Published May 3, 2021
Bicycles provide a great way to have fun, keep fit, and stay active. When it comes to family fitness, everyone loves a great bike ride. They are extremely versatile for any age group and can be designed for all kinds of goals. Whether it’s rough terrain riding or a need for speed, bicycles can get you there.
Understanding bike geometry can help you pick the perfect bicycle for you. Depending on what you use your bike for, the measurements can be adjusted to accommodate your specific needs. If you’re riding for leisure, that bike will be different from, say, a bike made for triathlons. Finding the best match for you doesn’t have to be hard, just take a look at this comprehensive guide and you’ll be an expert!
If you haven’t ridden a bike in a while, ask yourself a few questions like, “Do I need a bike for endurance and steep hills?” or, “Am I looking for power and optimized aerodynamics?”. Questions like these will help you determine the best bike for you and help you enhance your performance.
Once you narrow down what you need from your perfect bike, customizing it to your needs will be far easier. Consider the types of riding you’ll be doing and choose the bicycle that fits into every category. Consider these three main requirements first and feel free to further tailor them to your liking from there.
A relaxed rider position will provide longevity and stronger endurance. Placing the rider in an upright position allows them to breathe easier and balance their center of gravity. If you’re planning on long treks with winding roads, choosing a relaxed geometry is a smart choice.
An aggressive rider position will improve power and give you the advantage of speed. Positioned to help you lean forward for more efficient wind resistance and powerful pedal strokes. Consider pairing the aggressive geometry with drop bars for a cross between relaxed and aggressive positions.
Choosing between slow or fast steering can be more complicated than you might think. Slow steering provides the rider with the ability to feel more stable and perform better at high speeds. Fast steering will allow the rider to have more control over the path the bicycle is taking and dodging debris.
For those traveling at a face pace, slow steering is the best choice for a stable ride. Otherwise, choosing fast steering for biking on roads will increase your ability to control the bike and avoid accidents.
Otherwise known as cornering, bikes can either have stable cornering or nimble cornering. Stable cornering allows the bike to smoothly turn with you in a controlled motion at high speeds. Nimble cornering is good for stable turning at lower speeds.
Depending on your personal speed goals, stable is best for speed racers. Nimble is a good choice for leisure riders and those who require a tighter turn radius.
Let’s explore the full geometry of a bike, starting with each individual part. The dynamics of each piece work together to create the best experience for the rider depending on how they choose to use the bicycle. By combining all optimized parts together leads to better achievement and endurance.
Though most retailers sell bikes in small, medium, and large, these sizes aren’t exactly dependable. Choosing a customized bike based upon the length of the seat tube is a far better way to guarantee a comfortable stable ride.
The seat tube is located below the top tube in front of the back wheel. This tube keeps you well centered and does not vary further than 71-75 degree angles. Using this measurement to find the perfect bike size for you ensures your bike will be optimized and ready for your specific needs.
The stack and reach are responsible for the most important elements of a bicycle. The two tubes reaching from the front of the bike to the back, one connecting to the pedals, the other to the seat tube. The stack will tell you how tall the frame of the bicycle is while the reach will tell you how long the frame is. This can help you decide between different styles of bicycle and which will best fit your body type.
The top tube measures the distance between the frame and the seat. This will determine how high or low you are seated. You can use the measurement of the top tube to gauge stack and reach measurements and compare different models.
The head tube resides right under the handlebars connecting the front wheel and the frame of the bike. The angle of the head tube can either be slack or steep. A steep head tube provides more controlled steering for road biking, while a slack head tube gives you stability for fast rides.
The steerer tube runs from the head tube all the way down to the front wheel axle. A fork rake is the best choice for a road bike and offers a straight line down for stability. A fork offset is preferred for mountain biking and will provide fast steering with control.
The chainstay is located between the gears of the back wheel and the pedals. Choosing the length of your chainstay will offer different benefits. Long chainstays keep you stable and create a longer wheelbase. Shorter chainstays provide crisp movement and controlled handling.
The bottom bracket is the distance between the axles of both wheels. While it is not physically represented on the bicycle, adjusting the center bottom bracket can keep your ride smooth and comfortable. Consider length from pedal to ground, but be aware that lower is typically better for road bikes.
Whether you choose a bike for increased performance speed, traveling, adventures, or pleasure, knowing the geometry of your bike is crucial. With the right information choosing an ideal bike is easier than ever. So what are you waiting for? Use your new knowledge to find your perfect fit and start riding!
Barry has been cycling and creating digital products around the world for 20+ years. He was a design leader at IDEO, IDEO.org and Nike’s Innovation Lab.