Your hips should not have to rock to reach the pedal but your leg should be completely straight, so that when you clip in, there is a slight bend. “The other thing to check is the playback,” George advises; “with a friend, drop a plumb line from the knee.
To find the initial number, stand with your feet hip width apart (shoes off), place a spirit level between your legs, and mark a point on the wall where the top of the spirit level sits. “The heel on pedal method takes that into account as a mobile person will have the leg totally straight whilst a tight person may have a slight bend and feel like its full extension, without being aware of any bend.
The pelvic pitch forward and position of the lower back might change between bikes.” When it comes to time trial bikes, an area where the road racer turned triathlete hones his expertise, he’d always suggest booking in with a pro.
You can have any of the best road bike saddles in the world, but it must be set up correctly assure maximum comfort and efficiency. This simple method is easy to do on your own and it’s based on your actual leg length, not just random numbers.
While many of our team have used this method to set saddle height successfully for decades, for some riders it will just be a useful ballpark starting point. Writing down the measurements and the tweaks you try as you go along will also help you track the process in case you need to rewind if subsequent adjustments give worse results.
Definitely write down the dimensions and angles once you find your sweet spot too so you can easily restore them if something slips or you need to pull the bike apart for travelling. To adjust your saddle height and position you need nothing more than the correct size Allen key for your seat post and saddle clamps and a tape measure.
A long mirror or friend to check your position can be a big help and a cheap ‘stunt’ seat post can also be useful if you don’t want to mark your expensive one. More traditional bikes use a separate collar around the top of the seat tube of the frame to clamp the post in place.
Aero bikes increasingly use internal wedge clamps tightened from above or below the seat tube though. Raise or lower it so the saddle is roughly at hip height while you’re standing next to the bike and then retighten the clamp.
(Image credit: Mick Kirkman) Now rotate the cranks until one pedal is at the point of the stroke furthest from you. For the ideal starter position, your leg should be dead straight at full extension with your barefoot heel on the pedal.
Take the tape measure, check the distance between the center of the crank axle and the top of the saddle and write it down for future reference. If you like to test your limits off-road, a slightly lower saddle height can make a big difference to stability and safety so just leave it where it is for now.
Cheaper road shoes will often also use a thicker sole too as the materials they use need more depth to give suitable stiffness and cleats so make sure you consider this when refining your saddle height. (Image credit: Mick Kirkman) If you’re running a short nose saddle, often ride in an extreme ‘right-angled elbow’ position to get low out of the wind or you use a bolt-on ‘tribal’ or ‘aero bar’ extensions you might want to lower the seat about 1 cm.
This stops your back from being overstretched and lets your pelvis roll forward, opening up the angle between your legs and your body for easier breathing. (Image credit: Mick Kirkman) As well as the height and angle of your saddle you need to dial in your position in relation to the cranks.
Once you’re happy with the height, tilt and fore/aft position double-check that the saddle is aligned exactly with the top tube and the seat clamp is secure. With that in mind be sure to take your tools with you too and remember the methods here are a suggestion to where to start, not a solid guarantee of optimum position, so never be afraid to have a play around to find your own personal sweet spot.
There is a risk to safety if the operation described in the instructions is not carried out with the appropriate equipment, skill and diligence and therefore you may wish to consult a bike mechanic. Future Publishing Limited provides the information for this project in good faith and makes no representations as to its completeness or accuracy.
The correct saddle height and saddle position are essential for enjoyable and injury free rides on your road bike. There are various methods which you can use to get to the correct saddle height and setback for your road bike.
We’ve listed the three most popular methods to determine the correct seat height below. And we also show you how to determine the correct setback of your saddle.
The saddle height is always measured with the crank arm pointed down and in line with the seat tube. The distance from the center of the pedal axle to the top of your saddle is your seat height. Before changing the height of your saddle, you should measure your current saddle height.
Then you measure from the center of the pedal axle to the top of your saddle. If you know your previous seat height, you can at least reset your saddle to the correct saddle height.
The heel method is being used by many road cyclists to determine the saddle height. This is a quick and easy way to check whether your seat height is correct.
Make sure the crank arm which is currently supporting your foot is pointed down and in line with the seat tube. Make sure the crank arm is in line with the seat tube, and extend your leg.
Stand against a wall with a fairly thick book clamped between your legs. Firmly pull the book upwards, it’s supposed to feel slightly uncomfortable.
Calculating your ideal saddle height based on your inseam is easy. Multiply by 1,09 and you know your correct saddle height. The result is your seat height in millimeters.
It’s a bit more precise because the way you put your feet on the pedals is taken into account. According to the Holmes method, the ideal knee angle is between 25 and 35 degrees.
This angle is the difference between your upper and lower leg when your pedal is in its lowest position. But you do need a turbo trainer or a roller and a helpful friend to film you.
After all, you have to be able to stop the film in the right moment. Mount your bike on the turbo trainer and start riding. Record for a minute or slightly longer, so that you can measure several times.
Most saddles can be brought forward or back, or even tilted, with one or two screws on the bottom. You can determine the correct setback of the saddle by using a plumb line (piece of string with a weight at the end). Sit on your bike and bring the pedals in a horizontal position.
It’s important to keep the pedals in a horizontal position when determining the setback. You should only change this if is you suffer from specific problems and you know for sure that your saddle height and the setback are correct.
Do you have a specific problem and want to experiment with the seat height and saddle position? When you raise your saddle, do so with small increments and not with centimeters at a time.