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How to pick the right size E-Bike

How to pick the right size E-Bike

Does riding your E-Bike cause pain in the lower back, neck, elbow, knee or buttocks? These are signs that it is not properly fitted to your body. Whether you are buying your first E-Bike, or replacing an old or uncomfortable one, getting the correct fit is key.

A poorly fit seat can lead to compressed nerves and restricted blood flow. Improved saddle design is being driven by the needs of women riders as the traditional saddles were designed for men. Another step towards women’s equality.

The wrong frame size will reduce performance but can also damage your body. The wrong handlebars can put your body into damaging positions as well. An E-Bike that is too high is not safe to ride.

There are many adjustments that can be made by buying various bike components individually so they can be custom chosen for your body. In order to purchase customized bike parts, you will need an understanding of the bike anatomy. E-Bikes have many small parts, which makes shipping easy. It also makes swapping out one part for a different size much easier.

General Bike Anatomy

Bike Parts:

  • Frame
  • Seat or saddle
  • Seatpost
  • Seatpost clamp
  • Stem
  • Handlebards
  • Crank
  • Crank Gear
  • Chain
  • Drive chain
  • Pedals
  • Wheel 

Determining the Correct Size for E-Bike Parts

As easy as it seems to walk into Walmart, pull a bicycle off the rack and sit on it, there is more to sizing a regular bicycle, or E-Bike than that. While E-Bike frames may not have the same variety of choice than regular bicycles, yet, understanding frames in general, will help decide the best E-Bike frame. The seat and other parts will be interchangeable between the two if you find a small adjustment would be beneficial. Understanding those parts will be helpful as well.

Frame

Brands have size charts by model and frequently a geometry chart with all the relevant dimensions for each model and size. This usually includes a recommended rider height range for each size. The main piece of information to keep in mind is that these measurements are specific to that brand and that model.

This is not so easy for those whose torso and leg lengths are not proportional. In this case, stand over height may be the first place to start. This is simply standing upright over the upright bike and seeing if you have about 2” of clearance.

Bike frames are also discussed in terms of reach and stack. Reach refers to the horizontal distance between the crank pivot to the top of the head tube and the stack measures the distance between the same two points, only vertically. Race frames want a short stack and a long reach while frames for endurance riding prefer the opposite.

Below are two charts that give an idea of how this is done. Just keep in mind that the bike size can vary from model to model.

 

 

 

 

Handlebars

Handlebar styles are mostly matched to the purpose of the bike and the reason being that they were designed with that purpose in mind. Thus mountain bikes, commuter bikes, and road bikes will not have extremely different handle bars. Doing so can put the body in damaging positions. With regard to size, the handlebar width is based on your shoulder width. Which is nice, since the next step is the saddle, which is not so straightforward..

Seat/Saddle

Saddle purchasing is usually one of the first things people think about, but in fact it should be done after picking your handle bars. The key feature when purchasing a saddle is to ensure that you are putting your weight on your sit bones and staying off of the soft tissue.

Good saddles are designed to ensure that your sit bones are properly placed and they come in multiple widths for that purpose. Properly placement ensures that nerves and veins are not sat on.

Avoid using extra padding on your seat as this merely gets in the way of proper sit bone placement. You may have minor tenderness for the first few rides, but your sit bones will get used to providing the support.

You do need to take into consideration your purpose for the E-Bike. Slower riders will prefer an upright position, but faster riders will prefer a position that supports them in a forward lean as their effective seating space is less. Either way, your goal is for your legs to pump symmetrically without causing torque to the spine.

Check your bike shops to see if any provide easy methods of getting accurate measurements. These may be in the form of gel pads. Another high end testing tool found at some bike shops is a device that helps you test out multiple types of seats. 

Check around and see what is available to you locally before you try complicated methods of taking your own measurements or buying a bike fit. Optimally, you will find a bike shop or manufacturer who offers a demo or buy back program that allows you to use the seat for regular rides so you can return it if need be.

Saddle height is important because it will affect the power of your pedal. You want about a 30 degree angle on your knee, but that can be adjusted as you ride and get used to the bike.

Seatpost

The seatpost length is another part to be considered. If the post is too short you choose between riding too low and risking damaging your seat tube if the seat post is not deep enough. If the post is too long, you cannot drop the seat low enough for your height. If the seatpost that comes with your E-Bike is not the correct height, it can easily be changed out.

Assessing your preferred bike type

What are you dreaming of doing once you get this E-Bike? Are your dreams full of rough and tumble, dirty bike trails? Are you dreaming of a more relaxed commute home? Are your dreams about picnics with the family and long conversations with your partner? These are the drivers of the type of bike you purchase.

Mountain Bike

Mountain bikes are the main type whose wheel size matters. In this case, bigger is better. While this raises the height of the bike, the frames are adjusted for this. The wheels are much wider because they will not be ridden on smooth pavement and must handle several hazards. These bikes will also get more abuse so they need to be sturdier.

Road Bike

A road bike is best when you want speed on smooth pavement. Whether this is racing, exercise, or commuting, road bikes are the choice. They are lighter, with narrower wheels, a longer frame and a specific saddle style.

Cruiser bike

A cruiser bike is best for family outings, short trips around town on errands or kid transportation. From the frame to the seat to the handlebars, these bikes are designed for a relaxed body posture. This is the E-Bike to get if none of your rides will be long or at high speed.

Measuring your body

Getting accurate measurements of your own body is even more important if you are purchasing your bike online. Assessing standover height in this case is done differently. You can simulate the presence of the bike with power poses. Stand up with your shoes off and your feet 6”-8” inches apart. Measure, or have someone else do it, between the ground and your crotch. That sounds uncomfortable either way.

A DIY method of measuring the sit bone would be to find a way to make a permanent or semi permanent impression of your seat pattern. Seating on a piece of cardboard or sitting on a dry bench with a wet bum are options. EIther way, you sith with a straight body, lean forward momentarily and stand up. Now you can outline the two indentations left behind. From here you just mark the center of the indentations and measure the distance between the two centers.

Part of deciding your bike size is based on your arm and torso measurements. Torso measurement is taken from crotch to the top of your breastbone. Make sure the tape measure is vertical and not contoured to your body. To get your arm measurements, hold your arm parallel to the floor, make a fist with your thumb facing the ceiling. Measure the distance between the middle of your fist and your collarbone.

Handlebars are sized off of the measurement of your acromioclavicular joints, or AC joints, in your shoulders. You want to put your hands where the brakes are and have them be shoulder width apart.

What about you?

This is your bike so this process and decision is all about you. Your measurements, your body’s needs, your preferred riding style and the purpose of the bike. You are purchasing this E-Bike to improve your life. It is important that it does not damage your body.

Comfort for Your Body

Not everyone considers the sit bone measurement as a key determinant in saddle purchasing. What really matters is if you are comfortable, because you will not ride an uncomfortable bike. The same rule applies to the frame size question with the addition that different frames perform better for different functions.

If you have discomfort in any upper body parts, your handlebar height may be the culprit. This height is affected by the type and style of your riding, as well as your neck mobility and general flexibility.

The wrong size can also reduce the efficiency of your pedaling, as well as be uncomfortable. Reduced pedal efficiency leads to increased energy expenditure. While you may be riding for fitness, that does not mean this energy expenditure is beneficial. If you finish the ride with aching in unusual places, that will not motivate you to get back on it. Also, if your planned ride was intended to push your endurance anyway, this may put you into the bonking zone. Which is also not motivating to go do it again.

Your Riding Style

How you will ride your E-Bike affects some size issues. If you will do rough and tumble mountain biking, you want a lower frame. If you are riding to commute or have family fun time, you will want a cruiser style frame with a saddle designed to sit upright and traditional handlebars with your hands on top. If you are riding for speed, you will want a saddle designed for sitting forward and handlebars that position your hands down lower.

Invest in bike fit?

For convenience and comfort, having a professional bike fit done may be worth the money. There are many factors and details to consider. If you are not a detail oriented person, it would be very easy to overlook a key detail. If you enjoy planning and tracking every detail down, then a DIY option may be preferable.

Either way, remember that your fit may change as your body changes. This may be due to age, weight loss, increased flexibility and, temporarily, pregnancy. If your E-Bike starts to feel less comfortable, it would be worth redoing some of those measurements.

Last, it is highly recommended that you get your personal measurements before you shop around. After you have picked your E-Bike, wait briefly, and recheck your measurements against the bike measurements one more time.

Ready, Set, Measure, Shop?

You are making a long term investment so you need to be sure that you are getting a product that you will be happy with and that you will like enough to use. If it is not comfortable, an E-Bike does not make a good paperweight nor doorstop either. To prevent your E-Bike from becoming just more garage clutter, take the time to arm yourself with information to make the endeavor successful.


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