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Cockpit setup

Let's get your new bike setup so you're comfortable, efficient, and safe.


Let’s start with handlebar height. There is no formula for this adjustment. It’s reliant completely on your riding style and preferred feel of your bike. 

The spacer rings between the stem and the top of the headset are where you make this adjustment. By adding or removing the sequence of spacers on either side of the stem, you are raising or lowering the handlebar height of the bike. These rings come in many thicknesses and allow fine tuning of handlebar height.  Naturally, once you have it where you want it, the steer tube can be cut so you don't have to keep spacers on the top side of the stem.

brake levers

Since most of the bikes in these categories feature flat handelbars, we'll utilize the methods used to set up mountain bike levers.  

It's pretty much personal preference. However, we’ve got enough experience to advocate for one overall goal: always start from an angle that keeps your wrist in line with your forearm. Set this one up while in a “descent ready” or standing position on the bike and it will translate to the sitting position seamlessly.


The next adjustment to make is where your fingers engage the levers. Like any lever, the most power can be applied out at the end-most point from the fulcrum. See where the levers have a smooth little hook at the end?  That’s where you want the first knuckle of your index fingers to engage the lever. Setup correctly, that one finger on each lever is all you need to power and completely control the braking functionality of your bike.

Once you’ve established the proper angle and grip distance and tightened down the lever clamps to proper torque spec (you used a torque wrench, right?) it’s time to move on to dialing in lever throw length. Everyone has different hand sizes and finger lengths, and this is why you will find that brake manufacturers have installed an adjuster that determines the distance from the grip to the lever. Some have a dial, some have a little hex screw. These adjusters move the lever closer to or farther away from the grip.

Now that all of this done, take a look from one side of the bike across to the other and see if both levers are at an equal angle and plane. You can also just lay a level or yard stick across them to get a hard measurement. The goal? Make certain they are even and identical in angle.


Next up is saddle height.  A good way to set this is to put on the shoes in which you'll be riding.  With a pedal at six o'clock, your knee should be slightly bent.  How much is too much?  Put your heel on the pedal.  Your knee should be thisclose to locking out.  If it's not, raise the saddle a few millimeters and try again.

Once that position is set, adjust the fore-and-aft of the saddle.  The goal here is to have your knee over the pedal spindle / ball of your foot with the pedal at three o'clock. 

Additionally, you can play with the angle of the saddle from level to a few degrees either direction. Most riders like the saddle level, but you are the best judge for your own backside.

A note on saddle interface: there are two protuberances of bone at the base of the pelvis. The scientific name for them is ischial tuberosities, but we simply call them sit bones. You want your weight supported on these bones, NOT on the soft tissue of the perineal area ahead of them. Adjust the fore and aft to where you’re seated and can comfortably reach your handlebar without locking your elbows, while keeping in mind where your sit bones are resting on the saddle. Adjust it forward and back and try the positions until it’s situated perfectly.


When it comes to the world of bike pedals, there is a LOT going on.  Here's a page that breaks down the intel: