Tech Tuesday: Six measurements that every rider should know.

Jul 12, 2011
by Richard Cunningham  
Those who travel with their bikes, or anyone who has had to borrow a bike in a pinch will understand that knowing a few basic measurements, like saddle height and the distance from the handlebar to the saddle, could save a lot of setup time and prevent some mid-ride frustration. In this Tech Tuesday, Pinkbike covers six basic measurements that every rider should memorize (or keep handy) that will make it possible to set up a reasonably correct sized bike to fit your body and riding style.

Use these measurements to get your personal bike perfect after shipping, or to adjust an unfamiliar bike to fit you as closely as possible. Remember that small differences in geometry and component spec can make big changes in your position on a different bike. In this situation, Pinkbike's setup guides will get you close to optimum in the shortest amount of time. If you require perfection to ride a borrowed bike for one day, don't expect your friends to circle around in the parking lot for an hour waiting for Mister Fuss Butt. Consult a psychotherapist and a bike-fit professional.


What you'll need:
- Measuring tape
- A Sharpie or other permanent marking pen
- Sturdy writing paper that will stand the test of time in your wallet
- Your personal bike, set up exactly how you like it (you'll be measuring this)
- Positive, winning attitude

Step one: Get a pen and paper ready and find a place where you can prop your bike up on level ground. The level ground part is important.

Step two: Measure the distance from the imaginary center of the bottom bracket axle to the center of the top of the saddle. You will have to guess where the middle of the saddle is, or pick the point where an imaginary line through the center of the seatpost intersects the top of the saddle. Write this down.

seat height full
Step two
Seat height
Step two detail

Step three: Measure your saddle setback from the bottom bracket center to compensate for different seat tube angles. Use the measuring tape as a plumb line from the tip of the saddle. Mark the crankset with a Sharpie where the edge of the tape passes behind the bottom bracket axle and then measure the distance horizontally from the mark to the center of the bottom bracket - write this down. First, set your proper seat height, and then use this measurement to establish if the saddle needs to be moved fore or aft on the seat post. I would not recommend worrying about this unless you plan to race XC or ride trail for extended distances.

Step three - first part
seat offset
Step three - second part

Step four:Measure the distance between the nose of the saddle and the center of the handlebar where it passes through the stem and jot it down. In most cases, you won't be able to change out your stem, so try to slide the saddle on the seat post to get this distance as close as possible. Your bike will steer and handle better if you get this measurement right, and in most cases, it's better to abandon the step-three measurement in favor of step four.

top tube
Step Four

Step five: Most bikes have too many spacers between the stem and fork steerer tube, but in this case, it’s a good thing. Measure from the ground to the handlebar and switch the spacers around to achieve a bar height that approximates your own bike.

Tip: A more accurate bar height reading is to measure the top of the saddle to the ground and subtract that number from the bar height. This compensates for various BB heights, but because they only vary by ¾ of an inch, it’s a moot point for a one-day ride.

Bar to ground
Step Five

Step six: Before you set out, check these three component adjustments. Measure where the distance between the kink in the brake lever blade and the inboard edge of the grip. Memorize the angle of the brake levers by sight, and count how many clicks you use to set your clipless-pedal engagement tension (providing there is such an adjustment).

Tip: Most shifters work best when angled about the same as, or a little steeper than the brake levers.

lever set
Step Six - A
lever angle
Step Six - B
Step Six - C

Got any more tips to make that quick bike setup even easier? Pinkbike would like to hear about them.


  • 61 1
 i change my bike setup with every bike i get since the geometries and my preferences have evolved, this might be good for the people who obsess over their bike and all that does is give you a head ache, make your bike comfortable, dont sweat the small stuff and have fun
  • 25 2
 Unless I'm retarded..... Which is up for debate I suppose, the purpose of this tech tuesday was for people who travel with a bike and want to know their Geo/height/etc... baseline for the bike they will be traveling with so they can adjust accordingly.

I could have misread the article though..........
  • 3 1
 I think you nailed it cyrix.
  • 3 0
 Comfort is a matter of getting used to your setup. Everything he does is for a reason, so set everything up properly. You'll get used to it quickly, you'll feel comfortable, and you'll perform your best.
  • 9 0
 cba to measure everything, i just fiddle around with it until its feels right.
  • 13 0
 ^^you will go blind dude.
  • 5 0
 a proper mountain biker can jump on a bike and say if its right or not!
  • 1 0
 Not valid for DH bike!! 6 important measures, Top Tube, Chainstay lenght, Wheel base, Handlebar size, BottomBracket level, Crown to Axel
  • 3 0
 DragRider, how can you possibly change crown to axle height, wheel base (well, unless you've got an angleset), bb level, handlebar size, top tube and especially a chainstay length on your bike during a trip?
  • 2 1
 november29 most of the DH forks you can change the top crown level, as well there are a lot frames you can change the wheel base size, shock position affected the angle set and ect.. Smile i just dont get it how can you change any setings on the fly or on trip as you said...
  • 1 0
 Yeah, but why would you change your top crown level? It wouldn't change unless you use different amount or width of spacers than you had before the trip, huh? Well, if you know somewhat about your bike, you know what angle you had in case if you have angleset, and i think you'd get a set of cups, which was on your bike while you were riding, on a trip, so this can't be changed much too.
The point of this TT is that to get those small things right in order to be comfortable on your bike, not to tweek the shit out of it and then not be able to put it as it was. Although I think every rider can get these things nailed without having to measure everything with a meter and writing it down. The only thing I write down is my suspension tuning.
  • 1 0
 top crown level is important when you attempt different trails, for example steep with a lot of burms and you need your position stable on the front end and not dive when you cornering high position, or nice and smood track with a lot of jumps and high speed when you are more on the rear end of your bike low level Wink
  • 26 5
 Has anyone ever actually seen anyone do this trailside? It just seems totally pointless to me, you can tell whether the seat is too high or the brake levers are in the wrong place for you just by sitting on the bike. Sure, maybe if you were doing bike test and wanted to setup 10 bikes exactly the same, but otherwise it's just daft.
  • 7 1
 tell me why anyone would be doing this trailside? it's for when you build your bike back up after being shipped and having an idea how to get it all back the same way you wanted it before. and say you get a new bike, if you have your geometry written down you can set it up exactly like your old bike was.
  • 17 1
 Kashima shock OMNOMNOM
  • 12 0
  • 7 0
 is it just me or are these 'tips' getting aimed at (for lack of a better word) noobs? What happened to all the real techy stuff? the stuff that would save you a fortune since you dont have to chuck your bike into a shop to be fixed when the air shock dies etc.
rather than telling people how to set up a bike (which is all down to personal preferance) can we please get back to the proper how to strip and rebuild videos?

Personally i'd rather a know how to strip the rebound cartridge on a set of 2011 40s or something usefull like that. Not how to move my brake levers....
  • 3 0
 Pretty sure it's Richard Cunningham from mbaction who wrote the article...people familiar with the mag will notice...good base line setup for beginners though, or just plain confusing for some.
  • 2 0
 Sorry, it is RC who wrote that, didn't see the author, typical mbaction stuff.
  • 1 0
 exactly what i saw mountain bike fiction nonsense to fill pages haha
  • 4 1
 Great article with some great points. Take what you like and leave what you don't! This blur looks sooooooo beautiful! RidEOn!
  • 3 0
 Great article. I hadn't considered taking these measurements before. They will aid greatly when setting up a baseline for a new bike or when traveling/renting bikes.
  • 1 0
 A little off topic, but in the same vein..... Thinking of changing my bar set-up from long stem and medium width bar to 780mm wide OSX and very short stem (this is for use on an all-mountain type longish travel frame). I've been told by other riders that I can really reduce stem length with wider bars, giving more climbing control during all mnt rides and also more control for descents in the park. I use my bike for xc and dh. Does anyone have advice on wide bar set-ups?
  • 2 0
 there was a techtuesday that dealt with that
  • 1 0
 ReignRider: short stem plus wide bars = more control. If the only reason you climb up a hill is to go down it, do it. I ran uncut bars and 50-60mm stems on my Reigns. Most of the time climbing is more about fitness than technical ability anyway.
  • 1 0
 Thanks guys, think i'll head to the shop tomorrow and pick up some wide bars and a short stem.
  • 2 0
 This tech tuesday was an absolute waste of time, if you cannot figure some of these things out on your own, then do not try to do it on your own. Instead either just ride teh bike the way it is or go to a shop.
  • 1 0
 you should allways chech the suspention the brakes Tire pressure and the shifting when riding someone elses bike
Maybe your rideing angles change if bigger bike you get longer chainstay longer wheelbase get everything dialled and go to ride:>
  • 3 1
 That's stupid! People should adjust their bikes until they feel comfortable with it. You can feel when its setup wrong, you don't need measurements to tell you that.
  • 1 1
 next weeks tech tuesday tip will offer suggesting what the numbers could be for specific bikes and riders. A guide line, otherwise no one will really know if what feels good is a finger in the bum or the suggested seat height to bar height, or seat position relative to the imaginary center of the bottom bracket, or the distance from saddle to handle bar..... yes I am retarded :-)
  • 2 0
 I wish that you would cover the handlebar angle. More up More down. I personally need some help with that.
  • 4 0
 As a bike mechanic I see all kinds of bar positions on customers bikes. I rode BMX for many years before I moved to MTB. I and most BMXers I knew had their bars rolled back to around the same angle of the fork. I do the same on my MTBs. Roll the bars back towards you IMO. Obviously this is just my opinion and you'll have some other riders telling you the opposite. Try different angles yourself (out on the trail - not just a carpark test) until you find what's comfortable.
  • 1 0
 My baseline is to have it in the same angle as the fork. In most cases it works really well. But on my trailbike I have an awful set of bars (Spank Spike 777) with too little sweep. I rolled it a bit back and it at least is rideable. On my DH/FR bike I have it in the same angle as the fork, maybe a tiny bit forward. A guy I know told me that he liked his bars set up a little forward, it made the bike a little more playable and he found the bike to i.e. bunny hop easier.
  • 1 0
 Many years ago I heard someone say that the grip portion of the bars should be parallel to the ground. At the time my bike was set up by pro DH rider I knew, and the spirit level showed that he set his bars up level to the ground. I've done this ever since. It may not be perfect for you, but it is an excellent place to start. I bet the guys above will by only a few degrees backwards or forwards of that point.

You could use the 'by halves' method that can be used for setting damping. Roll your bars quite forward to some arbitrary 'Position 1'. Then roll it heaps backwards to some arbitrary 'Position 2'. If '2' feels better than '1', then position '3' is halfway between 1 and 2. So which feels better, position 2 or 3? If position 2 still feels better, then position 4 is halfway between 2 and 3. Which feels better, 2 or 4? And so on going half-way between the good and the not-as-good until you get to the final point. Using this method qualifies you as a bike nerd.
  • 2 0
 One of those things we all know we ought to do, but we never get around to.
  • 1 0
 Hmmm, the water in step #4 looks incredible for swimming... Well, I guess the water is in all of the photos but #4 by far is the most tempting.
  • 1 0
 dude.... its murky and green?
  • 1 0
 are you high ?
  • 1 0
 this is great for those of us who travel - takes a little of the trail and error out of getting the bike back in the sweet spot
  • 1 0
 Whats the weight on that bike... it looks like nearly everything is carbon!
  • 1 0
 i see why we need to know this, but no measurements can beat what just plainly feels right and natural on ur own bike.
  • 1 0
 lol, did you read the article at all?
  • 1 1
 yes, i understand its for people that travel and stuff, im just expressing my opinion about general riding positions. just saying that riders should go with what feels right
  • 1 0
 haha, what a stupid statement. isn't it pretty obvious that you should feel comfortable on your bike? as you clearly haven't read it, it's about how you easier can get that feeling out of OTHER bikes. i.e. if you have to rent or borrow a bike for a day.
  • 2 0
 o right, sorry, i mis understood this compleatly, my bad
  • 1 0
 who cares about measurement tech bs just ride yor bike im pretty sure most people dont notice that when there riding
  • 2 0
 bring back tech tuesday, this is not tech at all!
  • 1 0
 Stack and reach... I'm all for stack and reach measurements.
  • 1 0
 One of the nicest setups ive seen!
  • 1 0
 personally. trial and error is the best method.
  • 1 0
 sooo ya... freeride dh and dirt jumping? im not using those....
  • 1 0
 Where did the links to the other tech tuesdays go?
  • 1 0
 i think what they have done is SCREWED THIS UP. im not saying its not helpfull or anything its just not a proper tech tuesday. from what i have seen the previous tech tuesdays helped you to maintain your bike. doing things like fork rebuilds, brake bleeds, wheel building ect. please if your reading this pinkbike bring back the old tech tuesdays and do a dj3 rebuild its quite a popular fork. maybe boxxers and fox 40's aswell also you could do a how to change barings in your hubs kinda thing
  • 1 0
 that blur looks hot.
  • 1 0
 siiiccckkkkk bikkkkee
  • 1 2
 this is able to a dh bike or just for a specific bike??
  • 1 2
 kashima looks like faded anodized doodoo. water looks delicious though.

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