Should Your Feet Touch The Ground On A Bicycle? (Solved!)

Published Categorized as Bicycles, Bike questions & beginner guides

Bikes are amazingly self-stabilizing when you’re moving, but that changes when you come to a stop. It’s important to feel confident and stable when you put a foot down for balance, yet depending on your bike’s design and seat adjustment, it might still feel wobbly.

Does that mean something’s amiss, or should your feet even touch the ground on a bike in the first place?

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Here’s Whether Your Feet Should Touch the Ground

On most bicycles, at least your forefoot should be able to touch the ground on one side. You might also be able to touch the tiptoes of both feet simultaneously. It’s not strictly necessary, but it may indicate whether the saddle is at a reasonable height.

Some cruisers do let you put both feet flat on the ground, but on most other styles of bikes, that means the saddle is too low. We’ll come back to that below.

As a rule, the more upright/relaxed your riding posture is, the more of you foot (even both feet) will be able to touch the ground. Conversely, with more forward-leaning or “aggressive” riding posture, you generally shouldn’t be able to touch more than one foot at a time.

What Affects Whether Your Feet Touch the Ground?

Bicycle frame design makes a big difference. Saddle height most directly affects the distance from the seat to the pedals, but other factors (like bottom bracket height and seat tube angle) affect the distance from the pedals and seat to the ground.

Those factors differ between bikes. Consequently, if you take two bikes with the same saddle-to-pedals distance, it’s probably easier to reach the ground on one that the other! Both may fit properly, and both have the same leg extension while riding, but one feels more “planted” at a stop. That’s not necessarily better; just different.

As always, there are trade-offs. For instance, city and touring bikes tend to have low bottom brackets. The goal is to lower the center of gravity and therefore make the bike more stable…but it incidentally makes it easier to put a foot down, too. (That’s especially convenient since these bikes are often ridden on city streets with frequent stops.)

However, the low bottom bracket also makes it harder to ride over rough terrain. Being closer to the ground, the pedals are also likelier to strike a rock, tree root, etc.

Conversely, cyclocross and track racing bikes tend to have high bottom brackets for ample ground clearance. That lets you pedal over rough ground and while leaning into turns. The flip side is that it’s harder (but still possible) to touch the ground while on the saddle.

Seat tube angle also matters, which leads us to…

How Does Electra’s Flat Foot Technology® Work?

This isn’t so much technology as a simple geometry difference. It moves the bottom bracket forward in order to help you touch the ground without sacrificing proper leg extension. This is known as a crank-forward design, and it’s common on cruiser bicycles.

As a beginner, it’s confidence-inspiring to put both feet flat on the ground. Many brands use this design to help newer leisure cyclists feel at ease. The classic Electra Townie is the best known-example, but many cruisers in particular use crank-forward geometry.

What exactly is going on here?

Crank-forward geometry (right) means slacker seat tube angle (yellow) and shorter saddle-ground distance (green) without changing saddle-pedal distance (red)

The bottom bracket—that’s what the crank arms attach to—is normally in line with the lower end of the seat tube. But by moving it forward, the frame gets a slack “virtual” seat tube angle, which allows for the same saddle-to-pedals distance yet lower saddle-to-ground distance.

It’s possible to take this much farther than Electras or other cruisers do. In the extreme, you end with up with a recumbent bike!

But why don’t all bikes use this? Simple: it’s not always advantageous to have such a slack seat tube angle. It does suit a very upright bicycle, like a cruiser and even some traditional city bikes. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the reasons that cruisers are difficult to ride outside of smooth, flat, leisurely scenarios.

Other types of bikes need to feel more nimble. That requires leaning forward—at least slightly—to put some more weight over the handlebars. And that, in turn, requires a steeper seat tube angle which defeats the purpose of a crank-forward design.

I’ve written a separate bike geometry guide that covers these terms and several others in more detail, and with plenty of helpful diagrams. It’s useful stuff for any cyclist to know, so check it out if this all Greek to you!

Is It a Problem If Your Feet Can’t Touch the Ground?

If you cannot touch the ground at all while on the saddle and holding the handlebars, then your saddle is probably too high.

That’s a quick fix. Unless you can’t lower the saddle any farther, then it’s not a real problem per se.

However, being able to touch the ground is just a result of proper saddle height. It is not a criterion for saddle height in most cases.

So, what is? Glad you asked…

How Do You Choose the Right Saddle Height?

The short answer is to pick a saddle height where your knee is fully extended while your heel is at the center of the pedal, at the most distant part of the pedal stroke.

In proper riding position, with the ball of your foot over the center of the pedal, you’ll have just a slight knee bend—and that’s exactly what we’re aiming for.

There’s some more nuance to it, so check out this saddle height guide for a deeper dive.