When bikes come off the assembly line, each model pretty much rolls off one-size fits all—unlike riders, who come in every size and shape imaginable. Fortunately, a bike that comes to you one-sized doesn’t have to stay that way. You can change up a bunch of elements, make key adjustments, until your new bike fits you like a glove. Of course, you’ll want to start with first things first, and that means pinpointing the places your bike doesn’t fit.
How do you figure it out? Well, you can start by climbing into the saddle and closing your eyes. Now reach for the grips. If they’re not where you’d like them to be, at just the right distance and angle, you’ll want to adjust. How does the rest of the bike feel? Cramped? Too open? How about the saddle itself—too wide, too narrow, too padded, not padded enough? Get out on the highway to check off a few other boxes, like, does anything hurt—butt, legs, arms, wrists, ankles? Can you shift and brake easily? See through the windshield without distortion? Once you’ve established where your bike doesn’t fit, it’s a short step to fixing it so it does. Five ways you can do that include:
1. Changing brake/clutch lever angle and/or distance. The angle is usually adjustable simply by loosening the bolts on the master cylinder clamp and clutch mount, and rotating the levers. As for distance, plenty of bikes allow you to make this adjustment with the simple turn of a dial. If your bike doesn’t let you dial the right distance, you may be able to grab adjustable levers for a different bike by the same manufacturer, or pick some up from an independent supplier.
2. Tweaking brake pedal/shifter height. You want to be in control of the bike at all times, right? Well, that won’t come easily if your brake pedal and shifter aren’t personally positioned for you. If your foot doesn’t cover the pedal, or your ankle gets sore during the ride, you might want to lower the pedal, which you can usually do by loosening the lock nut on the master cylinder. Just be sure you don’t go so low your pedals scrape when you corner.
3. Fine-tuning the suspension. How and where you ride determines what your suspension settings should be. That means you may have to change them up, front and rear, depending on the circumstances. Most bikes either come with a range of settings or let you develop your own, and it’s well worth your time—and comfort—to get a handle on the ones you’ll use.
4. Opting for the right windshield height. If you use a windshield, what’s your preference? Do you like to look over or right smack through it? Since windshields come in countless sizes and shapes, you shouldn’t have any trouble picking out one that’s exactly right for you.
5. Getting a handle on handlebar height. Adjustable risers are a terrific way to adjust both handlebar height and angle. These come in a variety of shapes, some which will allow you to increase handlebar height, bring the handlebars closer to the rider. Some even flip to let you move the handlebars fore or aft!
Of course there are other modifications you can make to your bike, such as shaving seat cushions or going with a custom seat, even adjusting the bike’s ride height if needed (be forewarned, this can affect how a bike handles). Take some time to make your bike fit you and those miles you spend together will be far more enjoyable!