Are you in the wrong cycling position? Five signs of a bad bike fit and how to fix them

bad bike fitting

Whether you are riding to the corner store or across the country, you should be comfortable on your bike.

If you have neck, back, or knee pain, saddle sores, or hand or foot numbness, your bicycle probably doesn’t fit you properly. Good bike fit can also improve your pedaling efficiency and aerodynamics and actually make you faster.

Neck pain

You may be too stretched out because the stem is too long, the saddle is set too far back or the handlebar too low.

You should get a fit check to find your trouble spot. Swap out for a shorter stem or check saddle setback. Add spacers under the stem, or try a shorter, high-rise stem. DO NOT slide your seat all the way forward—you’ll screw up the saddle setback and cause knee problems.


Cleat position is an obvious cause of pain, as is shoe size, but saddle height also comes into the equation. Ankling is the rotation of the ankle and angle of the foot at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke. The foot is angled with the toes slightly upward at the top of the down stroke and with the toes a little downward through the up stroke. Feet pain itself is another issue. If your feet hurt, either your shoes are too tight, your cleat position is wrong or your saddle height is too high. Hot foot – pain in the forefoot – can be alleviated by setting the cleat further back, allowing for a greater spread of pressure when pedaling.

Aching hands

You’ve looked at YouTube videos on how to place your hands on the drops but your hands are aching twenty minutes into your ride. Some indefinable force wears you down quickly and the handlebars are set up correctly, so you must be a wimp, right? Wrong – let’s look at your saddle.

If your saddle is too far back on its rails, or tilting down even slightly, the chances are your centre of gravity is too far forward and your hands are bearing too much load. With your saddle level and correctly positioned, it will take the strain off your hands.

Knee strain

Knee pain in the back or sides of the knee is likely a saddle that is too high, but could also be your cleat position. On your downstroke, your foot shouldn’t be pointed down. Instead, you should be pushing the pedal down through the heel.

Lower back pain

While many aspects of bike fit can cause pain or injury in other parts of the body, if it is lower back pain you are experiencing then, there is only one thing to consider.

Your body also needs time to adapt to a riding position, and so work load should only be increased gradually over time – with periods of stability to adapt to the load in order to avoid back pain. Working life and the effect it may have your flexibility should also be taken into consideration with regard to your limitations and the position you can comfortably achieve on the bike.


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