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How To Set Up Your Track Bike

There are so many different formulas, services and custom fit guidelines around how to correctly fit your track bike.

So much so, we feel it’s all getting way too complicated than it needs to be.

If you’re new to the sport of track cycling, perhaps you come from a road background, or are new to cycling in general, then we recommend you follow a basic set up guide before getting too fancy with modifications.

So where to once you’ve purchased your track bike? 

Once you’ve purchased your track bike, working out your correct saddle position, which includes its height (vertical plane) and setback (horizontal plane) is the first place you will start. 

Once this is set, it should then be untouched, as you will work on the rest of the set up once the saddle position is set. 

When you’re setting up your saddle, it’s very important to note your flexibility and range of motion at the time of set up. You may need to make small adjustments over time as you improve your flexibility or ROM. 

During set up you should also wear the type of shoes, cleats and knicks you plan on riding in (as they will add to your overall saddle height). 

Saddle Height (Vertical Position):

Your saddle height runs from the end of your crank through to the middle of top of the seat (where your pelvis rests).

When you’re setting up your saddle height, it’s important to:

  • Ensure your hips don’t rock when pedalling.
  • You’re not having trouble reaching the pedals.
  • You're not hyper-extending in the knee to allow for maximum recruitment of all muscle groups required throughout the pedal stroke. 

To set up your saddle, follow these steps: 

  1. With your shoes on, sit on the saddle with one leg hanging free, your pelvis level and directly in the middle of your seat (you shouldn’t have tilted hips when doing this). 
  2. Your hanging leg’s heel should be able to only just touch the pedal or scrape it when you swing it past (at the 6 o'clock position) when the pedal is at the very bottom of the pedal stroke. 
  3. In the 6 o'clock position, place your foot in the pedal and the correct riding position will demonstrate a slight bend in the knee. 
  4. Generally, the bent knee should have between 26 to 36 degrees of flexion from a straight leg but this will vary based on individual circumstances (such as flexibility). If you’re finding that your hips are rocking from side to side, lower the seat one to two millimetres at a time until rocking ceases.

Note: To check the bend in the knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke, we’d recommend you use a goniometer and record the angles and positions as you go along noting that these will vary from mm to mm over time once cushioning of the seat softens, flexibility changes, you wear a different pair of riding knicks etc.

Saddle Fore-Aft Position:

This horizontal position is an important one and will vary based on the type of bars you’re using.

Generally, this position is something that you’ll measure in relation to the position of the centre bracket.

It's useful to note that if you’re competing on the International Stage, the UCI will also make reference to your saddle position and it’s relation to the centre bracket to ensure it falls within competition regulations. 

For more on the technical rulings visit the UCI's Rules & Regulations Page.

To set up your horizontal saddle position: 

Generally, the knee over pedal spindle alignment is usually completed with a plumb-bob or laser (for better accuracy). 

See the diagram below, but what we’re looking for is to ensure that the knee cap of the front leg when placed at 3 o’clock is just of over the centre of the pedal. 

Once this is established - and this may be all you need to do when setting up your fore-aft position on your bike, you’ll need to ensure you are balanced, that is, have good front to back bike balance and even weight distribution.

Achieving the right fore-aft balance ensures that you don’t have too much weight forward or backwards and can fit within the UCI saddle position regulations. 

Once you’ve set up your saddle you can move onto working out your reach.

Setting up Your Reach

When looking at your frame’s reach, you’ll need to get yourself into a comfortable riding position, that is, the position that you’ll use the most, the position of most importance to you when riding (i.e. in the drops of the bars or in the pursuit position). 

The position of your handlebars relies on a combination of your handlebar’s height, depth and width so it’s important you have an understanding of what you’re working with and towards when you are setting up your position.

If you’re looking for a basic bike set up with drop bars (sprint bars), then set yourself up using the basic method outlined below:

  1. Sit on the saddle and reach onto the bars in the position you intend on riding in.
  2. Use a goniometer to set yourself up to accommodate for a basic riding position where the angle between the torso and the upper arm is around 90 - 95 degrees.
  3. Whilst in your riding position, slightly bend the elbows which should accommodate a 20 - 30 degree + bend in the elbow. This bend in the elbow will increase with a more aerodynamic position (which is encouraged so long as you can maintain targeted average power over the set duration or distance). 

The above three steps provides a basic outline of how to set up your reach, and this will work for you if you’re a beginner cyclist. 

Another way to look at your reach is through establishing both the ‘frame stack’ lengths and ‘frame reach’ lengths of the bike you’re planning on riding. 

This is particularly useful when you are moving from one bike to the next, particularly with changes in geometry between different makes and models.

The diagram below outlines both frame stack and frame reach and if you’re using stack and reach as a way of standardising your set up (recommended).

ALWAYS use the centre bracket as a reference point in conjunction with your set saddle position.

The frame reach = the position of the middle of the centre bracket through to the centre of the top of the head tube.

The frame stack = is defined as the vertical distance between the bottom bracket and the centre of the top of the head tube.

Once you have an understanding of what your frame reach and frame stack are, record them and use them as a standard reference point to work from in establishing the types of bars and seats you plan on utilising in. 

Cleat Set Up

Setting up your cleats is paramount to bike fit success and this is one area you don’t want to go wrong. 

If you miss the mark, you run the risk of not only poor performance on the bike, but developing tight muscles and injuries, particularly of the knee and back. 

In setting up your cleats for the first time, we’d recommend you follow these steps:

  1. First set your cleats so that the ball of your foot (centre of knuckle of the first toe) is in line with the centre of the cleat. This will give you a good neutral starting point.
  2. Ensure that the position of the cleats are even from both right to left, and use a marker to mark the ball of the foot on each shoe as opposed to using pre-set grids which come stock standard with many cycling shoes. 
  3. As a general guide, when you’re looking at the horizontal (side to side) position of the cleat, the foot should be directly below the knee when you’re pedalling. 

Do you have any questions regarding your track bike set up?

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