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Why are the seats so high?

Old 04-26-08, 11:57 AM
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Random Rider
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Why are the seats so high?

Once again i am a newbie but when i look at the pictures of bikes the seats are always so high up. Are you not supposed to be able to touch the ground while sitting on your seat? Wondering if I am riding with my seat to low.
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Old 04-26-08, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Random Rider View Post
Once again i am a newbie but when i look at the pictures of bikes the seats are always so high up. Are you not supposed to be able to touch the ground while sitting on your seat? Wondering if I am riding with my seat to low.
You want your leg to be almost fully extended at the bottom of the pedal stroke. You'll have much more power this way and save yourself some knee pain.
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Old 04-26-08, 12:13 PM
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Old 04-26-08, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Random Rider View Post
Are you not supposed to be able to touch the ground while sitting on your seat?
No, you are not supposed to be able to touch the ground with the bike upright while seated.

Saddle height is set for comfort and power while pedaling. If you are stopped, you should be off the saddle. Most of us just stand on the pavement, but some riders with better balance than I will be doing trackstands.
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Old 04-26-08, 12:20 PM
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This is a very common casual part time rider impression. And for a beach cruiser or slow grocery getter it's perfectly acceptable where you don't need to push a lot of energy into the pedals. I know that the free ride mountain bikers have low saddles too but that's to let them move around on the bike more easily and they rarely sit except in spots where they don't need to do their particular sort of gymnastics to get over stuff.

However you'll find that if you start riding harder on a road use bike that the higher saddle makes a LOT more sense. And you don't need to take our word for it. Your knees and thigh muscles will tell you soon enough. Nobody that rides seriously has a saddle that they can sit on and still touch the ground with more than perhaps the barest end of their toes.

Try it, you'll see what we're saying very quickly. Then go looking at some of the setup tuning for proper positioning to max out your body's fit to this new way. And then just get used to sliding forward off the saddle at stops.
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Old 04-26-08, 12:39 PM
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I commute 9 miles one way to work on a hyrbid with tons of hills and my one knee was aching me a bit. I'll try putting the seat up. I just never knew.
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Old 04-26-08, 12:40 PM
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Electra Bicycles have a frame design that allows proper seat height when peddling and allows both feet flat on the ground when stopped. Look at this photo of a Townie 21 and note the angle of the seat tube and how the bottom bracket is placed forward of the seat tube.
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Old 04-26-08, 01:16 PM
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Random Rider:

Read Sheldon on saddle height.
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Old 04-26-08, 03:07 PM
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Nope, you should be able to stand over your top tube without touching it, ideally. The seat height is set for efficiency when pedalling, not so you can touch the ground when standing. You'll be pedalling an hour for every minute you're standing, so it makes sense to set the seat height for maximum efficiency and minimum wear and tear on your knees. If you need to stop, you slide off the front of the saddle and stand over the top tube.
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Old 04-26-08, 04:11 PM
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Rule of thumb is to sit with the heel of your riding shoe on the pedal at its lowest position and your foot parallel with the ground. If you can move your knee back and forwards without moving your backside off the pedal your saddle is roughly at the right height.

You can then adjust your saddle fore and aft so that your knee is in the right position above the pedal. There are two schools of thought on this: one says that a vertical line from the front of your kneecap should pass thro' the centre of the pedal spindle; t'other says that the bony bit on the outside of the top of your lower leg should be vertically above a line drawn through the centre of the pedal spindle. If you see what I mean

If you set up the height as the above and either of the fore and aft positions you will be reasonably well set up for most purposes other than long rides. If you get into the latter, it would be useful to take your bike to a bike shop offering a accurately measured setting up.
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Old 04-26-08, 04:35 PM
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savethekudzu provided a link to the excellent article about saddle height on the Sheldon Brown website, but if you are concerned about the need to plant your feet on the ground when on the bicycle, it's perhaps best to start with the article there regarding mounting and dismounting.


As you will see from reading that article, you shouldn't be remaining on the seat when you pull up to a stop. Instead, you should be coming forward off the seat, to stand astride the bar when you have pulled up to a halt. Get that starting and stopping technique sorted, and then the fine tuning of saddle height will be easy to sort out.

The saddles on bikes I ride sit somewhere around hip height when I stand beside the bike. It varies a bit, depending upon the shape of the bike and the length of the crank arm.
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Old 04-26-08, 05:16 PM
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Another thing you are noticing is the fact that many modern frames have sloping top tubes which means you have more seat post showing than with a parallel to the ground top tube. Previous posters have covered the proper set up. FWIW I have a Redline 9.2.5 and a Giant Excursion, the frames are effectively the same size. However the Redline has a sloping top tube so it has over 9" of seat post showing, the Giant is a straight top tube and has less than 6" showing. Back in the 70's we used to consider a bike to be the correct size if you only had a fist full of seat post showing...not two or three

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Old 04-26-08, 06:41 PM
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People that do jumping on bicycles keep their seats lower. Of course, they're off the seat half the time, too. So mostly the BMX and mountain bikes that are ridden off road will have seats lower than what you'd want for normal riding.

If you're cruisin' round the 'hood on your bike, you may want the seat way low so you look cooler. That's fine for looking cool, but not good for actually riding long distances.

If you're young and healty, poor set position won't bother you as much. If you don't have hills or wind or need to ride 20 miles, seat position won't bother you as much.

For some reason, every old cruiser bike I've ever seen for sale has the seat just as low as it will go. The bikes look better that way, but unless all the riders are in the 5' range, that's a terrible way to ride the bike.

Consider this: You can walk around with your legs pretty well extended and can probably walk 20 miles or more that way if you need to. But bend your legs until you're 8" shorter and see how far you can walk that way. You get that same effect in bicycling. If you're just putzing around the neighborhood, you may never know the difference. If you're riding a ways, you will.
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Old 04-26-08, 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Random Rider View Post
Once again i am a newbie but when i look at the pictures of bikes the seats are always so high up. Are you not supposed to be able to touch the ground while sitting on your seat? Wondering if I am riding with my seat to low.
You come out of the seat to touch the ground. And you stand onto the seat as you start.

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/starting.html

There's a good video about halfway down.
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Old 04-26-08, 07:47 PM
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The Electra's position isn't all that different from the European city bikes I've test ridden. They all have a lower bottom bracket than is typical for a modern road bike so if you ride aggressively and don't watch pedal position, it's possible to have pedal strike. Not a huge deal, since I know to watch for it and it makes stops and starts a lot easier. The one touring bike I've tested had a slightly higher bottom bracket, but it was still workable.

I've also tested a few other bikes where the bottom bracket was just plain high for me. My legs are short enough that it's dangerously easy for me to topple over on a bike with a high bottom bracket. Floating 3-4" in the air is not a good plan for a stable stop.

So yes, you should have good leg extension *and* you should be able to get off the saddle without it turning into a balance drill every time. Most people will have a range of bikes to pick from that meet these criteria... I'm in a city, so there's always a lot of stop and go. Someone who doesn't have a lot of lights on their usual routes might want a more aggressive bike.
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Old 04-26-08, 09:14 PM
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https://www.asep.org/files/PevelerSaddle.pdf might prove interesting. Most effective rule of thumb isn't. Measure the bend of the knee. I started doing this in setup and found a very curious similarity among my bikes, and an increase in fluidity and power. I was riding a little higher and more extended than required. Great for sprints, not as good for the distance work I do now.
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Old 04-26-08, 11:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Random Rider View Post
I commute 9 miles one way to work on a hyrbid with tons of hills and my one knee was aching me a bit. I'll try putting the seat up. I just never knew.
It'll be like night and day for your knee. You'll feel like you just kicked off 10 years worth of aging or 30 lbs of excess weight.

I had a seat post clamp come loose one time for some reason. I didn't notice but the saddle slide down only 1/2 an inch on me. Little enough that it wasn't obvious but enough that my commute seemed to suddenly be all uphill or like it was the morning after the night before. I struggled for a while before I figured out what was wrong. Pulled it up that 1/2 inch and locked 'er down better and felt young and spry again... well, OK... old and spry...

With a 9 mile commute it would definelty help you a lot to read over some of the articles on self fitting. We're not racers that need to pay for a detailed fitting. However just knowing how the various things interact and by listening to how your body feels and trying things you'll pick up on a lot and make your riding feel a lot easier so you can go faster or use less effort. Your choice.

For example moving the saddle back and forth on the rails as little as 1/4 inch alters how your feet "lift" your weight and if you get pushed back or up or forward in the saddle. And movements of the saddle back and forth need to be matched by small seat post height tweaks of 1/8 to 1/4 inch to maintain your knee angle at the right amount when your leg is at the bottom of the stroke. Yep, it's that fussy when you're after that last couple of % of fit.

Check out Sheldon's site for the fit article. He's not quite so road racing oriented as some of the other fit info sites so you'll get a little broader take on the issue. The real key is to take tools with you and give yourself an extra 15 minutes on those days to stop after 1/2 a mile and try a new change. Go past what you think it should be in both directions on all the adjustments so you can feel the signs of how it feels and then come back to that sweet spot that you can now recognize more clearly. You'll soon be fitting up your bike like a pro to your own needs.
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Old 04-27-08, 12:55 AM
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Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
I had a seat post clamp come loose one time for some reason. I didn't notice but the saddle slide down only 1/2 an inch on me. Little enough that it wasn't obvious but enough that my commute seemed to suddenly be all uphill or like it was the morning after the night before. I struggled for a while before I figured out what was wrong. Pulled it up that 1/2 inch and locked 'er down better and felt young and spry again... well, OK... old and spry...
So true, my wifes rides my bike sometimes and one day riding to work really fast I didn't even realize she had adjusted it down because my mind was elsewhere. On the way back though woooah, my muscles were aching in all the wrong places and it finally clicked. Sometimes I am kind of slow.

It is unbelievable how much of a difference it makes.
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Old 04-28-08, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Random Rider View Post
Once again i am a newbie but when i look at the pictures of bikes the seats are always so high up. Are you not supposed to be able to touch the ground while sitting on your seat? Wondering if I am riding with my seat to low.
As others have noted you shouldn't be able to put your feet comfortably on the ground while sitting on the seat with most bikes... the saddle should be positioned for riding rather than for use while stopped.

Something you might be noticing though, is how high many bicycle saddles look in relation to the frame and/or the handlebars. Compact frames found on many mountain bikes and racing bikes require longer seatposts, and more seatpost will be showing than on a similarly set up traditional road frame. Some bikes are also designed with a more aggressive riding position than others, so the saddles are often positioned quite a bit higher than the handlebars. By contrast many touring and/or commuter bicycles are set up with the handlebars roughly level with the saddle height. It's a less aggressive, but more comfortable position for most. Keep that in mind as you raise your saddle to a comfortable height... you might also find that you need to raise your handlebars if your bicycle allows you to do this (some handlebars can't be raised, but you might find that you are perfectly comfortable raising the saddle and leaving the bars where they are).

Go slowly with these adjustments. Raise your saddle just a little at a time and see how it feels after riding a day or two. Carry the allen keys you need to adjust the height on the road as well. I always find it easier to make these adjustments while out on a ride.

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Old 04-28-08, 09:58 AM
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Sorry I couldn't afford seats in Orchestra level. And Ticketmaster's fees are ridiculous. Oh wait - yeah because when your seat is low you look like a bear riding a bike in a circus. And its ineffiectient as described above.
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Old 04-28-08, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by crhilton View Post
You come out of the seat to touch the ground. And you stand onto the seat as you start.
If you don't want to come off the seat at a stop you can usually put one foot on the ground by leaning the bike to the side.
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Old 04-28-08, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by crazybikerchick View Post
If you don't want to come off the seat at a stop you can usually put one foot on the ground by leaning the bike to the side.
Or pull up close to the curb, or lean on a handy road sign, bus, truck....

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