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Thoughts on saddle set back

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Thoughts on saddle set back

Old 01-30-23, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio
It all depends on what you need. By moving the cleats back you gain foot stability but lose peak power. I don't personally need peak power and I can still crank out high enough power if I need to. For me long term stability is more important. For a trained individual (such as Pantani) the stability issue is much less of a concern. Not many typical riders are trained to nearly the same level. I also do not like the idea that I'd need to train certain muscle groups so that I can graduate to ride in the fashion I prefer. If there's a shortcut with caveats that don't concern me, I'm taking it.



In my experience the issues caused by too much reach begin manifesting when you start having your saddle in a position that allows for balanced recruitment of the quads and hamstrings. If get to that point and start adding excessive reach, there comes a point when you start tipping forward, placing more weight on the hands and all that fun stuff. Affecting factors are arm length, pelvic stability, and as a big factor upper body mass, among other things. Bigger hunks can tolerate less reach and vice versa.

Typically adding reach doesn't just mean you move your hands forward into a more vertical position. More often it means leaning the whole torso forward and that's really why adding reach for most people doesn't remove weight from the hands but does the opposite.

I believe in the pro peloton they have shorter reach these days because it's easier for the rider to achieve lots of drop instead of lots of reach. Added drop doesn't move the CoG forward as quicly as added reach does. There's also no inherent advantage in adding reach beyond the required amount.

What I do find interesting is the relationship of weight on hands, balance and back angle. It seems to me that to a point more forward lean increases balance and lessens weight on hands. I have no idea why, but I imagine it's different muscles taking over the balancing of the torso. Or it could just be me.
Interesting. I don't worry about balance. Last year I put in ~800 miles on my rollers. Plus I do some one-legged balancing. I'm just chasing performance on long rides. Stronger lower legs helps. We see quite a few riders complaining of cramps in their calves. Moving the cleats back and exercising will both fix that. Choice, though the latter improves performance..

I don't think modern riders are any more aero than the riders in those old videos. But maybe modern head tubes are shorter? IDK. An interesting thing about reach and balance is that we do weight our hands to come extent as we need that weight on the bars to maintain control. The down pressure on the bars creates a torque centered around the contact point on the saddle. Thus the further away our hands are from that contact point the less down pressure we need to create that same torque, i.e. our hands are lighter on the bars. and the less effect road irregularities have on our upper body. IDK if these cycling style changes we see have any effect on performance or comfort, or it is just style, and either way, what's the driver?
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Old 01-30-23, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
We see quite a few riders complaining of cramps in their calves. Moving the cleats back and exercising will both fix that. Choice, though the latter improves performance..
Have you measured an improvement in performance? I can't say I have noticed any downside to moving my cleats back as far as their normal adjustment range. It just feels easier on my feet and calves and my power is better than ever. I would be interested in trying them even further back if I had more adjustment range, although I'm happy with my current position. I noticed a lot of people suffering with cramp and foot pain on the final Alpe d'Huez climb in last year's L'Etape. I was certainly happy with my cleat position there!

I agree exercising is good, whatever cleat position you favour.
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Old 02-03-23, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
109% is barely 35 degrees. I did this for a living and checked the math many times.

I wrote the OP because I was hoping for a discussion of whether the way I was thinking about set back was considered useful or not. Instead you decided to post that nearly everything I do as a fitter is garbage and people should ride bikes like Sean Kelly. I apologize for being brusque, but I really wasn't looking to throw out everything I've been doing for years in favor of squatting low and a long way from the handlebars.
I usually use heel on pedal to start to set my height, on a great road bike but on a trainer. I'm finding in this little amount of riding, I lower the saddle to stabilize my hips, surprised to find I am someplace below the heel-on pedal point. But it feels good, and the legs are feeling supple again.

I think what are needed are methods, not formulae, at least for saddle height, but time will tell if I'm right.
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Old 02-03-23, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan
I usually use heel on pedal to start to set my height, on a great road bike but on a trainer. I'm finding in this little amount of riding, I lower the saddle to stabilize my hips, surprised to find I am someplace below the heel-on pedal point. But it feels good, and the legs are feeling supple again.

I think what are needed are methods, not formulae, at least for saddle height, but time will tell if I'm right.
I really don't think there is a real difference between measuring yourself off the bike and measuring yourself on the bike. Using leg length and a multiplier is one way of forming a triangle, setting knee bend is another. Both are approximations since no one measures the exact same way or sticks to the exact same angle every time.

Heels on pedals? How are your heels shaped? Shoes? Pedals?

All approximations.
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Old 02-06-23, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
I really don't think there is a real difference between measuring yourself off the bike and measuring yourself on the bike. Using leg length and a multiplier is one way of forming a triangle, setting knee bend is another. Both are approximations since no one measures the exact same way or sticks to the exact same angle every time.

Heels on pedals? How are your heels shaped? Shoes? Pedals?

All approximations.

The heel method has the slight advantage that you don't have to actually measure anything. I agree it is dependent on shoes and pedals, but so are the common formulae. Some people use the Lemond Formula - 3 mm to account for modern shoes with less stack height. But we know it's only an approximation anyway as we are not all Lemond clones. Comparing both these methods puts me at the same saddle height within a couple of mm anyway. Close enough as a starting point.
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Old 02-07-23, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
The heel method has the slight advantage that you don't have to actually measure anything. I agree it is dependent on shoes and pedals, but so are the common formulae. Some people use the Lemond Formula - 3 mm to account for modern shoes with less stack height. But we know it's only an approximation anyway as we are not all Lemond clones. Comparing both these methods puts me at the same saddle height within a couple of mm anyway. Close enough as a starting point.
Generally, the heel method is the lowest saddle height solution of any of the common methods, since what it measures is essentially your cycling inseam. Meanwhile the other seat to pedal method takes the cycling inseam and adds 9% to it.

The .883 height I've been using for 35 years is within 1cm of the 109% method, but I am well close to 2cm away from even being able to touch the pedals with my heels.

Last edited by Kontact; 02-07-23 at 07:33 AM.
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Old 02-20-23, 09:22 AM
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My thoughts on saddle setback:

I like to set my fore/aft position to put my body into balance fore-aft, like a skier in a tuck while running at high-speed, with my tucked center of gravity above the BB axis. This is set-up with my feet clipped (toeclips) onto the pedals, and my hands on the drops at a comfortable distance. This balances my whole body and improves comfort on what passes for road pavement, bumps and train tracks and the natural beauty of rail-trails and farm road "gravel." It may or may not optimize power output, but I can always dig into the pedals while pulling with my arms. It generally improves my spinning (not sure why) as well, so with a granny gear 30/26 or easier I was ok last year. To get this setup on a relatively modern road frame (1980's English or Italian) I put a Brooks Pro, Ideale 80, or a Brooks Swallow on a Nitto high-setback seatpost. With a more shallow 1950s frame it looks like with a Brooks Pro I can use a more standard post like a Campy or a Thomson Setback.

So I like a lot of setback to get that balance, to easily lift my butt when I cross a bump, so the saddle does not wack me in the butt. I suppose my bar position would be called somewhat upright since my bars are 1 to 2 cm below the saddle top.
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Old 02-20-23, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
Generally, the heel method is the lowest saddle height solution of any of the common methods, since what it measures is essentially your cycling inseam. Meanwhile the other seat to pedal method takes the cycling inseam and adds 9% to it.

The .883 height I've been using for 35 years is within 1cm of the 109% method, but I am well close to 2cm away from even being able to touch the pedals with my heels.
I'd heard about the 109% of leg inseam for many years. Six or so years ago I actually measured my saddle height to the top of the pedal when furthest away and surprisingly it was at 109% of my inseam. And this was just from me setting my saddle where it both felt right and gave what seemed to be best power.

Generally I don't like formulas though. To many refuse to move or change something because a formula says they have perfectly set something where it should be.
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Old 02-20-23, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
Generally, the heel method is the lowest saddle height solution of any of the common methods, since what it measures is essentially your cycling inseam. Meanwhile the other seat to pedal method takes the cycling inseam and adds 9% to it.

The .883 height I've been using for 35 years is within 1cm of the 109% method, but I am well close to 2cm away from even being able to touch the pedals with my heels.
I compared saddle height for the various methods for myself:-

Heel method = 770 mm
0.883 = 777 mm
109% = 784 mm

My current saddle height is 780 mm, although I sometimes run it as low as 770 mm.
Setback is currently 100 mm, but it's a fairly short saddle.
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Old 02-20-23, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
I compared saddle height for the various methods for myself:-

Heel method = 770 mm
0.883 = 777 mm
109% = 784 mm

My current saddle height is 780 mm, although I sometimes run it as low as 770 mm.
Setback is currently 100 mm, but it's a fairly short saddle.
Were you wearing shoes for the heel measure?
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Old 02-20-23, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
Were you wearing shoes for the heel measure?
Yeah. Although it was on one of my trainers with flat pedals. I just wanted to see roughly what saddle height it would give.
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Old 02-20-23, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Yeah. Although it was on one of my trainers with flat pedals. I just wanted to see roughly what saddle height it would give.
So 7mm is probably 10-20mm off.
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Old 03-05-23, 06:35 PM
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It's interesting to read about the varieties of fit that folks prefer. Important also to remember that nobody here is likely to be qualified (actual physiologist) to proffer any more than "this is what works for me."
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Old 03-05-23, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv
It's interesting to read about the varieties of fit that folks prefer. Important also to remember that nobody here is likely to be qualified (actual physiologist) to proffer any more than "this is what works for me."
A really experienced fitter would be preferable to a physiologist - unless they are a cycling specialist. Knowing all about the human body doesn't necessarily prepare you to speak about odd postures you might find one in.

But there aren't that many super experienced fitters out there. I used to work for one.
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Old 03-13-23, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
Fitter Steve Hogg has long advocated for using balance method for finding set back. Essentially, you ride the bike in the drops position, and you try to take your hands off the bars. Too far forward and you can't lift yourself, too far back and you weren't leaned over much. Average them out and there you go.
fwiw framebuilder Dave Kirk advocates a similar approach. Copied/pasted from a ~10 year old post Dave made on another cycling forum:

"Let me first say that if you are a strong devotee of the KOPS deal then you will strongly disagree with what I'm about to share. I personally think that KOPS is as valid as standing over the top tube and seeing how much room between your crotch and the top tube. All one needs to do is look at the two fastest type of bikes out there - the new school time trial bike (knee way in front of the spindle) and a recumbent (knee more than a bit behind the spindle) to realize that this knee-pedal thing is crap.

That said here is a way to get your ballpark fore/aft saddle position. Note I'm not talking about reach from saddle to bars. Saddle to bar reach is a separate deal and should not be adjusted by moving the saddle fore/aft. Reach is a function of toptube/stem length.

1) put your bike in a medium easyish gear and ride up a very gentle grade. I use a 42-17 up a slight grade where I can maintain my natural cadence of 85ish without great effort.

2) put your hands on the tops of the bar next to the stem and ride relaxed like this for a bit. Let your body fall into a natural arch and relax.

3) now, with your body relaxed, lift your hands from the bars WITHOUT sitting up or changing the angle of your hips and lower back. Lift just the hands off the bars. Just and inch or so. Do not sit up.

3a) if you can do this without strain or by using a great deal of core strength then your fore/aft saddle position probably isn't bad and is in the ballpark.
3b) if you have a hard time doing this even after a few tries then it's a pretty good bet that your fore/aft deal could use adjustment. If you tend to fall forward when your hands are lifted it's a good bet your saddle could go back. If you tend to fall back then your saddle is way too far back. The latter is pretty rare.

This test, like all tests is not absolute or perfect but I've found it to be a good general rule. I think more folks will find themselves falling forward (instead of backward) and need to move the saddle back. Most folks that have had a fitting that is built around KOPS will have a saddle that is too far forward and will put too much pressure on their hands (I'm still not talking about reach here). This will make folks want to fit shorter stems and to raise the bars. This will have the double negative whammy of making the bike handle like **** and make you want an even shorter-higher stem.

By having the feet the right distance in front of your hips your ass and lower back muscles (the best ones you got!) can easily hold your position. You can try this right now in your chair while you should be getting some work done - sitting in your chair put your heels 6" in front of the chair on the floor. Lean forward a bit. Easy as **** eh? Now move your feet back so the balls of your feet are under the leading edge of the seat and lean forward a bit. It's takes much more core strength to hold this unnatural position. It's the same basic deal on the bike. Your feet support you and the added weight on your feet can be put into the pedals. If you pedaled with your hands then having a lot of weight on them would kick ass.

Give it a try. If you descide to make changes make them very small and a little at a time. A little can go a long way."
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Old 03-13-23, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Ross
fwiw framebuilder Dave Kirk advocates a similar approach. Copied/pasted from a ~10 year old post Dave made on another cycling forum:

"Let me first say that if you are a strong devotee of the KOPS deal then you will strongly disagree with what I'm about to share. I personally think that KOPS is as valid as standing over the top tube and seeing how much room between your crotch and the top tube. All one needs to do is look at the two fastest type of bikes out there - the new school time trial bike (knee way in front of the spindle) and a recumbent (knee more than a bit behind the spindle) to realize that this knee-pedal thing is crap.

That said here is a way to get your ballpark fore/aft saddle position. Note I'm not talking about reach from saddle to bars. Saddle to bar reach is a separate deal and should not be adjusted by moving the saddle fore/aft. Reach is a function of toptube/stem length.

1) put your bike in a medium easyish gear and ride up a very gentle grade. I use a 42-17 up a slight grade where I can maintain my natural cadence of 85ish without great effort.

2) put your hands on the tops of the bar next to the stem and ride relaxed like this for a bit. Let your body fall into a natural arch and relax.

3) now, with your body relaxed, lift your hands from the bars WITHOUT sitting up or changing the angle of your hips and lower back. Lift just the hands off the bars. Just and inch or so. Do not sit up.

3a) if you can do this without strain or by using a great deal of core strength then your fore/aft saddle position probably isn't bad and is in the ballpark.
3b) if you have a hard time doing this even after a few tries then it's a pretty good bet that your fore/aft deal could use adjustment. If you tend to fall forward when your hands are lifted it's a good bet your saddle could go back. If you tend to fall back then your saddle is way too far back. The latter is pretty rare.

This test, like all tests is not absolute or perfect but I've found it to be a good general rule. I think more folks will find themselves falling forward (instead of backward) and need to move the saddle back. Most folks that have had a fitting that is built around KOPS will have a saddle that is too far forward and will put too much pressure on their hands (I'm still not talking about reach here). This will make folks want to fit shorter stems and to raise the bars. This will have the double negative whammy of making the bike handle like **** and make you want an even shorter-higher stem.

By having the feet the right distance in front of your hips your ass and lower back muscles (the best ones you got!) can easily hold your position. You can try this right now in your chair while you should be getting some work done - sitting in your chair put your heels 6" in front of the chair on the floor. Lean forward a bit. Easy as **** eh? Now move your feet back so the balls of your feet are under the leading edge of the seat and lean forward a bit. It's takes much more core strength to hold this unnatural position. It's the same basic deal on the bike. Your feet support you and the added weight on your feet can be put into the pedals. If you pedaled with your hands then having a lot of weight on them would kick ass.

Give it a try. If you descide to make changes make them very small and a little at a time. A little can go a long way."
Hard to apply a rule that doesn't specify an actual grade. Small angle differences make the feel of set back very different, as each degree of slope effectively moves the saddle back a cm.

I love Dave Kirk, but he is essentially attacking those (Pruit) who think gravity is providing some sort of power advantage. KOPS was just a rule of thumb that was easy to measure to get reasonable set back for some groups of people, not a formula for peak power. It isn't a bad starting place for many people - but some folks have different enough proportions that it fails in its intent.
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Old 03-14-23, 06:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob Ross
fwiw framebuilder Dave Kirk advocates a similar approach. Copied/pasted from a ~10 year old post Dave made on another cycling forum:

"Let me first say that if you are a strong devotee of the KOPS deal then you will strongly disagree with what I'm about to share. I personally think that KOPS is as valid as standing over the top tube and seeing how much room between your crotch and the top tube. All one needs to do is look at the two fastest type of bikes out there - the new school time trial bike (knee way in front of the spindle) and a recumbent (knee more than a bit behind the spindle) to realize that this knee-pedal thing is crap.

That said here is a way to get your ballpark fore/aft saddle position. Note I'm not talking about reach from saddle to bars. Saddle to bar reach is a separate deal and should not be adjusted by moving the saddle fore/aft. Reach is a function of toptube/stem length.

1) put your bike in a medium easyish gear and ride up a very gentle grade. I use a 42-17 up a slight grade where I can maintain my natural cadence of 85ish without great effort.

2) put your hands on the tops of the bar next to the stem and ride relaxed like this for a bit. Let your body fall into a natural arch and relax.

3) now, with your body relaxed, lift your hands from the bars WITHOUT sitting up or changing the angle of your hips and lower back. Lift just the hands off the bars. Just and inch or so. Do not sit up.

3a) if you can do this without strain or by using a great deal of core strength then your fore/aft saddle position probably isn't bad and is in the ballpark.
3b) if you have a hard time doing this even after a few tries then it's a pretty good bet that your fore/aft deal could use adjustment. If you tend to fall forward when your hands are lifted it's a good bet your saddle could go back. If you tend to fall back then your saddle is way too far back. The latter is pretty rare.

This test, like all tests is not absolute or perfect but I've found it to be a good general rule. I think more folks will find themselves falling forward (instead of backward) and need to move the saddle back. Most folks that have had a fitting that is built around KOPS will have a saddle that is too far forward and will put too much pressure on their hands (I'm still not talking about reach here). This will make folks want to fit shorter stems and to raise the bars. This will have the double negative whammy of making the bike handle like **** and make you want an even shorter-higher stem.

By having the feet the right distance in front of your hips your ass and lower back muscles (the best ones you got!) can easily hold your position. You can try this right now in your chair while you should be getting some work done - sitting in your chair put your heels 6" in front of the chair on the floor. Lean forward a bit. Easy as **** eh? Now move your feet back so the balls of your feet are under the leading edge of the seat and lean forward a bit. It's takes much more core strength to hold this unnatural position. It's the same basic deal on the bike. Your feet support you and the added weight on your feet can be put into the pedals. If you pedaled with your hands then having a lot of weight on them would kick ass.

Give it a try. If you descide to make changes make them very small and a little at a time. A little can go a long way."
While I kind of agree with the idea, I find these balance based methods way too vague to fix my saddle fore-aft position with any kind of precision. Or maybe it simply doesn't matter all that much within a fairly wide window.
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Old 03-14-23, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Or maybe it simply doesn't matter all that much within a fairly wide window.
I think a lot of that depends on the individual, and their personal sensetivity or proprioception. My wife and I are a perfect example of the extremes to which this can be true:

- I own four different bikes, and other than the saddle height, every dimension related to fit is completely different: Setback ranges from 8cm on one to 5.5cm on another, Saddle>Bar Drop ranges from 9cm on one to 2cm on another, Saddle Nose to Tip of the Hoods ranges from 74.5cm on one to 69.5cm on another...and yet when I climb on any one of those bikes I don't feel like "ooh, this one's long & low!" or "ooh, this one's kinda short & upright!" etc. In fact, I barely notice anything at all. I'm just not that sensetive. Or maybe I don't care?

- Whereas my wife will obsess over increments of 0.5mm in any/all of those measurements and, even more frighteningly, she can feel the difference. (Paul Levine, former owner and master fitter at Signature Cycles, used to refer to her as "The Princess & The Pea"). She know what she likes, and what works for her, precisely...and she can't tolerate a bike that is even the slightest bit out-of-spec from her preferred measurements.
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Old 03-15-23, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob Ross
I think a lot of that depends on the individual, and their personal sensetivity or proprioception. My wife and I are a perfect example of the extremes to which this can be true:

- I own four different bikes, and other than the saddle height, every dimension related to fit is completely different: Setback ranges from 8cm on one to 5.5cm on another, Saddle>Bar Drop ranges from 9cm on one to 2cm on another, Saddle Nose to Tip of the Hoods ranges from 74.5cm on one to 69.5cm on another...and yet when I climb on any one of those bikes I don't feel like "ooh, this one's long & low!" or "ooh, this one's kinda short & upright!" etc. In fact, I barely notice anything at all. I'm just not that sensetive. Or maybe I don't care?

- Whereas my wife will obsess over increments of 0.5mm in any/all of those measurements and, even more frighteningly, she can feel the difference. (Paul Levine, former owner and master fitter at Signature Cycles, used to refer to her as "The Princess & The Pea"). She know what she likes, and what works for her, precisely...and she can't tolerate a bike that is even the slightest bit out-of-spec from her preferred measurements.
I'm more like you. I'm really not that sensitive or fussy about bike fit. That doesn't stop me from experimenting with different positions, but I find most incremental changes insignificant. Saddle setback in particular is not that important for me within the range that I can readily adjust. I've moved my saddle forward 20 mm recently - inspired by the pro trend to be honest. It does feel a little better, but not night and day.
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