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Do Tour pros tend to ride lower saddle heights?

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Do Tour pros tend to ride lower saddle heights?

Old 09-01-20, 07:12 AM
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ljsense
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Do Tour pros tend to ride lower saddle heights?

With the Tour on TV again, my annual question is surfacing again, and this time thought I'd ask others: do the pro riders tend to have their saddles a touch lower than normal?

When I watch them, about 20 percent have a saddle height that I identify with. The rest seem like they are riding with their saddles about a cm or two below where I would put it.

Maybe I ride with my saddle a little higher than normal -- I think that's the obvious conclusion. But I've never asked. Any perspective very welcome.
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Old 09-01-20, 08:58 AM
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I notice that just like us amateurs and wanna-be's they have all sorts of personal preference going on.

Some have bikes that look like the size they must have rode when pre-teen. Some have oval-chainwheels, C. Froome being notable for using them. Some with wide handlebars others with narrow handlebars.

It'd be really interesting to know what size chainrings and cogs on the back they are running between each rider.
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Old 09-01-20, 09:30 AM
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Or the question could be stated:

is it normal for amateurs have their saddles too high?
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Old 09-01-20, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Or the question could be stated:

is it normal for amateurs have their saddles too high?
I see just the opposite.
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Old 09-01-20, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Or the question could be stated:

is it normal for amateurs have their saddles too high?
Right. I guess what I'm wondering is, if there is a bias for amateurs to have their saddles higher than pros. Amateurs like me may have adopted their saddle height over the years to protect a knee. Pros may want to be a little lower for aerodynamic reasons, or to descend faster with more stability. Just wondering if anyone has any insights.
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Old 09-01-20, 09:51 AM
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I look at it that pros have plenty of leg strength, so favor better spin over maximum leverage.

IMO, too high of saddle is very common among road cyclists (as opposed to kids (BMX!) and folks JRA)

and reports of fitters setting them up that way are also common.
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Old 09-01-20, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by ljsense View Post
Right. I guess what I'm wondering is, if there is a bias for amateurs to have their saddles higher than pros. Amateurs like me may have adopted their saddle height over the years to protect a knee. Pros may want to be a little lower for aerodynamic reasons, or to descend faster with more stability. Just wondering if anyone has any insights.
Maybe it's just you?
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Old 09-01-20, 11:01 AM
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Maybe someone with fitting experience or knowledge of pro riders will chime in.

My observation is that about 75 percent of the pro field ride with a saddle height that is noticably lower than the remaining quarter of the peloton, based on leg angle at max extension. I happen to identify with the 25 percent, but you could take that entirely out of the question.

As I understand bike fit, higher saddle height, to a point, tends to protect the front of the knee, but put more strain on the back -- protecting kneecaps over hamstring tendons. Lower saddles tend to put more strain on the kneecaps, and may offer less leverage, but it puts the rider in a better position for handling and aerodynamics.

I'm just wondering if this is strategic and intentional, or just where personal preference and fit issues happen to be distributed.
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Old 09-01-20, 11:11 AM
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It's long been known that higher seats work better for short races and lower for long races. Track riders have ridden high saddles forever. The match sprinters and kilo riders the highest. Serious road riders a little lower. The Pro peloton takes this a step further. They ride races up to 160 miles (the Classics) and 2100 miles in 3 weeks. Say 20,000 miles/year. The European racing scene doesn't need studies to know this. They've been racing and riding those distances over 100 years. A large percentage of the coaches are ex-riders who were taught to lower their seats when they were aspiring racers by coaches that learned the same way.

I was taught the same. (Boston in the '70s had a "guru" who had raced in Europe, came back as captain of Boston's strongest club and shared what he had learned. This got passed on throughout the Boston racing scene as "the Allis way", A lot of good wisdom. Some of which got de-bunked with modern studies, then later crept back because it worked.) I use the simple test of being able to either straighten or bend my knee seated with the crank down in line with the seat tube, my heel on the pedal spindle and the bike indoors against a wall. Without rocking my hips and with bare feet.

An exercise that might convince people to ride lower seats - ride thousands of miles per year including hills on a fix gear. (Part of the Allis training regime. 2000 miles fixed by April.)

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Old 09-01-20, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by ljsense View Post
My observation is that about 75 percent of the pro field ride with a saddle height that is noticably lower than the remaining quarter of the peloton, based on leg angle at max extension. I happen to identify with the 25 percent, but you could take that entirely out of the question.
My experience is that 85% of statistics in internet forums are made up on the spot to support a spurious argument. I think you have some internal bias going on, and you're probably just seeing things. There is no way you're getting the quality data needed to make your claims with any sort of statistical confidence. It sounds more like projection + selection bias.
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Old 09-01-20, 11:40 AM
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I noticed the same thing. I used the Greg LeMond/Cyrille Guimard formula of 0.883 back in the 1980's and have stuck with that as it feels right for me, but maybe it yields a saddle height a cm or two too high compared to current thinking?
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Old 09-01-20, 11:47 AM
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I don't notice any of these pros having high saddles. Do what works for you.

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Old 09-01-20, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
I noticed the same thing. I used the Greg LeMond/Cyrille Guimard formula of 0.883 back in the 1980's and have stuck with that as it feels right for me, but maybe it yields a saddle height a cm or two too high compared to current thinking?
In a Bicycling! interview published in the '80s a couple of years after he joined Bernard Hinault's team, Greg LeMond reported enthusiastically that Guimard had raised LeMond's saddle a good 2 cm and that he felt that he could deliver more power to the pedals with the saddle at that height. However, I believe both he and Hinault ended up having knee surgery later (maybe Laurent Fignon, too).

When I set up a new bike for myself, I raise the saddle to a point somewhat higher than what I suspect to be right and then go out for a short ride, periodically soft-pedaling to check whether my feet are unweighting in my shoes at the bottom of the downstroke. I then adjust the saddle height down and repeat until I can feel the full weight of my foot on the pedal.
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Old 09-01-20, 12:44 PM
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This has good explanation of the dynamics:

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Old 09-01-20, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
I look at it that pros have plenty of leg strength, so favor better spin over maximum leverage.
A study of Pro Tour riders showed no difference in leg strength between the pros and age matched sedentary men.
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Old 09-01-20, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by BoraxKid View Post
My experience is that 85% of statistics in internet forums are made up on the spot to support a spurious argument. I think you have some internal bias going on, and you're probably just seeing things. There is no way you're getting the quality data needed to make your claims with any sort of statistical confidence. It sounds more like projection + selection bias.
So without internal bias, what fraction of the peloton would you estimate have saddles lower than the highest quartile?
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Old 09-01-20, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
A study of Pro Tour riders showed no difference in leg strength between the pros and age matched sedentary men.
Very interesting. But Tour riders strive to achieve the best power/weight ratio, which probably occurs at the expense of losing some muscle mass. If the pros and the age-matched sedentary men were not also matched for weight, that study result might be misleading.
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Old 09-01-20, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
So without internal bias, what fraction of the peloton would you estimate have saddles lower than the highest quartile?
It would be impossible to give a reliable estimate without conducting a survey of a representative sample of pro riders in which accurate height of the riders were measured along with the saddle height of the bike each rider normally uses for racing. Any estimate given on lesser methodology would be subject to large variation; essentially it would be a wild guess.

Since I don't have access to the necessary information, I will refrain from making any wild guesses or drawing any conclusions from dubious means.
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Old 09-01-20, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by BoraxKid View Post
Since I don't have access to the necessary information, I will refrain from making any wild guesses or drawing any conclusions from dubious means.
You have all the information necessary to answer the question with perfect accuracy. Take a few minutes to think about it.


Here's a hint: What fraction of the children in the fifth grade are taller than average (median)?

Last edited by asgelle; 09-01-20 at 02:25 PM.
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Old 09-01-20, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
You have all the information necessary to answer the question with perfect accuracy. Take a few minutes to think about it.


Here's a hint: What fraction of the children in the fifth grade are taller than average (median)?
No, actually it is not as simple as you are implying, since the choice of saddle height is affected by several factors, whereas someone's absolute height is simply determined by genetics. Since different people might have differently proportioned limbs, it's possible that two riders of the same height would use different saddle heights. There are other factors such as preferred crank length, preferred pedal + shoe system, the use of insoles or wedges in the shoes, personal preference, and so on that will determine a rider's saddle height.

Since the post I originally was replying to was about riders using "noticeably" [sic] lower saddles, I simply pointed out that the other commenter's conclusion was based on dubious means. I don't know why you chose to mis-read their post, and then tried to play pedantic word games here, but hey, thanks for the strawman.
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Old 09-01-20, 02:41 PM
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Read a study that the average knee angle was close to 34 degrees in the pro peloton, and you can planly see many have lower saddles than many amateurs. ​​​​Sure, if you look at the bikes themselves, the saddles look high because the bikes are small with low handlebars, but with the rider on, no.

The pros are really being sensible with their fits here, really, they are expected to ride huge distances over the course of a grand tour.
​​​
If there's too much flex at the top of the pedal stroke and you get knee issues as a result, you can fix it with shorter cranks, too. You can find all sorts of crank lengths in the peloton.
​​​​
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Old 09-01-20, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by BoraxKid View Post
No, actually it is not as simple as you are implying, ...
Enough. Actually it is that simple. The first post said 75% or riders have their saddle lower than the other 25%. The truth of that is so obvious that it shouldn't have had to be said in the first place. Why you objected to it, is beyond me.
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Old 09-01-20, 02:46 PM
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First: never look at a pro's bike for setup tips. They're a different species.
Second: if your knees, hips, and back are okay with it, your saddle height is probably fine. Could you put out more power with it adjusted differently? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not you, I dunno.
Third: for every "hip rocker" I see out on the roads (saddle obviously too high) I see half a dozen "knees out" (saddle obviously too low.)
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Old 09-01-20, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
The first post said 75% or riders have their saddle lower than the other 25%.
My observation is that about 75 percent of the pro field ride with a saddle height that is noticably lower than the remaining quarter of the peloton...
The emphasis is mine. You are wrong again. That qualifier was the basis for the entire discussion that I started. That you missed it is of no concern to me.
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Old 09-01-20, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by BoraxKid View Post
The emphasis is mine. You are wrong again. That qualifier was the basis for the entire discussion that I started. That you missed it is of no concern to me.
I didn't miss it, I ignored it. Since nowhere is the threshold for a noticeable difference defined, in this context it's a word without meaning. Given enough effort, any difference is measurable (noticeable). So yes, 75% will always be noticeably lower that the top 25%.
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