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How to Choose a Bike Size—Finding the Right Bike for You

Knowing how to measure yourself for a bike can be the difference between developing a new favorite pastime and writing off cycling for good. Usually, your local bike outfitter has the know-how and bike sizing chart to point you to the bike you need, but there are a few personal preferences you’ll need to consider and communicate first:

  • What type of bike are you looking to ride? Will it be mountain, road, hybrid or perhaps a cruiser?
  • How tall are you?
  • What’s your riding style? Do you prefer to ride more aggressively with greater maneuverability, or do you prefer a flatter and more leisurely ride?

The answers to these questions are essential to knowing how to choose a bike size that’s right for you. (Whether you measure yourself for a bike or decide to use the help of a bike outfitter, you should still consider these questions!)

After you’ve got your answers, it’s time to take some measurements.

how to choose the right bike size

Bike Sizing and Measurements

Traditionally, bikes are measured by the length of the seat tube in either inches or centimeters. Unfortunately, due to differing measurement methods by various bike brands this measurement alone is not reliable enough to answer the question: what size of bike do I need? This is why stand-over height and ape index should be two determining bike size factors when measuring yourself for a bike.

Stand-over Height

Stand-over height is the distance from the ground to the middle of the top tube. 

Asking yourself what size frame do I need for a mountain bike or road bike? Then, stand-over height is the first factor you should take into consideration. As defined above, stand-over height is the distance measured from the ground to the top tube of the bike. It’s listed in most bike sizing charts. To determine the stand-over height, and thus frame size that is right for you, physically straddle the bike to make sure you clear the top tube by at least two inches.

Backroads Pro Tip

If you’re buying a bike online and wondering how do you measure yourself for a bike from afar, simply measure the length of your inside leg (with your shoes on) and subtract two centimeters from that measurement. This will give you the stand-over height of the bicycle that is right for you.

Bike Sizing Chart

Whether shopping online or consulting the experts at your local bike shop, you’ll probably come across something called a bike sizing chart. These vary by brand and by type of bike.

Backroads has a different bike sizing chart for each bike type we supply. This chart helps us size and fit each rider with the perfect bike for his or her journey. Here’s a look at what a basic bike sizing chart looks like and how the measurements, such as height and stand-over height, factor in to the sizing decision:

Bike Sizing Chart
XS
S
M
L
XL
XXL
Frame Size (A)
38cm
45cm
53cm
56cm
59cm
63cm
Rider Height
4’11”-5’1”
5’2”-5’5”
5’5”-5’9”
5’9”-6’1”
6’1”-6’4”
6’4”-6’6”
Stand-over Height
67.7cm/ 26.6”
71.5cm/ 28”
76.4cm/ 30”
78.7cm/ 31”
81.3cm/
32”
84.4cm/ 33.2”

For a bike sizing chart specific to the type of bike you will be riding or shopping for, visit the links below:

The Final Step in How to Choose a Bike Size

With your personal bike preferences and measurements in hand, you should have no trouble finding the right bike size for you and your riding style. The final step in the process is making sure your saddle is at the correct height for your pedal stroke. Do it yourself, or have your local bike shop adjust the saddle height to the right position.

Backroads Pro Tip

When seated on the bike with your heel in the six o’clock position, your knee should have zero bend. The right saddle height affects both your leg power and pedaling efficiency, so it’s important to get this right. 

There you have it! You’re now equipped with the information you need to know how to choose a bike size that fits you perfectly. Happy riding!

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