ensure that your knee just clears your elbow when seated on your bike with the cranks in the 3/9 o’clock position.
  • To ensure good chest expansion and breathing your handlebars should be the width of your shoulders.
  • On a mountain or hybrid bike some riders may prefer a more upright riding position with a higher stem position.
  • Extra wide flat-type mountain bike handlebars may give more stable control on unsealed roads but you may find them uncomfortable on long rides over sealed roads.
  • Bar extensions and narrower handlebars will give you a greater variety of comfortable hand positions and also place your upper body in a slightly lower position to reduce your overall resistance to the wind.


  • If the handlebars are too far away you will be very uncomfortable.
  • Sit on your bike in your normal riding position and your arms should be at about 90 degrees to your upper body.

Adjusting to Your New Position

It takes time to settle in to the new position and you may still have to do some minor adjustments. Overall you should feel much better when you ride and less strained when you arrive back home.

What if you are still uncomfortable or in pain?

If you can’t get comfortable after making these adjustments and riding for a while then it is possible that your bike is not the right size for you.

A visit to City Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic physiotherapists for further advice on how to ride more comfortably or to assist you with treatment of your musculoskeletal issues which are impacting your ability to ride comfortably can make all the difference to your overall health and wellbeing.  Give us a call on 8212 4886 to make an appointment with our experienced physiotherapists and remedial massage therapist.