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Too low saddle height but comfy and same performance??

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Too low saddle height but comfy and same performance??

Old 07-23-20, 06:03 AM
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cubewheels
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Too low saddle height but comfy and same performance??

I've been riding for 5 weeks with the "correct" saddle height. That is using the knee angle method (26 degrees) via camera.

Then I used the 88.3% inseam method which reduced my saddle height by almost 40 mm! But with the inseam method, my knee doesn't lock straight with the "Heel" method because I'm using short cranks (150mm). So according to "heel" method, my saddle height is too low.

I tried the lower saddle height for a day, going the same route in the hilly parts of the city and my average speed remained the same. I also felt the same after the ride and I didn't experience any pain anywhere, even felt a bit more comfortable because the lower saddle placed me in a bit more upright position. I did notice my cadence increased with lower saddle. I felt more comfortable pedaling at higher cadence at lower gears at the same speed with the low saddle.

Because of the other benefits that is brought by a lower saddle like better handling of the bicycle, I feel like keeping it. Should I?? Any long term problems should I worry about?
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Old 07-23-20, 06:27 AM
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I don't know about anyone else, but my knees are the only things that care about saddle height. If your knees are fine with your current height, then I don't see any problem.
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Old 07-23-20, 08:15 AM
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Saddle heigth can be can be a tricky issue. Some people pedal with toes well down compared to pedaling with feet horizontal. The difference can be several centimeters; so how to choose the best saddle heigth. For myself, I use the .883 method and go up or down a bit as seems best. I try to avoid a low setting as this means the leg has to be raised higher than a lower setting, using a bit more energy.
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Old 07-23-20, 09:27 AM
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The .883 method is to center of BB, thus it only works with 170mm cranks. The correct formula for all other crank lengths is 1.09 to the center of the pedal spindle. The second thing is that there's a range of knee angle. usually stated as 25°-35°. The third thing is that all fit adjustments need a period of bodily adjustment in response to the bike adjustment. And as berner points out, the formulas are only a starting point. The knee angle measurement takes foot angle into account, but the problem there is that knee angle really has to be measured after a good long warmup on the trainer, and using a video. It's not that useful to do a static measurement. There are angle measurement tools out there which work with videos. That's how the pros do it. Google "video angle measurement software free download".
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Old 07-23-20, 10:14 AM
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Here's the method I use, having come up with it after 50 years of guess-and-go saddle height adjustments:

1. Find a road, parking lot, etc., that's level and has no hills.

2. Raise saddle until it's clearly somewhat too high.

3. Get on, get up to speed, and then backpedal; note the way your foot lifts off the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

4. Get off and drop the saddle a small amount.

5. Repeat 3 and 4 until you can feel the full weight of your foot through the bottom of the pedal stroke.
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Old 07-23-20, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
Here's the method I use, having come up with it after 50 years of guess-and-go saddle height adjustments:

1. Find a road, parking lot, etc., that's level and has no hills.

2. Raise saddle until it's clearly somewhat too high.

3. Get on, get up to speed, and then backpedal; note the way your foot lifts off the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

4. Get off and drop the saddle a small amount.

5. Repeat 3 and 4 until you can feel the full weight of your foot through the bottom of the pedal stroke.
I do it by starting with the heel-on-pedal method, then riding hills with a wrench in my pocket. I'm looking for the saddle height where it feels like I'm generating the most force at the bottom of the pedal stroke, that "scraping the mud off your shoe" thing, while also feeling powerful through the rest of the stroke. I think the deal is that my knee angle has to be just so for my hams and glutes to have the best mechanical advantage at the bottom and start of the backstroke. I'm not nearly as interested in the fit numbers as I am in the sustainable power numbers.
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Old 07-23-20, 06:23 PM
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I've always though that formulas and things to get you in the right fit were just to get in the ballpark. From there I do some adjustment a few millimetres at a time till I find the correct position for me. I'm unique, so why should a formula know how to fit me exactly?
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Old 07-23-20, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I do it by starting with the heel-on-pedal method, then riding hills with a wrench in my pocket. I'm looking for the saddle height where it feels like I'm generating the most force at the bottom of the pedal stroke, that "scraping the mud off your shoe" thing, while also feeling powerful through the rest of the stroke. I think the deal is that my knee angle has to be just so for my hams and glutes to have the best mechanical advantage at the bottom and start of the backstroke. I'm not nearly as interested in the fit numbers as I am in the sustainable power numbers.
I always do the heel on pedal method as baseline comparison. It's the easiest and the most convenient means.

On the topic of backstroke, I seem to generate stronger back stroke if the saddle is lower (significantly lower than recommended by experts) probably due to better leverage with the glutes.

I still generate more power with the forward and downstroke which favors a higher saddle. I'll probably stick with it for several days more and make up my mind.

Last edited by cubewheels; 07-23-20 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 07-23-20, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
I always do the heel on pedal method as baseline comparison. It's the easiest and the most convenient means.

On the topic of backstroke, I seem to generate stronger back stroke if the saddle is lower (significantly lower than recommended by experts) probably due to better leverage with the glutes.

I still generate more power with the forward and downstroke which favors a higher saddle. I'll probably stick with it for several days more and make up my mind.
Yeah, you gotta just play with it. It may or may not change with time, too. And you're right, the most force is generated at low knee angles. We can squat a heckuva lot more doing 1/2 squats than full squats and way more than that doing 1/4 squats, so much that I won't do them. On a long smooth hill, I like to play with it and see how it feels to hold a certain difficult speed with different saddle heights, getting it down to just a couple mm either way. Then review a few rides later.
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Old 07-24-20, 01:28 AM
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The heel-on-pedal method was, I believe, developed for racers during the era in which the heel of almost every cycling shoe consisted of extremely thin leather (or wood) without an insole. Many modern cycling shoes, and almost all other styles of shoes, have (effectively) thicker heels.

Thus, using the heel-on-pedal method of sizing with modern shoes, people may be starting with a seat level somewhat higher than that method was meant to result in.
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Old 07-24-20, 01:32 AM
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Well, it's not too low if you don't have problems with it, your legs track straight, and you don't lose power.

After faffing with saddle height up and down (and forward and aft and so on), mostly looking if I can get a bit more power without introducing discomfort, I find that messing with saddle height doesn't make me any stronger; I get about the same 5-10 minute max power, but when the saddle is higher my cadence is a bit lower while doing it and vice versa. I'm again trying out a bit lower position (which does turn out to be something like 0.883 x inseam, rounded down), as well as more aft. Sadly, I did not manage to obtain any free power by messing with the saddle height.

What's too high, for me? I start to get discomfort on the saddle while going hard for a while (15+ minutes) in the same position, and/or I slide a bit forward on the saddle, which is pretty much a tell-tale sign that it's too high and my body is trying to compensate. Too low? Once I was chasing trying to set a PR on this stretch of road, and my saddle slipped way down after hitting a speed bump; I didn't want to call it quits, which left me going full tilt for five minutes on a saddle which was about 4-5cm lower than it's normal position. That felt all sorts of wrong, and I was pedaling a bit bow-legged on that!
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Old 07-26-20, 05:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Yeah, you gotta just play with it. It may or may not change with time, too. And you're right, the most force is generated at low knee angles. We can squat a heckuva lot more doing 1/2 squats than full squats and way more than that doing 1/4 squats, so much that I won't do them. On a long smooth hill, I like to play with it and see how it feels to hold a certain difficult speed with different saddle heights, getting it down to just a couple mm either way. Then review a few rides later.
After 3 days, my ankle has adapted to the new angle, comfortable as before the adjustment, and I'm even going faster now in the same route I take everyday. Indeed, I have kept my knee angle the same by simply bending my ankle more. Occassional and brief stretches on the pedals while riding helps to adapt to the new position. No pain nor soreness in the ankle so far after 3 days. I've also noticed I'm delivering power differently now at different locations in the pedal stroke where I find most comfortable and higher sustained power. Needs further testing.

The higher speed might be due to improved aerodynamics as I've also lowered my bar height by 6 cm, more than the amount I lowered the saddle so I'm a more crouched down position now.
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Old 07-28-20, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
The .883 method is to center of BB, thus it only works with 170mm cranks. The correct formula for all other crank lengths is 1.09 to the center of the pedal spindle. The second thing is that there's a range of knee angle. usually stated as 25°-35°. The third thing is that all fit adjustments need a period of bodily adjustment in response to the bike adjustment. And as berner points out, the formulas are only a starting point. The knee angle measurement takes foot angle into account, but the problem there is that knee angle really has to be measured after a good long warmup on the trainer, and using a video. It's not that useful to do a static measurement. There are angle measurement tools out there which work with videos. That's how the pros do it. Google "video angle measurement software free download".
Also, most recommendations to adjust saddles say to make height adjustments about 3 mm at a time and allow an hour or two of riding to acclimate to the new position. One thing about the locked knee method is that you hips should rock minimally on the saddle as you pedal. This prevents abrasion on the saddle top, where your pelvis rocks fro side to side as you pedal. For me that leads to intense perineal pain, and needing to lay off a few days while my butt or whatever ceases to hurt.
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Old 07-28-20, 06:13 PM
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Also there are a handful of simple (maybe not so simple) rules of thumb for saddle adjustment

1. Start with the saddle level, the middle in line with the seat tube and with your knee just straight when you sit on the saddle with your heels on the pedals. It should be easy to pedal back wards while your bike is on the trainer or you are gliding down the street.

2. If when you put your feet in normal position you feel something hard at the bottom of the stroke, your saddle is a bit too low. Raise it slowly say 2 mm or 1/16" at a time until that feeling is gone.

3. Try to ride in the hoods or drops and see if you are pushing back with your hands to keep back on the saddle. Your sit bones should be where the widest part of the saddle is but not on the hard part at the rear. You probably need to slide your saddle back maybe ¼ inch at a time. Another thing this does is to put you in better balance on the saddle so you can raise your hand and butt off the saddle when going over a bump, without falling forward.

4. You can also raise the nose of the saddle, again a little bit at a time. You should be supported on your sitbones without much pressure on the soft tissue areas in front of the sitbones.

5. If you feel testticular stress like being hit, the nose is too high.

6. You can start this setting process by just riding and considering your discomforts according to these rules. And by the way, I can't say these rules are a complete set. They have helped me a lot, but I never address it quite the same way every time.

7. I find if I start a ride and feel a problem, I'm best off if I address it right away, not assuming it will go away in another 5 miles. If it gets bad enough to be screaming at me, there's no way I can be analytical about it.

Last edited by Road Fan; 07-28-20 at 06:20 PM.
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Old 07-28-20, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
The heel-on-pedal method was, I believe, developed for racers during the era in which the heel of almost every cycling shoe consisted of extremely thin leather (or wood) without an insole. Many modern cycling shoes, and almost all other styles of shoes, have (effectively) thicker heels.

Thus, using the heel-on-pedal method of sizing with modern shoes, people may be starting with a seat level somewhat higher than that method was meant to result in.
I'm not sure there's a problem in here. The goal is to get correct leg extension - enough tto get power but not enought to make your hips rock and give you abrasion against the saddle. Also not so high at to cause knee pain in the back nor so low as to cause knee pain in the front. Knee tracking is important as well, but since I'm not a pro fitter and have not experienced problems with knee tracking, I can't say. I use the heel method and I refine from there. I think if your shoe is thicker, well I believe you are going to fine-adjust your height, tilt (pitch), rotation (yaw) and setback perhaps several times after you get an initial positioning set. So I do not see modern shoes versus vintage, et cetera to be a significant problem.
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Old 07-28-20, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
6. You can start this setting process by just riding and considering your discomforts according to these rules. And by the way, I can't say these rules are a complete set. They have helped me a lot, but I never address it quite the same way every time.
Thanks, that might work with others but I can't work based on level of comfort and discomfort.

Because any new setting (a little bit higher or lower) would be uncomfortable to me.. Takes me a few days for my muscles and bones to adapt to the new setup and decide if it's good.

I usually get elevated muscle pain near the joint areas in the first day of trying the the new setting. And then the pain would be gone the next day or two and cease to return, and then few more days to see if my power output changed.

So far, I've adapted pretty well to .883 with 150mm crank (too low for heel method) that I have decided to stick with it. My power output did not change and the lower CoG and able to stick your foot out is safer in a "peloton" with motorcycles where any one of those couriers would be stopping all of a sudden.
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