While there are a number of factors to consider when finding the perfect position on the bike, the height of the saddle is perhaps the most important—and can make a big difference in your overall performance and comfort.
Here’s why the position of your butt matters so much and what you can do to get it right.
Why It Matters
While it is possible to jump on the bike and go for a ride without having a properly adjusted saddle, sooner or later it will begin to affect your performance.
A few ways saddle height can have a negative impact on your cycling include:
— Discomfort: Back, hip and knee pain are all common areas of the body that can become aggravated from a saddle height that’s too high or low.
— Injury: Due to the repetitive nature of cycling, riding for long periods of time can place unneeded stress on your joints. If left uncorrected, injuries such as tendonitis, muscle strains, or irritation of the spinal nerves becomes more likely.
— Performance: The slightest variances in saddle position can make a huge difference in energy economy and the amount of power you’re able to generate. An incorrect saddle position can cause excess fatigue to certain muscle groups and affect your power output the longer you ride.
How to Dial in Your Position
Getting a bike fit from a professional is one of the best investments you can make. And while shelling out $300 may seem like a lot at first, in the long run, it will save you from unnecessary medical bills.
If you’re looking for basic setup principles, follow these steps to get your saddle in a good starting point:
Step 1: Inseam Measurement
Wearing your cycling shorts, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your shoes off. Take a level and place it perpendicular between your legs and raise the level slightly up to mimic pressure from the nose of a saddle. Make a mark on the wall at the top of the level and measure the distance to the floor in centimeters.
Step 2: Calculations
Once you have your inseam, subtract 10 cm from this number. If you have an inseam of 74 cm, you’re starting saddle height should be close to 64 cm.
Step 3: Saddle Adjustment
From the top of the saddle and the middle of the saddle’s rails, measure along the seat tube to the center of your bottom bracket. Make small adjustments until this measurement is the same as your inseam calculation.
Keep in mind that the fore/aft position of your saddle, cleat position and handlebar height can also play a factor in your performance and injury prevention on the bike. As a general rule, take these precautions when making adjustments:
— Always mark you saddle position before making any changes.
— Adjust height in small increments.
— If hamstring or lower back flexibility is an issue, more aggressive positions may not be appropriate.
— After making adjustments, keep a log of how it affected your riding. Did your average speed increase? Did you experience less pain in the area of concern? Are you having pain or fatigue in a different area after the changes? This can help you figure out which adjustments you may need to make down the road.
Avoiding Common Injuries
Below are a few injuries related to the position of your saddle and how you can fix them.
— Patellar tendonitis: Raise the saddle and move the saddle slightly back.
— ITBS: Move the saddle down in small increments.
— Hamstring tendonitis (behind the knee): Move the saddle forward and down in small increments.
— Neck pain: Move the saddle slightly forward. Neck pain can also be caused from a stem that’s too long or a handlebar height that’s too low.
— Numbness: If your saddle is too far back, you may be sitting on the nose more than you should. Make forward adjustments in small increments.