Bike Fitting and Setup for Beginning Mountain Bikers

If you just bought a new bike or are just getting into the sport, here are some suggestions that will be very helpful in making your ride enjoyable, safe and considerably more comfortable.

Bike Shopping

Picking out a bike can be fun, and there never seems to be a lack of new equipment and great bikes in the shops to choose from.

Our more experienced riding buddies seem to know exactly what they want for onboard equipment, size, and gadgetry. However, if you're just starting out, or are not particularly experienced, there seems to be a vast array of choices, and surely enough salespeople eager to tell you about the benefits and subtle differences between this or that component.

Just about all major bike brands, components and various equipment all seem to perform fairly well within their category.

Shop Shopping

Bike shop dealers and staff, on the other hand, seem to vary greatly in their interests and knowledge about mountain biking. While some may not have a clue or are not particularly concerned about proper bike setup for each customer's needs, many shop owners and staff will take the time to set you up properly because they actually have the knowledge to meet your circumstance.

However, more times than not, if you're a beginner you're often not sure how the bike should feel or fit. In the midst of purchasing your bike, all the onboard equipment can captivate your attention so much that you forget to ask about all the adjustments and variables.

After all, most salespeople are there to sell, not to discourse on set-up and variables that affect proper bike fit.

Putting all this aside, here are some of the important variables and adjustments that you should seriously consider when buying your first bike.

Note: This discussion will focus on setup and fit for typical cross-country mountain biking (rolling, flat, and hilly terrain). This information may not be particularly applicable for folks that are planning trips to a local ski area for some downhill riding. This is practically another sport in itself.

Frame Size

For practical purposes, let's keep this simple—generally there are three sizes: small, medium and large. If you're average height—5'4" or so up to 5'10"—you'd be medium (appropriate frame sizes will vary in the 16- to 18-inch range).

Shorter than average would be small—below 5'4" and in the 13- to 15-inch frame size. Large would be riders 5'10" to 6'4"+ (frame size 19 - 21+ inches).

There are also variables that will be peculiar to each of our body types. Some of us have a short or longer upper body or more or less leg length, while others may just have an average upper and lower body.

These variables can be accommodated for by adjustments made mainly to the seat, and sometimes to the handlebar, and occasionally to them angle of stem/headset.

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