Saddle Height

tolmie Posts: 45
edited November 2009 in MTB beginners
Hi guys, just got my spec rochopper on Tues and totally new to bikes, just wondering about saddle height and how important it is, my saddle is probably just barely the height of my handlebars, i notice in magazine pics that the saddle height seems to be slightly higher than the handle bars, is that where mine should be.


  • nicklouse
    nicklouse Posts: 50,675
    it is important.

    have a read

    The most basic saddle adjustment is the height. Most bicyclists have their saddles too low, so that their knees are excessively bent as they pedal. This makes cycling much more tiring for a given speed, and is likely to cause harm to the knees.

    A common reason for keeping the saddle set too low is that most bicyclists have never learned the proper technique for mounting and dismounting, so they find it convenient to be able to put a foot down to steady the bicycle while they are stopped. With older bicycles, it was sometimes possible to put a toe down at a stop with the saddle properly adjusted, especially for riders with large feet. Due to the higher bottom brackets common on newer bicycles, especially mountain bikes, it is no longer possible to do this. If you ride a mountain bike, and are able to balance it while stopped and seated, it is a sure sign that your saddle is too low. This is also true of most hybrids.

    Having the saddle too low makes it harder to carry much of your weight on your legs, so you will sit with more weight on the saddle. This, in itself, is likely to increase saddle discomfort.

    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.
    "Do not follow where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no path, and Leave a Trail."
    Parktools :?:SheldonBrown
  • supersonic
    supersonic Posts: 82,708
    Whatever feels best for you.

    But many set it so that when the pedal is at the bottom of the crank revolution there is about a 20-30 degree bend in the knee.

  • tolmie
    tolmie Posts: 45
    By reading that it sounds like the saddle is to low for me, will try changing it slightly.

  • JimboM
    JimboM Posts: 380
    As a beginner myself, I was surprised at how high I needed the saddle. Started off with what I thought was right and gradually lifted it a fraction at a time until I found what was most comfortable - and believe me having it at the right height makes a huge difference.

    When sitting on mine I can just touch one foot to the floor when on tip toes !


    Cannondale Synapse 105
    Giant FCR3
    GT Avalanche 3.0
    Canyon Nerve AM 6.0
  • robertpb
    robertpb Posts: 1,866
    JimboM wrote:
    As a beginner myself, I was surprised at how high I needed the saddle. Started off with what I thought was right and gradually lifted it a fraction at a time until I found what was most comfortable - and believe me having it at the right height makes a huge difference.

    When sitting on mine I can just touch one foot to the floor when on tip toes !



    That sounds low to me, never been able to touch the floor with my tippy toes on any of my bikes.
    Now where's that "Get Out of Crash Free Card"
  • supersonic wrote:
    Whatever feels best for you.


    Same as this
    On One Inbred 456
    On One Inbred SS
  • i usually can touch the floor, it's just a case of how much leg extension you like and how high your bottom bracket is.
  • I was always taught that you should be able to place the ball of your foot on the pedal in its lowest position with your heel pointed approximately 30 degrees downwards. Works for me! I can't even touch the floor when seated, and don't consider it necessary, but can obviously tap a foot on the floor if I need to when riding more technical stuff (usually when I've screwed up :( ). My leg is almost straight when the pedal is at its lowest point.

    That's quite a helpful summary from Nicklouse, can't say I've ever got that scientific about it, but a worthwhile read all the same.
    Ridley Orion
  • Hercule Q
    Hercule Q Posts: 2,781
    i know mine is lower than it should be but thats so i can move about on the bike easier without squashing my nuts or getting a saddle up me ass when i hit a jump

    Blurring the line between bravery and stupidity since 1986!