Choose the right bicycle size for optimal comfort and safety.

Bike Sizes

by Amber Canaan

Bicycles are an efficient form of transportation and provide a solid cardiovascular workout as well. Before you get on a bike, you need to make sure that you choose one that is the proper size to avoid injury and muscle strain. There are a few guidelines to help you choose the proper size bicycle, but the best way to choose is to get on one and make sure it works for your body type.

1. Frame Sizes

When choosing a bicycle, it’s important to know if the measurements you’re looking at are for the frame size or wheel size. Bike frames are usually made from 16 to 22 inches. A small frame is considered between 16 and 17.5 inches. These bikes are best for women between 66 and 70 inches in height. Medium-size frames are 18 to 19.5 inches and made for women between 70 and 73 inches tall. Finally, large frames are 20 to 22 inches and for those taller than 72 inches.

2. Wheel Sizes

Bicycles may also be labeled by the size of their wheels. While this is done more frequently for children’s bikes, some women’s bicycle manufacturers may list their bikes this way as well. For adult-size bikes, the wheels usually come in three different sizes. Bicycles with 20-inch wheels are the smallest and appropriate for petite women, 52 inches and taller. Bikes with 24-inch wheels more easily accommodate people between 52 and 60 inches in height. The largest wheel size is 26 inches and is best for anyone 62 inches or taller.

3. Stand-Over Test

Once you’ve determined what size frame and wheel size fits your height, it’s time to get your hands on a bike and try it out in real life. A quick test to help determine whether the bike is the right size for your body is to stand over the bike and check the height in relation to the inseam of your pants. There should be 1 to 3 inches between the top tube of the bike and your inseam. Any more than that and the bike is too small, while less than that and the bike is too big. If you’re between sizes, it’s best to go with the smaller bike and adjust the seat as necessary.

4. Road Test

Testing out the bike before you buy it will allow you to find out if it is truly the right size for you. Specialty shops usually let customers try bikes out in the parking lot or other designated part of the store. When sitting on the seat, make sure that your leg maintains a slight bend when the petal is in the farthest position. You don’t want your knees to lock when your leg is fully extended. Don’t forget to take into account the position of the handlebars. They should be close enough that your elbows are slightly bent as well. Your arms shouldn’t feel outstretched, but you don’t want the handlebars too close either. A slight bend is all that you need.

Photo Credits

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