new pedals / shoes + saddle height

Dr M
Dr M Posts: 171
edited July 2008 in Road beginners
ummm this might sound stupid, but i assume when i change pedals and shoes my saddle height might have to be altered, so is there any 'best way' to set the new height. (i'm changing from SPD's and MTB shoes to a road setup)

I was going to measure from the position above the cleat inside the shoe when crank is at 6 o clock position to saddle on the old pedals, then fit new pedals, cleats, shoes together and remeasure. Or is there another way? My only problem of using my method was that i'd have to ensure the crank was in exactly the same position for each measurement, but if i use 6 0clock position shouldnt be too hard....


  • whyamihere
    whyamihere Posts: 7,702
    As always, Sheldon has the answer...
    How High?
    There are lots of formulas for saddle height, most based on multiplying leg length by some fudge factor. The numerical exercise to 3 decimal places gives the illusion of scientific rigor, but, in my opinion, these systems are oversimplification of a problem which involves not only leg length, but foot length, what part of the foot fits on the pedal, shoe sole thickness, type of pedal system and pedaling style.

    You cannot judge the saddle height to any accuracy by just sitting on it, or riding around the block. As you get close to the correct position, the clues get more and more subtle.

    Most people start with the saddle too low. This is a habit left over from childhood, because growing children almost always have their saddles too low for efficient pedaling. First they have it low for security while they are learning to balance, then, even once they have mastered balancing, their growth rate tends to keep them ahead of their saddle adjustment.

    If you always ride with your saddle too low, you get used to it, and don't realize that there is a problem...but there is. Riding with the saddle too low is like walking with your knees bent (as Groucho Marx often did for comedic effect.) If you walked that way all the time, you'd also get used to that, but you'd think that half a mile was a long walk. The way the human leg is made, it is strongest when it is nearly straight.

    I like to think that William Blake summed it up nicely 200 years ago when he said:

    "You never know what is enough
    until you know what is too much."

    I suggest gradually raising your saddle, perhaps half an inch (1 cm) at a time. Each time you raise it, ride the bike. If it doesn't feel noticeably worse to ride, ride it for at least a couple of miles/km.

    If it had been too low before, your bike will feel lighter and faster with the new riding position. If raising the saddle improved things, raise it again, and ride it some more. Keep doing this until you reach the point where the saddle is finally too high, then lower it just a bit.

    When the saddle is too high, you'll have to rock your hips to pedal, and you'll probably feel as if you need to stretch your legs to reach the bottom part of the pedal. Another indication that the saddle may be too high is if you find yourself moving forward so that you are sitting on the narrow front part of the saddle. (Although this symptom can also result from having the saddle nosed down, or having an excessive reach to the handlebars.)

    It also makes a bit of difference what sort of pedals/shoes you use. If you ride with ordinary shoes, virtually all of your pedaling power is generated by the downstroke, so a good leg extension is essential to let you apply maximum power in this direction. If you use clipless pedals and cleated cycling shoes, however, you can also generate a fair amount of your power by pulling the pedal backward near the bottom of the stroke. This action also uses the large muscles in the back of the leg, and can be quite efficient. If you make use of this pedaling style, you'll want a slightly lower saddle position than for direct "piston-style" pedaling with street shoes. A slightly lower saddle position is also conducive to pedaling a rapid cadence.