How to set up your bike

Bike Setup

Setting up your bike can get quite technical. There are specialists who use computer programs to calculate the dimensions of a rider’s ideal frame. This is a must for serious racing cyclists. Movement of components by just a few millimetres can make a huge difference.

A properly set-up bike will encourage you to ride more often.

What to look for

  1. The seat setting is probably the most critical. To find the best position, sit on the bike with the heels of the feet on the pedals. (You may require assistance) The leg should be slightly bent at the bottom of the stroke.
  2. When the seat is the right height, pedaling is smooth and efficient with no rocking of the hips, a sure sign the seat is too high. The seat can also be adjusted forward and backward with remarkable effect.
  3. As with clothes, sometimes no off-the-rack frame fits your unique build.
  4. The handlebar position can be modified by adjusting the headstem to position them up, down, forward or backward. Best of all, though, is a custom-built frame.
  5. Toeclips and clipless pedals are a matter of personal preference and can depend on the type of riding. There’s always a risk of not disengaging in time to avoid injury, but cyclists who use them rave about the solid connection to the bike and the advantages of “spinning” (pulling up and over as well as pushing down on the pedals).
  6. Pedals and cleats should be adjusted so that the balls of the feet are directly over the pedal axles. Occasionally, riders need orthotics to correct an imbalance and avoid knee injury.
  7. There are many types of bikes for different purposes. Road bikes are built for speed, not comfort and are best on smooth roads. Mountain bikes are built to cope with off-road terrain. They are strong and can take a lot of punishment. Hybrids are a combination of the two which makes them ideal for poorly maintained roads and cycling paths and occasionally “going bush”.
  8. Touring bikes can be in any of the previous categories, but are built with a lower center of gravity and longer wheelbase for stability when carrying saddlebags.
  9. No matter the type, age or value of a bike though, a little bit of tender loving care goes a long way.

Bicycle Maintenance

Give your bike the attention it deserves.

Want to give your bike a lift? Pump up your tyres! Seems pretty obvious, but it can make a significant difference. The next most important thing to do is keep the chain and gears clean and well lubricated. A chain-bath (a plastic device with three rotating brushes through which the chain passes whilst still on the bike) is a great investment.

Citric degreaser, a strong detergent or a soaking solution can be added to the reservoir. The key here is water-solubility which means it can be thoroughly rinsed, dried and re-lubricated. Keeping the bike clean also generally means it gets a detailed inspection which may highlight a potential problem before anything actually goes wrong.

For general cleaning, a soapy toothbrush and soft handbrush (as in brush and dustpan) can help get into those nooks and crannies. Avoid blasting pressurised water into areas with ball bearings though!

Find a bicycle repair manual that suits your purposes. Are you interested in doing some maintenance or just learning more about how your bike works? Bikes are really simple machines! Developing a sensitivity to the sound and feel of your bike, and being able to repair, lubricate and fine tune it just adds to the whole riding experience. For bicycle maintenance at any level, it’s good to be aware of when it’s time to consult an expert. A highly recommended publication is “Richards’ Bicycle Repair Manual” by Richard Ballantine and Richard Grant. It contains very clear pictures and practical descriptions of all the parts of a bike.