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  1. #1
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    How to determine correct saddle height?

    How do you do that? I prefer a numerical value if there is one.

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    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    Well, if people were identically proportioned, you probably could derive a formula.
    In the meantime, a method that will get you extremely close is to-
    set the height so that you fully extend your legs with your HEELS on the pedals without rocking your hips.
    8

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    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    ...
    set the height so that you fully extend your legs with your HEELS on the pedals without rocking your hips.
    ...
    +1

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    My suggestion is slightly different in that it combines two methods. The heel on pedal method already mentioned will give you a saddle height on the low side. As you get used to cycling, you may gradually be able to benefit from a bit higher position (for more power with less effort, and maybe easier on the knees in the long run). So start with that, and then, raise it about a centimetre higher. Your ideal position will almost certainly fall anywhere in between the low heel on pedal method, and the much higher so-called LeMond or Hinault formula (which is really the Guimard method). This is the one where you multiply your pubic bone height by .883, and set your saddle height to that result (from centre of bottom bracket to top of saddle along the middle of the seat tube). Anywhere in between those two extremes will be Ok. Or, once you have measured your pubic bone height, just subtract 10 or 10.5 cm from it. That will get you in the ballpark and very close to optimal position, and then over time, you can fine tune saddle height as you get fitter.

  5. #5
    Enjoying the Ride Bob Loblaw's Avatar
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    There are some standard formulas that have been used by the 'pros' for a long time as good starting points. These formulas use a few basic measurements of the body. Longfemur mentioned one of them. They are described in more detail here:

    http://www.coloradocyclist.com/bikefit/

    Many cycling books go into even more detail. "Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance" has a nice piece on bike fitting. (Authored by Leonard Zinn)

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by pivoxa15 View Post
    How do you do that? I prefer a numerical value if there is one.

    No such number. Seat too high = rocking hip. So set it just before it gets to that point.
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

  7. #7
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    There are several "popular" formulas. But, each of them assume that you have the ability to precisely measure the length of your leg. Every week, some guy posts in the Forums to say "I'm 5'11", with a leg length (or inseam) of 32 inches..." And, most guys who are 5'11" have a true leg length of 34, 35, or even 36 inches. So, most guys don't have a clue how to measure leg length.

    The traditional method involved two steps, and NO measurements. The first step was to set the saddle height so that when the heel of your shoe was over the pedal spindle, you could smoothly back pedal, without rocking your hips from side to side, with your leg straight. The second step was to pedal with the ball of your foot over the pedal spindle...if the saddle height was correct, your knee would have a slight angle with the pedal at six o'clock, and you would not be rocking side to side on the saddle.

    The traditional method generally results in a saddle position that is about half an inch lower than the math formula methods. Those methods were designed for racing, and based on assumptions involving minimum oxygen consumption/maximum watts...stuff that is important to racing, and not important to real cyclists.

    Regular cyclists should care about being comfortable on the saddle, both at the beginning and end of a ride, and avoiding overstressing or injuring the knees. When the traditional method was the ONLY method, knee surgery for cyclists was almost unheard of. After the higher saddle position become popular among pro cyclists, it became the "norm" for most pro cyclists to lose a year or two of their careers to knee surgery.

  8. #8
    Enjoying the Ride Bob Loblaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alanbikehouston View Post
    There are several "popular" formulas. But, each of them assume that you have the ability to precisely measure the length of your leg. Every week, some guy posts in the Forums to say "I'm 5'11", with a leg length (or inseam) of 32 inches..." And, most guys who are 5'11" have a true leg length of 34, 35, or even 36 inches. So, most guys don't have a clue how to measure leg length.

    The traditional method involved two steps, and NO measurements. The first step was to set the saddle height so that when the heel of your shoe was over the pedal spindle, you could smoothly back pedal, without rocking your hips from side to side, with your leg straight. The second step was to pedal with the ball of your foot over the pedal spindle...if the saddle height was correct, your knee would have a slight angle with the pedal at six o'clock, and you would not be rocking side to side on the saddle.

    The traditional method generally results in a saddle position that is about half an inch lower than the math formula methods. Those methods were designed for racing, and based on assumptions involving minimum oxygen consumption/maximum watts...stuff that is important to racing, and not important to real cyclists.

    Regular cyclists should care about being comfortable on the saddle, both at the beginning and end of a ride, and avoiding overstressing or injuring the knees. When the traditional method was the ONLY method, knee surgery for cyclists was almost unheard of. After the higher saddle position become popular among pro cyclists, it became the "norm" for most pro cyclists to lose a year or two of their careers to knee surgery.

    Very interesting!

    Just be sure to pull that saddle up outrageously high again if you ever take pictures of the bike.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    No such number. Seat too high = rocking hip. So set it just before it gets to that point.
    Yeah. For one thing what makes you think that your legs are exactly the same length?

    Go for a ride with somebody whose judgement you trust. Let them ride behind you. Gradually ease up your seat height until they tell you that your hips are beginning to rock. Lower it back down a tad and that'll be perfect.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    +1

    Your legs don't seem to be fully extended.

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    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pivoxa15 View Post
    Your legs don't seem to be fully extended.
    not my legs just an interweb photo I borrowed

    the optical illusion is hiking pants which have formed knees kind of like these

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  12. #12
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    Is the optimal position like the y=1/x graph. Where x=0 denotes leg perfectly straight. The closer x is 0, the better but never x=0 in order for y to be defined. So never the leg perfectly straight but a little bent. The less bent the better but always bent. Is that correct?

  13. #13
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    No, is more like:
    Knees pain < Perfect saddle height < Butt pain.

  14. #14
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    Ultimately, it's how it feels for you with your own legs and saddle setback, no hip rocking. Methods are useful to start with, but they aren't absolutes, because there's no telling how toes down or not you will be pedaling. On a road bike, sometimes if you're not comfortable in the drops no matter what, it can because you're actually sitting too low and your legs come up too high. Also, when you are trying different heights, very often, you will automatically pedal more toes down as your raise the saddle, and that even invalidates the no hip rocking rule of thumb. However, pubic bone height minus 10 or 10.5 cm should be a pretty good height for you.

  15. #15
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ttopaz View Post
    No, is more like:
    Knees pain < Perfect saddle height < Butt pain.
    I think you mean

    knees wrecked for life < efficient saddle height < gluteus maximus the size of Arnie's
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    I think you mean

    knees wrecked for life < efficient saddle height < gluteus maximus the size of Arnie's
    Yes, this is an extreme version of it.
    After the initial setting using one of the above methods, keep this formula in mind while playing with smaller adjustments of the saddle. Small adjustments means not more than 1/2cm in any direction. Same for saddle fore/alt position.

  17. #17
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    +1

    This is a fairly accurate technique and puts you into the middle of the usable range. It doesn't take in to account the size of your feet, which will add +/- incremental amounts. All the equations will place you a little above or below this point. Track riders will typically be 1-2cm higher than this and mountain-bikers will be 2-4cm lower.

    As for knee pain, be careful of a too-low seat, it will cause way more damage and pain than a too-high seat of the same amount. Too low will cause pain above the knee-cap, too far back will cause that pain as well as in front/below the knee-cap. This is due to applying force and stress at the maximum force point (downstroke) with a bent knee. A straight knee can transfer forces more directly without wobble and stressing the ligaments & tendons. Also flexibility issues with the hamstring will cause a lot of discomfort when the seat is too low and you're trying to spin and apply a lot of force while bent over.

    A too high seat will actually not cause any knee pain, but rather ligament pain behind the knee. But if your're unsure, err on the side of a little too high.

  18. #18
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    ...As for knee pain, be careful of a too-low seat, it will cause way more damage and pain than a too-high seat of the same amount. Too low will cause pain above the knee-cap, too far back will cause that pain as well as in front/below the knee-cap. This is due to applying force and stress at the maximum force point (downstroke) with a bent knee. A straight knee can transfer forces more directly without wobble and stressing the ligaments & tendons. Also flexibility issues with the hamstring will cause a lot of discomfort when the seat is too low and you're trying to spin and apply a lot of force while bent over.

    A too high seat will actually not cause any knee pain, but rather ligament pain behind the knee. But if your're unsure, err on the side of a little too high.
    agree completely with the bit I snipped

    disagree completely with the bit I left - sorry dude

    having trashed my knees once from too high a saddle I'd definitely say that:

    too high = mucho pain and permanent, long term damage. Please folks do not, under any circumstances, ride with a locked or straight knee at the furthest point of the pedal stroke, i.e., when your cranks line up with your seat tube.

    too low = sore buttocks and quads with no lasting effect unless you consider fitness - you can pretty much ride any lower height with your knees bent and suffer no permanent damage. Your efficiency will suck though.

    The only exception I can think of is pushing a huge gear at very low rpm but that'll trash your knees at any saddle height.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    agree completely with the bit I snipped

    disagree completely with the bit I left - sorry dude

    having trashed my knees once from too high a saddle I'd definitely say that:

    too high = mucho pain and permanent, long term damage. Please folks do not, under any circumstances, ride with a locked or straight knee at the furthest point of the pedal stroke, i.e., when your cranks line up with your seat tube.
    Well, to have a fully extended knee with the ball of your feet over the pedal-spindle would mean that your seat is about 2" way too high! Notice that the adjustment places your heel on the pedal-spindle. With the toes, you'd have the necessary 10-20% of knee bend at the bottom of the stroke.

    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    too low = sore buttocks and quads with no lasting effect unless you consider fitness - you can pretty much ride any lower height with your knees bent and suffer no permanent damage. Your efficiency will suck though.
    Tell that to all the people with knee problems that went away when they raised their seat. It's having the knee bent more than 15-20% degrees while applying force that causes ITB problems.

  20. #20
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    Well, to have a fully extended knee with the ball of your feet over the pedal-spindle would mean that your seat is about 2" way too high! Notice that the adjustment places your heel on the pedal-spindle. With the toes, you'd have the necessary 10-20% of knee bend at the bottom of the stroke.

    Tell that to all the people with knee problems that went away when they raised their seat. It's having the knee bent more than 15-20% degrees while applying force that causes ITB problems.
    yup - but that was already in the first part (that I snipped) of your original post

    I have heard that pre-existing knee problems(chondromalacia) might be aggravated by low saddles - however, I've very rarely heard this and not in connection to ITB irritation/inflamation. Anyway, I'm off to google low saddle height and ITB
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    Well, if people were identically proportioned, you probably could derive a formula.
    In the meantime, a method that will get you extremely close is to-
    set the height so that you fully extend your legs with your HEELS on the pedals without rocking your hips.
    8
    I just did that and it feels great now.

  22. #22
    Non Tribuo Anus Rodentum and off to the next adventure (RIP) Stacey's Avatar
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    ^ Wot 'e said!

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    Too factors to take into account besides saddle height. Crank length and the geometry of the bike is important for each individual body as well as gearing choices to get the best possible advantage for their riding conditions. Just look at the TdF coverage and I doubt you'll see any of the riders with a fully extended leg at the bottom of their stroke while in the seated position. Even with a "proper fitting", the individual may consider that a starting point/baseline and make additional adjustments or change equipment to best suit their riding style and comfort level. A few millimeters either way can make a major difference.

  24. #24
    Mmmmm potatoes idcruiserman's Avatar
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    0.883 * bike inseam length works for me
    Idaho

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by idcruiserman View Post
    0.883 * bike inseam length works for me
    What is bike inseam length? I thought the inseam length was the distance between the crouch to the floor when bear footed.

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