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Finding the right fit is very important when shopping for a new mountain bike. The right bike will help you be comfortable and confident when you explore new trails, and riding a bike that is too big or too small can be unsafe. There are a few guidelines you can use to narrow down your options, but the truth is that the perfect size is a matter of riding style and preference.
WHAT MOUNTAIN BIKE SIZE DO YOU NEED
What mountain bike size do I need? This question is a great place to get started if you are purchasing your first mountain bike.
There is a quick and easy way to narrow down your options and figure out what the best frame size is for you. Take your shoes off and stand up with your feet six to eight inches apart.
Measure the distance between the floor and your leg inseam. Multiply this number by 0.66, and you will get an approximation of the ideal frame size for your new mountain bike.
Keep in mind that this is not a foolproof method. There are other methods you can use to figure out the best size for your new mountain bike. I think you should test different approaches and try a bike in person to get a feel for its fit. It’s also essential to learn to recognize the signs that a bike’s fit isn’t right for you since riding a bike that is too big can be dangerous.
WHAT IS THE BEST MOUNTAIN BIKE FRAME SIZE FOR YOUR HEIGHT?
Manufacturers typically have size charts you can use to find the recommended frame size for your height. However, keep in mind that the recommended frame size might not feel comfortable for you due to your torso or leg length.
The manufacturer’s size chart is still a great way to get an idea of the size that should be right for you. Here are some recommendations that correspond to what you will find on most manufacturers’ size charts:
- A 13 to 15” frame will work if you are between 4’5” and 4’11.”
- If you’re under 5’3” tall, look for a bike with a 15 to 17” frame.
- A 17 to 19” frame is best if you are under 5’7.”
- Manufacturers typically recommend a 19 to 21” frame if you are under 6’2.”
- If you are taller than 6’2,” consider a 23” frame.
These recommendations are slightly different for women. Women tend to have longer legs and narrow shoulders compared to men. We recommend that you shop for a women’s mountain bike to find a bike adapted to your body shape. However, some women find that men’s bikes are a better match.
If you are between 4’10” and 5’2,” try a mountain bike with a 13 or 14” frame. A 15 or 16” frame should work for you if you’re under 5’6.” We recommend a 17 or 18” frame if you’re under 5’10.” If you’re taller than 5’10,” you will probably need a bike with a 19” frame.
Most manufacturers use S, M, L, or XL to differentiate the size of their mountain bikes. Make sure you check the size chart to figure out which frame size each letter corresponds to since this can vary from one product to another.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER METHODS YOU CAN USE TO FIND THE CORRECT MOUNTAIN BIKE SIZE?
What mountain bike size do I need? Ask this question to the experienced riders you know to see if they can offer some advice or let you try their bike. We recommend that you try a few different mountain bikes before purchasing one so you can get an idea of how different frame sizes feel.
When trying a mountain bike, stand with the bike between your legs. Keep your feet flat on the floor. There should be one or two inches of space between your inseam and the top tube of the bike.
Sit on the bike. You should be able to touch the ground with your feet without being able to have your feet flat on the ground. If a mountain bike is a good fit for you, you might be able to touch the ground only on one side or touch the ground with the tip of your toes.
If you can have both feet on the ground, the frame is too small. If you can’t touch the ground at all, the bike is probably too big for you.
If you plan on ordering a mountain bike online, head to the nearest bike shop. Try different bikes to see for yourself how different frame sizes feel.
Keep in mind that mountain bikes tend to be smaller compared to other types of bikes such as road bikes. You will have to handle rough and challenging terrain, and it’s better to do so with a relatively small frame.
If you have experience with road bikes, your mountain bike might feel small at first. However, it’s important not to make the mistake of shopping for a mountain bike like you would for a regular road bike.
WHAT ABOUT SADDLE HEIGHT?
If you ask the question of what mountain bike size do I need, most people will tell you about the frame size. Frame size is a crucial aspect of figuring out the right fit for a mountain bike, but keep in mind that there are other things at which to look.
The good news is that you can easily adjust the seat height and angle on most mountain bikes. Focus on finding the right frame size since riding a mountain bike with a frame that is too big can be dangerous. The seat height and angle are things you can adjust later on.
However, you need to have an idea of how you should sit on a mountain bike to figure out if a bike is a good fit for you. When you sit on a mountain bike and place your foot at the lowest point of a pedal stroke, your leg extension shouldn’t exceed 90%.
You might need to adjust the seat height and angle to get as close as possible to this 90% extension. However, if you can’t achieve this pedaling posture after adjusting the seat, you should try a bike with a different frame size.
There are situations where you might want to lower your seat. For instance, it’s best to lower your center of gravity when riding on a technical trail with a lot of climbing. It will also be easier to feel comfortable when riding downhill if you lower your seat. See how the bike fits on the lowest seat setting if you plan on riding downhill or want to climb.
Don’t worry if you can’t find a bike with a seat that feels right. You can easily replace this part once you get a better idea of what your riding style is.
WHAT ABOUT THE REACH AND LENGTH OF THE BIKE?
You will find that the reach of a mountain bike can vary from one product to another, even if they have the same frame height. The frame size that manufacturers list refers to the height of the frame.
You might need to look at the effective top tube length and reach of a mountain bike to find a perfect fit. The effective top tube length is the distance between the seat and head of the tube. This spec will give you an idea of how long the frame is.
The reach corresponds to the distance between the center of the head tube and the center of the bottom bracket of the bike. This spec will give you an idea of how long the bike is when you stand up on the pedals. Keep in mind that this is a posture you will often adopt when climbing.
The best reach and effective top tube length depend on your arm and torso length. You will have to sit on a bike and reach forward to see if you can pedal while maintaining a comfortable posture.
You might be tempted to choose a bike with a seat that is too far back. This seat position will lower your center of gravity and make you feel more comfortable. However, sitting too far back can be an issue because you need to use your weight and strength to control and maneuver your mountain bike. Compared to a road bike, your posture should slightly lean forward on a mountain bike.
IS THE HANDLEBAR WIDTH IMPORTANT?
The ideal handlebar width depends on the size of your torso and shoulders. Women often have narrow shoulders compared to men and should look for unisex or women’s mountain bikes that will have narrower handlebars to feel comfortable.
A more extended handlebar will make your mountain bike more responsive, especially when you gain speed. We recommend that you look for more handlebar width if you plan on riding technical trails. A wider bar will improve your balance.
However, a handlebar that is too wide can cause you to shift your posture forward. This position isn’t ideal since it will move your center of gravity forward and make you uncomfortable when riding downhill.
You need to look for a compromise between a wide handlebar and a handlebar that allows you to adopt a comfortable riding posture. Keep in mind that a narrow handlebar can be an advantage on trails with obstacles since you will be less likely to clip a tree trunk with your bike.
You can easily replace handlebars if they don’t feel comfortable. You can find flat bars or handlebars with a slight rise or replace handlebars with a part that has a different width to fine-tune your bike.
Finding a perfect fit usually takes time. If you are shopping for your first mountain bike, focus on finding the right frame size for your height and make sure you feel comfortable and can ride the bike safely. You can look into seat height, reach, and handlebar width to fine-tune your mountain bike once you gain more experience with riding and get a better idea of what an ideal posture is like.