How to shop for bikes if you're over 6ft tall
By Tess DiNapoli, May 2022
Tess Napoli offers some points for consideration if you're over 6ft tall and in the market for a new bike.
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Where to Start
For people over 6-feet tall, finding the perfect bike that is comfortable and performs well can seem daunting. Riders come in all shapes and sizes, and your body proportions may not fit the standard sizes that bike manufacturers present to the public. Bike fit challenges are not rare, but you can find a bike that fits your needs with a little bit of preparation before you make a purchase decision. Once you know what to look for, you can confidently decide which one is best for you. In this article we cover a few tips to help you choose the right bike for your height and specific dimensions.
Get Your Measurements For The Proper Fit
Before you set foot in a bike store or start shopping online, take the time to measure your specific body dimensions, not just your height. If you rely on how tall you are as the only measurement, you will not get the proper fit for a comfortable ride.
You can have a friend help you, use a bicycle fit calculator, or visit a bike fit expert to get your measurements. To do this on your own, you will need a partner to take measurements, a tape measure, a book, a wall, and a pen.
Start with your inseam measurement first by standing tall with your back against the wall.
Place the book between your legs and pull up to your pubic bone. The book will mimic the placement of your saddle, so make sure it's a snug fit. Keep the book at a 90-degree angle for accurate measurement, and have your partner measure the distance between the top edge of the book and the floor.
From this position, you can also measure torso length. The torso length is the distance from the top of the book to the top of your sternum.
Next, you'll need to measure your thigh length. For thigh measurement, get on your knees and face the wall. Have your partner measure the distance from the floor to the top of the book.
Your next step is to measure arm length, make a fist and have your partner measure from the bony part of your shoulder where your arm begins to the end of your fist.
Lastly, you'll need to measure your shoulder width. Have your partner measure the distance from shoulder to shoulder from the back. With these measurements, you will be ready to move on to the next step.
Choose The Proper Bike Frame
To choose the proper bike frame for your body type, decide on how you plan to use the bike first. How and where you plan to ride your bike will determine the type of frame you need to consider. Whether you're planning to choose a road bike, mountain bike, or urban/hybrid bike doesn't matter. You'll need to know how to size the bike frame for the best result. Frame geometry affects the performance and handling of the bike, so it is important to ensure the shape and fit align with your unique proportions.
After deciding on a frame type, look for high-end bike frame materials. Taller riders tend to be heavier than the average rider, so you'll want to check the frame specifications for weight capacity. All manufacturers have their frame measurements on their website. Local Bike Shops can also help substantially with this. To get the best bike handling results, measure the fork rake angle and trail, the bottom bracket drop, chain stay length, stem length, and bar reach. These key measurements will help you attain the most comfortable ride possible while providing the best performance possible.
Choose Wheels and Tyres That Suit Your Body Type
When shopping for wheels, you should never sacrifice overall quality to pinch pennies. As a heavier rider, high quality wheels can handle your body weight better. Look for wheels that have higher spoke counts and greater rim width. The last thing you want to do is purchase a poorly built pair of wheels and have to replace them sooner than expected. Cheaper wheels can lead to broken spokes, axles, and rims. Your wheels need to be strong and supportive with quality rims, hubs, and spokes.
The type of tyres you purchase will make a noticeable difference in how the bike handles and the overall ride. If you're a taller and heavier rider, it may be that slightly wider tires will help with feelings of stability and control. They provide a larger patch with the road or surface you'll be riding on, and evidence shows that they are not any slower for being wider. Large mountain bike tyres – with the very biggest off-the-shelf size being 29 plus tyres - can absorb bumps better than smaller tyres for a more comfortable ride while providing better traction and control.
Find The Right Size Crank and Saddle
Bike cranks come in all shapes and sizes. But the perfect crank for your specific dimensions is determined by your riding style. Taller riders often find that standard-size cranks do not allow them to exert the maximum amount of power to the wheels and hence miss out on peak performance. Longer bike cranks can allow tall riders to get the most out of each pedal stroke, climb hills more efficiently, and reach higher speeds on open roads and trails. As a tall rider, your stance is wider than the average rider, and you may benefit from a longer axle on the pedals. If you also have wide feet you may want to add spacers to push your pedals away from the cranks slightly, to avoid feet brushing against the cranks.
To get the most comfortable ride possible, choose a saddle that is carefully fitted to your sit-bones. Saddles that are too narrow or too wide, or just the wrong design, will often start feeling uncomfortable quite quickly. Whilst no saddle will provide comfort for ever, at least until you are used to riding it, a saddle fit can help a great deal. If possible, choose a carbon-reinforced bike saddle with a longer seat post. A longer seat post might feel more comfortable and can give the bike a sturdier feel because the seat post stretches further into the frame for greater support. Short seat posts might absorb too much side-to-side motion during rides and can crack the bike frame.
With the tips we’ve covered today, you’re well on your way to picking the best bike for you. Implement each of these steps as soon as possible, and you’ll be on the road in no time. Happy riding!