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You’re in the process of buying a new mountain bike and have now made your choice. Congratulations! But do you know what is the right size for you? Sizing a mountain bike the right way is crucial. Indeed, when spending that much money on a new or first mountain bike it’s important to get the right size. In fact, getting a bike either too big or too small, will cause your riding to suffer as well as the fun factor. So, to help you get the perfect it, follow these tips.

Type of Riding

 First thing first, what is your riding type? Are you sizing a mountain bike for downhill, cross-country or dirt jumping? Do you intend to ride mostly uphill, or steep terrain? Yes, the answers to those questions can affect the size of your bike. But it will undeniably affect its setup.

Inseam Clearance

For obvious reasons, you want some room between yourself and the top tube when you come to a stop. So, you will first start by checking the inseam clearance, or the standover height. Ideally, you would want one to three inches of clearance from your inseam to the frame (top tube). But, one thing is sure, you don’t want to be on your tiptoes not to touch the frame.


Leg Extension

When riding a mountain bike, the terrain constantly changes. Which as a result is raising you off your saddle constantly; sometimes just slightly, other times completely off. Therefore, you’ll need to sit your saddle slightly lower than you would on any other type of bike. Consequently, you need to take this slightly lower seat height position into effect when factoring in frame size.

However, for downhill specific bikes and riding, your seat will be much lower. Also, your leg extension will not have the same importance as you’ll be mostly pedaling while standing up. And won’t be really climbing much or using the saddle much. Therefore, the leg extension doesn’t have the same importance for downhill mountain biking.

distance between saddle and handlebar for a mountain bike

Riding Compartment

When sizing a mountain bike, the next thing you’ll want to check is the rider compartment layout. In other words, the distance between the saddle and the handlebars. Check if when sitting on your bike are the handlebar easily reachable with only a slight bend in your elbow. When pedaling is there room for your knees not to touch the handlebar, or even your elbows. And can you press the brake lever easily. Those are little things that will make a world of differences.

Also, with mountain bikes, contrary to road bikes, you do not want your handlebar to be below the saddle. Indeed, if you do so, when going down, you’ll end up going over the handlebar, and that can really hurt. However, you don’t want your handlebar to be too high either. Indeed, when climbing it will become harder and you’ll fall more easily if your handlebar is too high.

So, how to know what’s the proper setup? There’s a big part of it that is a preference question. But the rule of thumb is that your handlebar should be at the same height of your seat to four inches higher than your saddle.

Dual Suspension Bikes

With suspensions being at both ends, you’ll want your weight more in the middle of the bike. That will allow your weight to be distributed evenly between the front and rear suspension. Thus, allowing the front and rear suspension to work as a unit. This can be done quite easily by using a higher stem to raise the hands height. This will in turn move the upper body up and the weight towards the rear. The increase in rise shouldn’t be more than two inches.

However, if you have a downhill specific dual suspension bike, your seat will sit lower. Indeed, as you are mostly standing up, you need your seat to be out of the way. That way, you’ll be able to move freely and shift your weight back in steep descent. Of course, with dual suspensions you should also make sure that they are adjusted to your weight.

silhouettes of man mountain biking

Test Ride

Once you have taken all these steps into account, go out and test-drive the bike. Indeed, the ultimate way to sizing a mountain bike is to ride it. However, make sure you wear a helmet, even if you are going to be testing for a brief period. Be sure that the tires are set to the right pressure, and the shop has adjusted the bike for you properly.

If you’re new to mountain biking, you should have a bike mechanic, or knowledgeable friend, observe your body position and ride height while riding, to determine if any further adjustments need to be made. Ride the bike around for a bit to get used to it and its handling. Start off slowly, then give the bike a bit of time to show you its personality.

After a few minutes, you might notice that something isn’t working correctly or just doesn’t feel right. If this happens, go back to the bike shop, and have the problem corrected before you leave with it.

Along with giving you a better selection and expert advice, bike shop personnel can help you get fitted to the right size bike. Now, with the proper fit you’ll do enjoy your new ride and the awesome trails. See you out there!

Let me know, which sizing do you find the most important for your mountain bike?

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