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    Comfort VS potential knee injuries....... Saddle height question.

    Hi Guys,

    I have browsed quite a number of the saddle height threads and most seem to point towards having the seat set high enough for power strokes efficiency.

    The common claim or fact, is that a low saddle height can cause knee injury if it's set too low ie. your feet being able to touch the ground while being on the saddle.

    Two facts are, it's safer and more comfortable to be able to touch the ground a bit without leaning or getting over the bar to be standing firm on the ground.

    Two questions I have,

    a. If someone is riding just to be fit and to loose some weight, is the need to fitted on the bike as a competitive cyclist important?

    Posture and pain free riding is important but how important is aerodynamics and sitting high on the saddle is in terms of biking for health reasons?

    A good riding technique is always a good thing but do we need to be riding with a racing compliant set up to keep fit and loses weight?

    Question b.

    If having the saddle set low so we can touch the ground causes knee pain and knee injury, then how is it we don't see Gramps and Gramma balling in pain riding around?
    Is riding with a saddle height set so someone can touch the ground really that bad if they are not riding competitively?

    Thanks.

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    Randomhead
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    I think it's pretty clear that people that have their seats too low don't ride all that much. I have never heard of having your seat too low causing knee pain, but then again having it so low that you can touch the ground on a normal upright bike is outside the norm, at least among people who ride a lot. My suggestion is that competitive cyclists probably need the most comfortable position they can get, certainly this is true of seat height.

    If touching the ground is really important to you, then you might want to look into a recumbent or a crank forward bike. There are many options of crank forward bikes, Rans invented them, but Trek and Electra offer them as well

    If you ride very much with a proper seat height, touching the ground really becomes a non-issue. Can't remember the last time it was a problem for me.

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    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carib Can View Post
    .... If having the saddle set low so we can touch the ground causes knee pain and knee injury, then how is it we don't see Gramps and Gramma balling in pain riding around?
    Is riding with a saddle height set so someone can touch the ground really that bad if they are not riding competitively?

    Thanks.
    If one is riding 3 to 5 km, at a very leisurely pace, then it's hard to cause much injury.
    However, if you go to cycling countries, you'll see that most riders, riding opa and oma fiets, have close to proper leg extension for a upright ride. They get off the saddle and 'down' when they stop.
    For a fact, my grandfather - Opa (fixed...), in his 80's rode his opa fiets quite a lot to visit friends - his saddle was always at a good extension so he could ride and sit comfortably on his bike. Ridin with your knees in your chest is hardly comfortable. And after 8 -10 K on a solid, heavy bike, your knees will feel it.
    But do what you think you need to do. Learning happens both when something doesn;t work or does...

    EDIT: my kinda oma...
    famke_jansen_bike_web].jpg
    if she can get off the saddle to stop, while still eating her bonbons - you should be able to also
    Last edited by cyclezen; 10-29-13 at 11:39 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
    If one is riding 3 to 5 km, at a very leisurely pace, then it's hard to cause much injury.
    However, if you go to cycling countries, you'll see that most riders, riding opa and oma fiets, have close to proper leg extension for a upright ride. They get off the saddle and 'down' when they stop.
    For a fact, my grandfather, in his 80's rode his opa fiets quite a lot to visit friends - his saddle was always at a good extension so he could ride and sit comfortably on his bike. Ridin with your knees in your chest is hardly comfortable. And after 8 -10 K on a solid, heavy bike, your knees will feel it.
    But do what you think you need to do. Learning happens both when something doesn;t work or does...

    EDIT: my kinda oma...
    famke_jansen_bike_web].jpg
    if she can get off the saddle to stop, while still eating her bonbons - you should be able to also
    Thanks for for your input and the great illustration using the pic There are many motivating icons here too.

    Am biking to be loose some weight, tone some muscles and to be fit. I am 195 lbs and almost 6ft tall. Would like to drop about 20 lbs. I am fairly active

    I would like to ride longer distances and faster so will keep at it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    I think it's pretty clear that people that have their seats too low don't ride all that much. I have never heard of having your seat too low causing knee pain, but then again having it so low that you can touch the ground on a normal upright bike is outside the norm, at least among people who ride a lot. My suggestion is that competitive cyclists probably need the most comfortable position they can get, certainly this is true of seat height.

    If touching the ground is really important to you, then you might want to look into a recumbent or a crank forward bike. There are many options of crank forward bikes, Rans invented them, but Trek and Electra offer them as well

    If you ride very much with a proper seat height, touching the ground really becomes a non-issue. Can't remember the last time it was a problem for me.
    I agree with your and thanks for the input feed back. I am not really concerned about my feet touching the ground while I am on the saddle, but anted to know how much injury I could have had if I was able to just touch as I am now.

    I will raise the saddle and look at my comfort level after doing 30 min rides at a time and will eventually go for a fitting.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.

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    Well Guys,

    I raised my saddle to the 73cm (29") recommended height. I placed the bike on my trainer and rode for 33 mins covering 16km (10 miles) and found no discomfort to speak of, if anything at all it felt better because I was applying more pedal power thus reducing the weight on the saddle on every power stroke.


    I will try to get on the road to see how it feels in the real world.


    Thanks for all the input and advice guys.


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    On the trainer , you need to make a set of platforms along side it, to be able to reach those,
    since you are higher from the floor than you are on the street.

    Casual cruisers for those needing to solidly put feet down,
    Crank Forward frame designs slope the seat Way back from the cranks,
    so te rider has both the leg extension to pedal
    and the stopping flat footed security they may need.


    If I were wanting a trainer work out in the Winter.. , The harder the rear wheel is to turn on the trainer , the better .

    Captive air Foam tires do Offer that..

    ( + it saves wear and tear on the boutique low spoke count wheels.. )
    Last edited by fietsbob; 11-19-13 at 03:08 PM.

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    I have done over two hours on my Tacx Satori and have not seen any wear on my Continental Grand Prix. I have been getting the speeds up to 50 kmh and was averaging 30 kmh for the most part.

    I think the key to saving the tires is to use a high gear with less rear wheel pressure on the trainer roller, I am running the big ring in front too.

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    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carib Can View Post
    ..
    ...I will try to get on the road to see how it feels in the real world.
    yes, open road
    thats what it's all about...
    enjoy
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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I have done over two hours on my Tacx Satori and have not seen any wear on my Continental Grand Prix
    Man that's huge survey size

    wonder why Continental Bothered making a special purpose tire to use on Trainers ..

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    Don't think I am blind but have not seen any wear on the tire so far. I can take a pic and upload it.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carib Can View Post
    Don't think I am blind but have not seen any wear on the tire so far. I can take a pic and upload it.
    So, it does not really matter. There will ultimately be tire wear, but that can be corrected for a price of 20 to 50 dollars. If I rode two hours a day at low cadence (50 rpm?) and high speed (big ring, small cog), I'd have pained knees. If I pedaled the same road speed at high cadence (90+ rpm) for two hours, my knees would show me nary a twinge. That assumes my saddle is high enough. And if you do hurt your knees, you have medical costs, not little tire prices.

    If you have your saddle height set for 25 degree knee angle, you're at the top end of the conventional advice for riders who ride hard a lot. If you lower the saddle to get a 35 degree angle, that's usually the bottom end. Beyond having read some of the articles collected by the likes of Ed Burke, the sizing guide by Arnie Baker, and the cycling medical guide by Andy Pruitt, I don't have access to any primary research on this. But it's pretty clear that the cycling science community thinks that knee stress across the kneecap increases when you lower the saddle. It's also pretty clear that hip rocking increases as you raise it. Hip rocking leads (for me) to perineal abrasion and possibly bleeding. It's not fun or pretty.

    Without these issues sorted, aero does not matter to me. And having ridden road bikes for 40+ years, I no longer need to worry about how to put toes down - I've figured it out. Part of it is getting off the saddle when you stop. Another part of it is track-standing.

    On your rig if you are going to ride 2 hours a day, work on your saddle height being sensitive to pain in the knee, butt, and perineum.
    Last edited by Road Fan; 10-30-13 at 06:03 PM.

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    Hi Road Fan,

    The two hours I mentioned being on my trainer are cumulative over a three day period. I was shocked to see the little rubber "hair" on my bike still after I have ridden it for over 200 km on the road. I agree it will wear and for me that's the price to be fit and exercise.

    I thought I was seeing things and will upload a pic of it. I rotated the wheel and saw more, I would have thought that by now they would have worn off.

    Some will pay over $50 a month in gym fees, some for beer, I won't have a single issue paying the same for new tires every six months and I am sure you will agree with me.

    Your experience and advice is very much appreciated. I am riding with the suggest saddle height 73 CM or 29 inches and it seems ok so far but I will keep on experimenting. I have to ask someone to ride behind my bike with my camera attached to get a clear view what my hips are doing. I can monitor from above bit I think it's better to see from behind.

    Just thought of an idea, I can use my trainer in front of my TV and have a camera hooked up from behind, that way I can keep adjusting while doing test rides on the trainer.

    I can just imagine the pain one can have with a bruised or bleeding raw perineum. I have read that the suggested time to bike a week is only three hours to avoid penile and fertile injury and other issues. So much written for women too.

    I can't understand how one could train as an athlete in just three hours a week. I do not intend to over do it, I am biking to loose some weight, maybe 15 lbs to get to 178 within my BMI area. We have diabetes and heart disease running in the family so my doctor advised daily exercise and some weight loss to avoid them.

    I am probably at the 25 degree knee angle now. I never had an issue getting off the bike to stop and of course now it's a must since I raised my saddle.

    Thanks so much for your advice, sharing your experience and for the time you took to reply. At 43 I don't think I can hit the 40+ year mark cycling like you

    Cheers.
    Last edited by Carib Can; 10-30-13 at 06:38 PM.

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    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carib Can View Post
    Hi Road Fan,

    The two hours I mentioned being on my trainer are cumulative over a three day period. I was shocked to see the little rubber "hair" on my bike still after I have ridden it for over 200 km on the road. I agree it will wear and for me that's the price to be fit and exercise.

    I thought I was seeing things and will upload a pic of it. I rotated the wheel and saw more, I would have thought that by now they would have worn off.

    Some will pay over $50 a month in gym fees, some for beer, I won't have a single issue paying the same for new tires every six months and I am sure you will agree with me.

    Your experience and advice is very much appreciated. I am riding with the suggest saddle height 73 CM or 29 inches and it seems ok so far but I will keep on experimenting. I have to ask someone to ride behind my bike with my camera attached to get a clear view what my hips are doing. I can monitor from above bit I think it's better to see from behind.

    Just thought of an idea, I can use my trainer in front of my TV and have a camera hooked up from behind, that way I can keep adjusting while doing test rides on the trainer.

    I can just imagine the pain one can have with a bruised or bleeding raw perineum. I have read that the suggested time to bike a week is only three hours to avoid penile and fertile injury and other issues. So much written for women too.

    I can't understand how one could train as an athlete in just three hours a week. I do not intend to over do it, I am biking to loose some weight, maybe 15 lbs to get to 178 within my BMI area. We have diabetes and heart disease running in the family so my doctor advised daily exercise and some weight loss to avoid them.

    I am probably at the 25 degree knee angle now. I never had an issue getting off the bike to stop and of course now it's a must since I raised my saddle.

    Thanks so much for your advice, sharing your experience and for the time you took to reply. At 43 I don't think I can hit the 40+ year mark cycling like you

    Cheers.
    Thanks for all the kind words!

    I've started out on century training plans a number of times, and they nearly all want 5 hours a week to start, growing to 8 to 10 as you get close to the event. These plans all require an "event rehearsal" long steady ride each week. The durations range from 45 minutes at the beginning to 4.5 hours in a day near the end (Joe Friel's plan in "Cycling Past 50"). Clearly there is a way to set up the bike for this combined with training and acclimation. I actually succeeded one year in working up to several successive metrics (60 mile, 100 km) rides on successive days, but the next year the same settings did not work.

    The criterion you've read of 3hours /week being some kind of max is not viable for an enthusiastic rider. There has to be a better knowledge base than what those writers have.

    I think this is one of the main reasons for working on fitting.

    If you commute to work 35 minutes one way (maybe 6 miles?), you will ride for 70 minutes per day and 350 minutes per week. That's nearly 6 hours per week. You don't have to be an aspiring distance rider to need to withstand such time spans.
    Last edited by Road Fan; 10-31-13 at 07:41 PM.

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    Junior Member GeorgeLeslie's Avatar
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    I don't know if anyone say this yet (I did not read through all the responses), but there is a general formula for saddle height.

    Generally, if you stand next to your bike, your sadle should be approx the height of your hip bone, so stand next to the bike, snuggle in and see where it hits you.

    More specifically, if you get on the bike with both feet in pedals and place feet at 12:00 and 6:00 (that is vertically alligned) - make sure to keep the feel flat. Don't flex the foot or raise the heel, - there should be a small bend in the knee of the lower leg with leg almost, straight. This inables you to use the full muscle group for pedaling.

    If the knee is absolutely straight, you are in danger of hyper extension related injuries (one way to tell this is to notice if your hips rock side to side when you pedal in the saddle.

    One way to be sure is to invest in a bike fit from a reputable bike shop. It costs a bit, but is invaluable if you think of the hours you spend in riding position and the potential damage.

    Once
    It makes perfect sense, If you don't think about it......

  16. #16
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    The standard way to get a starting saddle saddle height is to sit normally on the saddle while on a trainer or against a wall or post. Clip out with one foot and put the heel of that shoe on the pedal. Rotate that pedal so that the crank aligns with the seatpost. Your knee should be completely locked out with no hip rocking. Some people prefer a small gap between heel and pedal.

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    Senior Member daihard's Avatar
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    Just FYI, people with long feet may actually be able to touch the ground with the proper saddle height. I have my saddle adjusted to the height recommended in the LeMond method (25.5 inches), and both my toes still touch the ground if I stretch my legs all the way down.
    Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all. - Mikael Colville-Andersen

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    Quote Originally Posted by daihard View Post
    Just FYI, people with long feet may actually be able to touch the ground with the proper saddle height. I have my saddle adjusted to the height recommended in the LeMond method (25.5 inches), and both my toes still touch the ground if I stretch my legs all the way down.
    Hmm, that's interesting; I'd never really considered foot size in the whole saddle height thing! I have size 12/46.5 and can certainly get a toe down at a stop while on the saddle. I don't think I can get both feet down simultaneously, though.

    Anyway, it's something I simply never thought of, so thanks for mentioning it!
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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    Senior Member daihard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    Hmm, that's interesting; I'd never really considered foot size in the whole saddle height thing! I have size 12/46.5 and can certainly get a toe down at a stop while on the saddle. I don't think I can get both feet down simultaneously, though.

    Anyway, it's something I simply never thought of, so thanks for mentioning it!
    You're welcome. I tried two of the well-known methods to calculate the proper saddle height (LeMond and Holmes), and I was able to touch the ground with both toes either way. I asked about it on one of the FB forums and was told that it may be related to my foot length and/or the bottom bracket height of my bike.
    Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all. - Mikael Colville-Andersen

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    Quote Originally Posted by daihard View Post
    You're welcome. I tried two of the well-known methods to calculate the proper saddle height (LeMond and Holmes), and I was able to touch the ground with both toes either way. I asked about it on one of the FB forums and was told that it may be related to my foot length and/or the bottom bracket height of my bike.
    I tried getting both feet down while seated last night, and sure enough I could. I guess since I never do it, I'd forgotten I could! I'm a left-foot-toe-down-for-the-stop kinda guy, with my right foot up at 1 o'clock, ready for the green light sprint.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  21. #21
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeLeslie View Post
    I don't know if anyone say this yet (I did not read through all the responses), but there is a general formula for saddle height.

    Generally, if you stand next to your bike, your sadle should be approx the height of your hip bone, so stand next to the bike, snuggle in and see where it hits you.

    More specifically, if you get on the bike with both feet in pedals and place feet at 12:00 and 6:00 (that is vertically alligned) - make sure to keep the feel flat. Don't flex the foot or raise the heel, - there should be a small bend in the knee of the lower leg with leg almost, straight. This inables you to use the full muscle group for pedaling.

    If the knee is absolutely straight, you are in danger of hyper extension related injuries (one way to tell this is to notice if your hips rock side to side when you pedal in the saddle.

    One way to be sure is to invest in a bike fit from a reputable bike shop. It costs a bit, but is invaluable if you think of the hours you spend in riding position and the potential damage.

    Once
    The LeMond formula (0.883, and not really his) has been applied and evaluated over the years, and has morphed into a measurement of knee angle relative to a straight leg. It's also been recommended as a starting point by me and by many others in this thread. The results of all the various methods are all close to each other. Some are better for some kinds of riding, and some for others. For lengthy road riding, the 25 degree angle is the most common recommendation in literature, but it's still just a starting point. A good fitter evaluates whether this criterion is right for the customer and makes the best possible choice based on a range of considerations, rather than just setting you for 25. There's more to it than that. Pruitt, White, and Burke are just a few of the good sources.

    But even the lowest, 35 degrees or so (similar result to heel on pedal) is pretty much too high for easily putting your feet on the ground while seated on the saddle. And that's where the OP started.

    I'm actually backing off from the 0.883 recommendation because of the claim that it results in a 15 degree angle for a "normal" rider. That explains why the resulting (for me) 72 cm saddle height also results in my perineal pains - it's really just too high for me. If I go back to the results of a pro fitting I had a number of years ago, I'm at more like 69 cm, which is still higher than heel on pedal. And so far this winter on the trainer I am pedaling with more comfort and ease, and no peri pain at this point. My saddle nose is only high enough to keep me sitting on the saddle without sliding forward or back. Level saddle is not a requirement, but comfort and stability are.

  22. #22
    Senior Member daihard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
    But even the lowest, 35 degrees or so (similar result to heel on pedal) is pretty much too high for easily putting your feet on the ground while seated on the saddle. And that's where the OP started.
    When you say "putting your feet on the ground," do you mean the whole feet or even just the toes?
    Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all. - Mikael Colville-Andersen

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Isn't this about bike fit? Whether or not one can touch the ground while one's butt is on the saddle has nothing to do with bike fit. It one were ordering a custom frame, perhaps one could include this as a spec for BB height, though that would be extremely unwise.

  24. #24
    Senior Member daihard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Isn't this about bike fit? Whether or not one can touch the ground while one's butt is on the saddle has nothing to do with bike fit.
    I agree. OTOH, I've read so many sources of information telling you that your saddle is most likely too low if your toe can touch the ground, including the great Sheldon Brown website. Hardly any of them says that it's perfectly possible for someone to have the proper saddle height and still is able to touch the ground, depending upon things like the BB height and foot length. Sure made me wonder if I'm missing something or if I'm that weird compared to others.
    Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all. - Mikael Colville-Andersen

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    Quote Originally Posted by daihard View Post
    When you say "putting your feet on the ground," do you mean the whole feet or even just the toes?
    It's not anything hard and fast. It's certainly not going to be easy to get the whole foot on the ground. In some of these threads the OPs began by asking about being able to put feet on the ground. In this one the OP asked about "able to touch the ground." While it may be possible with a higher saddle height, it will be easier with a lower one. It's not clear how much foot touching is needed for good stability - I think that is based on rider preference.

    It's a pretty squishy language, in this thread.

    But my basic point throughout has been, you should not set the saddle based on stopping the bike. It's much more important in it's relationship to riding the bike.

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