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Home » Fitness » How To Set Up A Bike For Someone Else; Pitfalls and Problems to Avoid… And The Thing That Made It Easy To Work On My Wife’s Bike.

How To Set Up A Bike For Someone Else; Pitfalls and Problems to Avoid… And The Thing That Made It Easy To Work On My Wife’s Bike.

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The hardest thing about setting up a bike for someone else is trying to navigate around what they’re feeling. It’s real easy to look at my own setup and know that I have to drop the nose angle a little, or if I need some upwards tilt on the hoods to keep my hands from going numb. What do you do if you’re trying to fit your wife to a bike? I tried to approach this using what worked for me, only to learn my wife needed something a little different. I threw myself into research and, thank God, there was enough decent information out there from reputable fitters that I could make some good choices and put as much effort into setting my wife up as I did my own bikes.

The first thing we have to do to set someone else up is develop a language that we can both rely on. Assuming you’re the more experienced, this will fall on you. Use your patience here, especially if you’re working with your spouse. If you don’t have any, get some. In a pinch, try Xanax or Valium. I’m kidding. Don’t do drugs.

For saddle height, get it close, say within a couple of millimeters, first. Then work on fore and aft positioning. Start out with the old “heels on the saddle and pedal backwards without rocking the hips” trick to get close.

Next, for saddle position fore and aft, think backwards. Use a level or plumb bob to get the knee over the spindle if possible, or a little forward of the spindle if necessary because of the bike’s geometry. If your victim pin cushion guinea pig the person you’re working with feels like they want to skootch their butt back as they’re riding, you move the saddle forward. If they feel like they want to skootch up, you move the saddle back. Basically, move the saddle to where their butt wants to be, not vice-versa.

Next we’ll work on saddle tilt. I didn’t know this nine months ago. A female’s saddle will typically tilt a little more that what we learn in bike setup school (YouTube) because of the shape of their pelvis in relation to a male’s pelvis and saddle. This video helped my understanding what I was working with in setting up my wife’s bikes a lot. It was a game changer in setting up my wife’s bike:

In the end, we want the saddle to cradle us whether we’re on the hoods or in the drops. We don’t want to slide forward which will require bracing ourselves with our arms and lead to neck and shoulder issues, and we don’t want the saddle nose pressing into sensitive areas when we’re in the drops. Look for the middle ground. It is there.

From there, we can start looking at setting the saddle height perfectly. When I was setting up my wife on our tandem and her road bike, this exposed a neat difference in switching from road to mountain pedals. My bikes are almost identical in height going from road to mountain shoes. My wife is different by about a quarter of an inch. Also, as we narrowed in on her “perfect” saddle height on the tandem, she began having hip pain on one side. One leg was longer than the other, and this became clearer as we were professionally measured for a new tandem we’d ordered. My wife hated lowering the saddle so her hip pain could subside. When the saddle is too low, we tend to push our butt into the saddle and this leads to a hot spot wherever your butt hits the saddle. Raising the saddle clears this issue but meant my wife had to ever-so-slightly tilt her hip to get down to the bottom of the pedal stroke. We put an extra insole insert in her right shoe to bring her right foot into level with her left. No more hip pain and her saddle was high enough she didn’t grind her butt into it.

There’s one final trick to setting up a bike for someone else… I like to go for a slow ride with my wife after we’ve set up a bike for her. I bring a 4 & 5 mm Allen key with me so I can make adjustments on the road to suit how she actually feels riding the bicycle outdoors. Ten miles should take an hour with six or seven minor adjustments along the way. This has proven to be the final key to getting her bikes as close to perfect as I can get them.

Once I got the first bike right, I simply repeated the process and already established the feel and vocabulary needed to repeat the process, quickly.

I’d written this post over two days and it never really felt complete. It struck me this morning why. I’d missed one important point that makes working on someone else’s setup… erm… work. For my wife’s bikes I committed myself to putting as much enthusiasm into setting her bike up as I had for mine. That’s really what made it click in my mind.

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1 Comment

  1. […] up my wife’s fleet to fit her perfectly after watching a few important YouTube videos on a feminine setup… a huge difference I never would have picked up on my own and that saved me from a lot of […]

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