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.
One keynote before we begin: there is no such thing as properly ‘setting your bike seat height ’. Get any of the three wrong and it can lead riders straight back off the bike and to their golf clubs, ping pong racket or walking shoes.
Mark the center of the saddle so you can consistently determine your effective seat height. The more accurate your measurements, the better your ability to understand the impact changes make on your comfort.
Mark this spot on the saddle with a sharpie, small pen, chalk, etc. Measure a horizontal line from a wall to the center of your bottom bracket.
As a place to start, the ‘heel method’ is a very quick way to establish a baseline height. Hop on the bike and place your heel on the pedal, in whatever shoes you plan on riding in.
If the saddle is too high, you’ll not be able to pedal smoothly without having to rock your hips from side-to-side, overreaching. Leave the ‘heel method’ in the rear-view mirror and try putting your foot on the pedal as you would when riding.
At this point, a stationary trainer is pretty much a necessity if you want to give a proper evaluation of your seat height. If you don’t have one, it’s still certainly possible, but it requires help from a friend and some fancy smartphone camera action.
If you’re feeling tension at the front of the knee or a large amount of work only from your quads, that seat height is a bit low. Using the same images track to a point where the crank arm is forward-horizontal and look to the knee.
This little dance goes on until you’ve found something that feels smooth and balanced. No rocking back and forth, no muscle groups feeling like they’re doing more than their share of the work, and no aching knees or hips.
Now take your bike out for a few short spins, and bring your hex keys with you. A few small tweaks can help finalize a good position, but don’t overdo the first couple of rides or you’ll be minimizing the opportunity for proper and painless adaptation.
If it’s the latter of the two that’s worth discussing, largely because you can check for yourself if your seat is capable of providing more support. The tilt of the saddle is a determining factor for where pressure is applied to the pelvis.
If the front of the seat is too high it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the sit bones to provide support. Conversely, if the saddle is too far down at the front your sit bones can support you, but you’ll be sliding forward and subsequently applying too much pressure on your hands.
Use a piece of board and a digital in clinometer (or smartphone level app) to determine saddle tilt. Most saddles fall into a 0- to 6-degree range, with positive (nose up) numbers rarely a possibility.
Yes, it’s a bit of an arbitrary number, but I find it prevents extremes for new riders, which isn’t uncommon. If you still haven’t found true comfort after adjustments have been made, keep moving things around.
Don’t forget to document your changes and how your body has responded. If you’re not finding comfort within a few centimeters of your starting point it’s likely time to head to your local bike shop to investigate your seat shape and width.
Following the instruction above provides only a good starting point for setting your bike saddle up correctly. The key to finding the correct saddle height is to follow basic guidelines and make small adjustments as needed.
Most cycling literature agrees that a saddle height that allows for 25 to 35 degrees of knee flexion when the pedal is at bottom dead center is optimal. It's more common for cyclists to err on the side of a saddle being too low because it's the position that's more comfortable. But riding for long periods in this position can cause overuse injuries to the quadriceps, the patella tendon and the hip flexors.
On the other hand, a saddle that's too high can cause overuse injuries to the hamstring tendons, the iliotibial band and the muscles of the calf. While there's a pretty big difference between 25 and 35 degrees of knee flexion, it's important to stay within this range to avoid injury and maintain optimal power output.
Adjusting your bike to the perfect saddle height is crucial in order to maximize comfort and payoff during your training rides for Jack’s Generic TRI. Saddle height is measured by the distance between the center of the pedal axle and the top of the saddle, or your bike seat.
This is set by adjusting the seat post to your ideal height to balance your comfort and power on the bike. Incorrect saddle height can contribute to discomfort in the saddle, anterior and posterior knee pains, and ultimately limiting how much power you produce.
One of the best approaches is to establish it based on the rider’s individual ride characteristics and flexibility. Your leg should be completely straight, without being overextended to achieve the correct saddle height.
Pro-tip : Make very small adjustments during this process, then repeat until you have found the perfect saddle height. Once you find the proper height, use a piece of electrical tape around at the base of the post where it meets the seat clamp as a marker.
Your body may need a few sessions to adapt to your new saddle height before you feel yourself improving on your cycling journey.