Can a Mountain Bike be Too Big?

We’re the first people to say size doesn’t matter when it comes to most things. We aren’t going to bike-shame you, especially if you feel happy and comfortable riding.

But, unfortunately, a mountain bike’s size can affect your riding experience. The last thing you want is to have spent several hundred (or even several thousand) dollars on a mountain bike only to find it doesn’t fit you properly.

Here’s everything you need to know about mountain bike sizes and if yours is too big.

Does Mountain Bike Size Really Matter?

Does Bike Size Matter? Scott's Bike Vs. Neil's Bike

Yes! Mountain bike size really matters!

The wrong mountain bike size can disrupt your riding experience and may lead to injury or general discomfort. Think about how difficult it is to drive a car when the seat is pulled back too much: you can’t reach the pedal properly, you’re hunched over to grip the steering wheel, and driving just feels off.

Finding the right model for you is very important, so if your supplier or retailer doesn’t have that model in the exact size you need, it’s not worth considering. There are long-term and short-term consequences of getting a bike in the wrong size.

Your height will determine the bike size you need.

Unfortunately, you cannot just try on a bike like you would a new jacket or a pair of jeans. Some bikes make you feel comfortable at first, but after a few weeks of riding, whether the bike’s size is correct or not will become unavoidably obvious.

Bike sizes vary depending on the type of bike it is. So, if you’re unsure of what size is best for you, ask a professional.

You should avoid guessing or estimating since the repercussions of getting the wrong size are far more serious than having to spend an extra day or two getting a well-informed opinion.

Can a Mountain Bike Be Too Big?

A mountain bike can absolutely be too big.

Think about when you were younger and used to try to ride your older sibling or cousin’s bike. It felt awkward, unstable, and pedaling stretched your little legs completely straight.

What Happens if My Mountain Bike is Too Big?

my mountain bike is too big
Riding a bike isn’t very complicated, but it will become a lot more difficult if you’re trying to maneuver a heavy metal frame and thick, giant tires through rocky terrain.

Handlebars are supposed to be comfortable and support your weight, but if the bike is too big, you’ll struggle to get a firm grip on the bars.

Your handlebars also control steering, so if your bike is too big, you won’t be able to turn as easily. If a bike is the correct size, making a relatively sharp 90-degree turn should be doable. If you find yourself taking wide turns with little control, your bike might be too big.

Posture will also be compromised on a larger bike.

Mountain bikes sit higher than traditional road bikes, but you should still be able to bend forward slightly for comfort. Larger bikes force you to sit a lot straighter.

Maintaining an aligned, straight, spine is usually a positive thing. But on a bike, you don’t want to be sitting completely straight. It can cause discomfort and, like the handlebars, can take away some control you have of the bike.

Becoming tired and overworked on a large bike is also common.

If you’re in an uncomfortable position and can’t steer properly, a fun weekend bike ride can quickly turn into a chore. You may not notice this immediately. Testing out a bike by riding around the block won’t usually tire you out, even if it’s the wrong size.

Pedaling will also feel awkward and exhausting. You may find yourself having to push more than normal to move the wheels, or stretch your legs out too much to complete a movement.

This will exhaust your legs, knees, and hips quickly.

Pedaling should feel natural, so the physical and mental strain of having to work that much harder to move the bike forward may become overwhelming. We want you to finish a bike ride excited to go on your next one--not worn out and convinced you can never ride again!

Finally, the biggest risk of riding on a bike that’s too big for you is crashing.

We’ve listed several ways how riding a mountain bike that’s too large can affect you. Each one includes an element of losing control.

This risk is further increased on mountain bike trails.

Riding in nature is relaxing and freeing, but it’s also inconsistent. Whether you’re going over a stretch of rocky terrain or soaring through a bunch of puddles, keeping control of your steering, pedaling, and braking is essential for the entirety of the experience.

It can be dangerous to ride on a bike that’s too big for you, and you may end up hurting yourself and never wanting to ride a mountain bike again!

How Do I Know If My Mountain Bike is Too Big?

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What are the warning signs of a bike that’s too big? Here are a few to look out for:

1/ Control

How much control do you have when riding your bike?

Pay attention to how easy it is to steer. Mountain bike trails can have quite sharp and unforgiving turns, so you will want to test this out before setting off on a long bike ride in the wilderness.

You should have enough pedaling control to decide how fast or slow you want to go. If speeding up is difficult because you can’t pedal confidently enough, the bike is too big, and you shouldn’t continue riding it.

2/ Pedaling

Speaking of pedaling, what do your legs look like when moving forward? There should always be a slight bend in your knee, even when your foot is fully pushed out.

One thing to look out for is that you aren’t relying on your foot pushing down on a pedal to do all the heavy lifting, then switching entirely over to the opposite foot. This tedious and forceful way of riding will become exhausting.

3/ General Discomfort

Riding a bike should never be painful or uncomfortable. There may be times when you’re pushing your body to its limits, but it should never hurt.

If the seat of the bike is uncomfortable, or you finish a ride sore and strained, that’s a sign the bike is too big.

Listen to your body and remember that there is a difference between pushing yourself athletically or ignoring what your body needs to feel safe and comfortable.

What Happens if My Mountain Bike is Too Small?

my mountain bike is too small
If a mountain bike is too small, you will have a difficult time riding.

Pedaling will bring your knees far higher than they need to be. If your knees surpass your hips while pedaling, the bike is probably too small.

Your posture will also determine if a bike is too small.

Are you hunched over the handlebars because they come down too low? Is your lower back stiff and uncomfortable?

You may need higher handlebars or a larger bike frame.

Finally, you will also deal with soreness and discomfort with a smaller bike.

Be mindful of how your body feels after a ride. Does it feel refreshed and energized, or stiff and awkward?

Which Mountain Bike Size is Right For Me?

Hiland Mountain Bike 27 Speeds for Men Women
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Your height will determine the bike size you need. Mountain bikes are usually sized from extra small to extra large.

Riders that are 5’ to 5’ 4” tall should ride an XS mountain bike. The frame size will be 13 to 14 inches.

Individuals that are 5’ 4” to 5’ 7” tall need an S mountain bike. That’s going to be a 14 to 16 inch frame.

If you’re anywhere from 5’ 7” to 5’ 10”, an M mountain bike will work well. The frame size will be 16 to 18 inches.

Riders that are 5’ 10” to 6’ 1” should ride an L mountain bike. An 18 to 20 inch frame will work well for them.

Finally, any riders over 6’ 1” will need an XL mountain bike. The frame size will be 20 to 22 inches.

If you happen to be a bigger bodied individual, you should be mindful of the weight limits on mountain bikes. This will ensure you get the most out of your purchase and can ride safely and securely.

There’s no shame in needing a larger bike, so don’t be afraid to ask for one!

In Conclusion

The size of a mountain bike can make or break your riding experience.

There are plenty of tell-tale signs that a bike is too big, but the most obvious is how difficult pedaling is.

You should only have to push yourself so far on a mountain bike. We highly recommend testing out your bike before getting on a trail so that you don’t end up three miles from your car on a bike that doesn’t fit properly.

Make sure to have a look at our guide above to determine what bike size will work best for you.

Have you ever accidentally ended up with a bike that was too big? How did riding it feel like?

Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Good luck!

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