Clear Answer: What Does Bike Size Mean? How To Measure Frame Size?

When shopping for a bike, you might hear a salesman ask you what size bike you want. The best salesman might recommend a frame size best suited for you based on your size. With that said, I know some mountain bike riders and commuters who have been riding for years but still don’t know what bike size means.

What Does Bike Size Mean? The size of the frame typically determines the size of the bike. It is the distance from the pedals or driver train to the seat’s base. The width and length of the handlebars could also contribute to the size of the bike. The size of the tires affects the distance from the ground to the seat.

In the rest of this article, I want to answer three of the most common questions I get when it comes to the size of a bike. After reading through this article, you should be able to measure any potential cycle while knowing what measurements you need. I will start by giving you a chart that should work for most people.

What Does Bike Size Mean

Bike Frame Size Chart

In this section, we will not give you separate tables for age or gender because someone who is 5 foot 7 is 5 foot 7 regardless of those two factors. When you purchase a new bike, it is helpful to see if a manufacturer has its own guidelines.

If a company does not list the numbers but instead uses small, medium, or large, things can become tricky. Even though we can give you a guideline for this, it would be best practice to try and look for the numbers to get the most accurate fit for you. Let’s get into the chart.

example of size
Rider sizeRecommended bike sizeTypically labeled as
150 cm (4’11)14 to 15 inchesKids or Extra small
152 cm to 160cm (5ft to 5’3)15 to 16 inchesSmall
162 cm to 173 cm (5’4 to 5’8)15 to 17 inchesMedium
174 cm to 180 cm (5’8 to 5’11)16 to 18 inchesLarge
180 cm (5’11) or above 19 to 21 inchesExtra large

Because there are so many sizing variables, the table above should only be used as a guideline. You should now know what range you are looking for, depending on your height.

How To Know What Bike Size You Need

Knowing what size bike frame you need can save you a lot of time and discomfort while assisting you to get the best experience possible while riding a mountain bike or commuting to work. So, how do you know what bike size you need? You need to measure four attributes:

  • Measure your overall height.
  • Measure your inseam (The inside of your legs).
  • Measure your torso.
  • Measure the length of your arms.

Your inseam is a lot more important than anything else. It determines how far down your legs can reach. Once you have taken all of your correct measurements, refer to the chart above.

It is recommended that when standing with the bike frame between your legs, there should be at least 2 centimeters between the bike frame and your groin.

How To Measure The Frame Size Of A Bike

It is always important to remember the different brands add different sizes. However, they’re all labeled the same or at least similar. A medium from REI could be different from a medium from Raleigh. With that said, the differences are minor, and you probably won’t have to measure the bike’s frame if you go off the chart in this article.

With all of that said, measuring the frame of a bike is relatively easy, and here’s how to do it in five quick and easy steps:

  1. Get a measuring tape.
  2. The bike does not have to be straight, but I prefer that it is.
  3. Begin your measurement from the base of the frame; this is typically where the drive train is.
  4. Go up as straight as possible.
  5. Stop at the base of the seat post.

If you want to, you can measure the seat, but because seats are adjustable, that is not important.

What Does Reach Mean?

You may have heard the term “reach” thrown around quite a lot. It means how far you need to extend your torso and arms to reach the handlebars. If the bike is too big, you will have to lean forward and stretch your arms constantly.

bike frame size

If the bike is really too small for you, it will feel like your arms are just below your chest. Neither of those positions is comfortable.

Some devices can solve the problem if your handlebars or too far away or too close:

  • if you are too close, you can get a handlebar extender.
  • If they are too far away, you can get a shorter stem.

What If You Get The Wrong Sized Bike?

If you get a bike that is too small, you will feel hunched over. Also, it will be like your knees are constantly trying to come up to your chest. At the same time, if you get a bike that is too big, pedaling will feel uncomfortable, and you will probably have to stand during your entire commute or trail.

rider on a bike

Both of these issues can severely affect how the bike handles. Let’s separate the two problems, too big or too small so that everything is easier to understand:

  • A bike that is too small for you will feel twitchy while also feeling rigid on straights.
  • For a bike that is too big, you might feel underpowered. This is not because of strength. It is because your body has to stretch every time you do something.

Does Tire Size Affect The Frame Size Of A Bike

The size of the tires does not affect the frame size. The distance between the seat and drivetrain remains the same regardless of what tires you have on the bike. In turn, it means that it does not affect the way you pedal, sit, or how comfortable the bike feels in terms of pedaling.

However, there is a misconception that I would like to clear up because you might be thinking, as many people do, that because it does not affect this frame size that it does not affect the way the bike feels. The problem is, that larger tires affect the overall size of the bike.

The distance from the ground to your seat will increase with larger tires, and thus, you might not be able to touch the ground. This could cause a problem in emergencies or make riding the bike feel uncomfortable when you have to put your feet down.

What Does Bike Size Mean Conclusion

In my experience, having a bike that is the perfect size for you will equate to better riding sessions. Whether you go mountain biking or use a road bike for commuting, comfort is one of the most underrated factors because comfort can improve safety, handling, and overall performance.

About Martin

I am Martin, I am the author of this blog. My main interests include cycling. That's why this blog was created. I have always been interested in technology and how bicycles are made, so I built one myself.

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