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BIKE TOURING
FINDING THE RIGHT BICYCLE



It is very important that the bicycle you are planning to use fits you properly. A good fit will make the touring aspect of the ride comfortable, easier, and enjoyable. There are really no set rules for fitting the bicycle to your body. The right fit actually depends on your body shape and how you like to ride.

Two basic things that you need to do are to experiment (riding and testing different set-ups) and listening to your body. This listening is actually paying attention to any aches or pains that develop as you go. A cramped back might tell you that the handlebar needs to be raised up some. Sore knees might tell you that the saddle needs to be readjusted.

The following suggestions are just a starting point. They will help in the fine-tuning of the bike that you choose. If you have trouble in finding the right bike, you can always discuss your concerns with a reputable bicycle dealer.

1) Check frame size

- Straddle the bike with one leg on either side of the bike's top tube. If you are planning to get a road bike, there should be at least an inch (2.5 cm) clearance between your crotch and the top tube. If you are planning to get a mountain bike, there should be at least two to six inches of clearance. This distance depends on what style of riding you do and the conditions that you ride in.

2) Check saddle position

- Saddle position is mostly a personal preference thing. It does affect your body's position on the bike so it is quite important to get it right. The right saddle height will lesson the chance for knee joint stress and help you get a more powerful stroke. The saddle should be high enough so that your legs almost fully extend at the bottom of each stroke.

To check for this while sitting on the seat with somebody's help holding you and the bicycle up, rotate the pedals to the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions. The leg touching the six o'clock position should bend at the knee slightly when your foot is in it's regular pedaling position. In adjusting the saddle, be careful not to raise the seat post beyond the "minimum insertion mark" on the post's side.

With regards to saddle tilt, there is really no such amount of tilt. Some cyclists prefer to have their saddle tilted forwards (like I did before I got my recumbent) while others prefer it tilted backwards. Others want the saddle completely level.

The fore/aft position of the saddle can have an effect on your body's position. To check for the right position, sit on the saddle with your friend's help again or leaning on a stationary object and rotate the pedals until they are horizontal (the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions). If the saddle is positioned properly, the small boney bump below your knee cap should line up with your forward pedal axle. To check this out better, simply hang a string with something tied to the end of it from the bump below your knee cap. The string should hang directly over the pedal axle. If this doesn't happen, then the seat bolt should be loosened so that the saddle slides forwards or backwards to the right position and then tightened.

3) Check handlebar position

- To find the right height, start with the handlebar stem about an inch (2.5 cm.) lower than the nose of the saddle. If your lower back starts to hurt after riding for a while, raise the handlebar up slightly. If you want a more aerodynamic position, the handlebar should be lowered some.

While testing different positions, switch your hand positions from the handlebars to the brake hoods and then back again. Find a handlebar height that is comfortable no matter what hand position you use. Make sure also that you can wrap your fingers around the brake levers quickly in case you need to apply full pressure to the brakes. Never raise the handlebar above the etched "height limit line". If you have cantilever brakes, you might need to readjust the brakes each time you reposition the handlebars. .




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