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Technical FAQ: Duplicating position on a new bike

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published May. 8, 2007
  • Updated Feb. 24, 2011 at 7:45 PM EST

Dear Lennard,
I have spent a couple of years “tinkering” with my position on the bike. I feel like my position is now as close to perfect as possible. I am now worried that if I change shoes or damage my bike, etc. that I am going to lose my “perfect position.” What measurements shouldI record in order to duplicate my current setup on a new bike in the future? Also, I currently wear Sidi cycling shoes. How difficult is it to duplicate my cleat placement on a different manufacturer’s shoes if I choose to switch brands in the future?
-Ryan

Dear Ryan,
This is a perfect question for me, because I have a lot of bikes as well as a lot of cycling shoes (my wife used to call me “Imelda” because of it!).
You need to record:

1. Seat height (from bottom bracket to top of saddle if the cranks are all the same length; if crank length varies, then from pedal to top of saddle when the crank is lined up with the seat tube)
2. Saddle setback relative to the bottom bracket. I drop a plumb line from the saddle nose and measure horizontally from it to the bottom bracket center (mark where the line passes the chainring, rather than trying to measure from the line itself, which can move). If the cranks are not the same length,you need to factor that into the saddle fore-aft position (i.e., if the crank is 5mm longer, then the saddle should be 5mm further forward relative to the bottom bracket center).
3. Relative heights of saddle and bar (measure from the floor up to the top of the saddle and the top of the bar and find the difference)
4. Saddle to bar center (easy if saddles are all the same; if not, measure from lots of different points on the old and new saddles totry and establish an average position)
5. Saddle angle (for me that’s easy, as I level them with a three-foot level)
6. Bar width
7. Brake lever position on the bar

As for shoe cleat position, I actually drill a hole in the she soles under the cleat to measure the sole thicknesses and take that into account withsaddle height. Usually, though, it is so close that it is not worth worrying about. I have about ten pairs of shoes that are so close in thickness thatI can use them interchangeably and not notice anything. I place the cleats the same distance from the heel in all shoes, accounting for thick logos or other plastic on the back of some shoes. And the cleat’s rotational position must of course be the same for all shoes — make a jig, or hold them up the each other, cleat to cleat, and eyeball the cleat alignment.
-Lennard

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Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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