A fun and comfortable bike ride not only depends on the road or path you’re going to follow but also with how high your bike seat is. Most biking experts highly advise the proper installation of your bike saddle, especially setting the height of the saddle properly, if you want to improve your riding performance.
According to a 2016 study published in the May-June issue of Clinical Pearls, simple seat height adjustment in bike fitting has a significant impact on preventing injury among many bikers. The study also enumerates that bike injuries often experience the wrong setting of saddle height, such as knee injury and lower back pain. However, if the saddles are adequately installed, especially its height, bikers will be able to prevent damage and improve their economy and power in augmenting the knee angle.
Method 1: Heel-to-Pedal
Adjusting the bike seat height using the Heel-to-Pedal method is the most basic way of saddle height adjustment that most cyclists use. It does not require any measuring device, but only a keen eye to observe if the rider is sitting correctly in the saddle and analyze the position of the heel and knee when in position.
How is it done?
- The biker should sit on a bike, a turbo trainer, a chair, or lean on the wall as if you’re sitting on an invisible chair.
- Position your heel on the pedal. To determine the height of the saddle when you are riding the bike, pedal backward as if imitating the hands of the clock in a six o’clock position.
- If you noticed that the knee is still curved despite the six o’clock positioning, then it means that you need to adjust the height of the saddle a bit higher. However, if the heel barely touches the pedal, although the knee is completely stretched out, then you need to lower the saddle.
Method 2: Using Goniometer
A goniometer is a measuring device usually used in physical therapy to measure the range of motion around a joint in the body. With this instrument, it allows the biker to adjust the saddle height of their bike so that the knee angle measurement at the bottom of the pedal stroke will be between 25 and 35 degrees.
How is it done?
To use the goniometer, what you need to do is to:
- Align the center of the device with the center of your knee joint. The center of goniometer called the fulcrum should be placed at the fulcrum of your joint that you are measuring.
- Hold the device’s stationary arm along with the limb to be measured.
- Stretch the knee joint based on how you push the pedal to its range of motion.
- Move the moving arm of the goniometer to align with the moving limb to see if it follows the standard 25~35 degrees knee angle if the foot is positioned at the bottom of the pedal where the limb reaches its max range.
- If it doesn’t meet the prescribed angle, you can adjust the saddle height.
- Repeat the procedure until you meet the prescribed knee angle.
Method 3: Observing excessive excursion
The excessive pelvic drop happens when the saddle is too high, which forces the cyclist to push further to reach the pedal. Yet, it is not also good to eliminate all the pelvic motion as it will affect the transfer of power from the upper torso to the lower limits. Instead, little adjustments at least 1mm is highly suggested as it can make a difference in the amount of pelvic movement.
How is it done?
To see if there’s excessive or minimal pelvic drop, what you need to do is to:
- Allow the rider to sit on the saddle.
- Extend the knee and position the foot at the bottom of the pedal.
- Observe if the pelvic drop is too high or too low. If it is also, adjusts the saddle at least 1mm.
Method 4: LeMond
The LeMond method is a saddle height adjustment method popularized by Greg LeMond in the 1980s. This method involves using a meter ruler, where it is placed in between the legs with a little pressure applied to the groin.
How is it done?
- Remove your shoes first before measuring.
- Spread your legs while leaning on the wall as if you’re sitting on an invisible saddle. The feet should be 8 inches apart.
- Put a book or a carpenter’s square between your legs.
- Measure the distance between your crotch and the floor on that position using a meter rule.
- Multiply the crotch to floor measure with the standard measurement of 0.883mm and subtract 3mm if you use the clipless pedal and another 2mm if you have a thinner shoe sole. The result will be the height of the bike seat when you measure the distance from the middle of the crank axle laterally with the seat tube.
Method 5: Saddle fore/aft
The Fore-aft method of measuring the saddle height involves relating the position to the distance of the seat and the handlebars. It is an excellent method to use because it gives importance to the muscle groups that are affected every time a biker stroke a pedal, and pressure is applied on the knees.
How is it done?
To get the best saddle height, what you need to do is to:
- Sit on the bike with the pedals on a 9 o’clock position. If the pedals are on the 3 o’clock, then you’re in a neutral position.
- Expect that the string will intersect with the pedal spindle when you hold the plumb bob in front of your kneecap.
It is said that when you move the bike seat backward, the hamstring engagement increases. On the other hand, when you forward the bike seat, more loads are put on your quads.
How to make a bike seat more comfortable
Traditionally, experts have been following certain methodologies to seek the right positioning. It has been accepted worldwide and people are witnessing the benefits as well. Let us discuss some of these methods:
- Heel to the Pedal method – Sit comfortably on the bike and just get supported either by leaning on a wall or just holding on to some object like a cupboard or chair or just hold on to your trainer.Place your heel exactly on the middle of the pedal and start moving backward. Reach to the farthest point you can by completely stretching your knee straight. This is called the six o’ clock position.
If you can see your knee is still bent, then the seat height needs to be adjusted. Keep adjusting in small measurements. If you feel that the heel has lost the contact with the pedal, then you should start lowering the saddle in small measurements. Once, you are set and comfortable measure the saddle height as described above and keep it safe for your reference.
- Holmes Method – This is a very simple and easy method to find the appropriate saddle position. Keep your bike on a turbo trainer and get it fixed. Start riding and exactly note the point where the pedal is in the lowest position and try to measure the knee angle at this point. It should be generally in the range between 25 degrees to 30 degrees. If it is above 35 degrees, then increase the height of the seat. If it is below 25 degrees, then you will have to lower the saddle height accordingly. Repeat it two or three times and check for the consistency and find the right measurement.
- 109% Method – This method gives a very appropriate measurement. Stand straight against a wall. Keep a book between your legs and clamp it tightly. Slowly move it upwards. You will start feeling uncomfortable; this measure of yours is called the inseam. Mark this point on the wall. Measure the distance between this point to the ground. The height of your saddle should ideally be 109% of your inseam. You can use the previous methods to set the exact height appropriate for your physique and verify with the 109% method.
Once you have determined the right position, note down the saddle height, the tilt and the fore/aft position and make sure you maintain it always. Check after every few days and ensure you contain the power and efficiency well. After you get a fair understanding of the measurements, it is important that you adjust and get the saddle fixed correctly.
Related Topic: How Do Bike Brakes Work
How to lower a bike seat
There is a junction where the saddle meets the bike frame. The seats are first loosened and adjusted at this junction. There will be a lever that is present just below the seat for us to adjust manually. A swift release of the lever gives us the option to move it upward or downward.
If you have seen a screw tightening the framework, then get the right key or tool to slightly loosen the screw and the attached bolt to lower the bike seat. After lowering it to the exact place press the lever down and tighten it or lock it with the appropriate key.
People must have felt, the techniques behind biking are very simple. However, there are simple things like the points discuses above that holds great importance.
We may not know the benefits now, but over a period of time, it definitely proves right on your body muscles giving the right strength.
If these points are not concentrated or rather the seat height is not fixed right then we may have silent health issues that bloom bigger to a serious problem at a very old age. Hence, get the saddle height work right on your body now and always..!!
Adjusting the saddle height for an enjoyable biking experience can be tricky, as there’s no one-size-fits-all measurement to guarantee you a biking performance worth commending. However, you must adjust the saddle height to avoid injuries and poor bike performance. You can always ask an expert about the saddle height, but the perfect measurement always depends on how comfortable you are when you ride your bike no matter what method you’ll use.
Starting on a starter tricycle at the age of 2, Danny has rarely been off a bike ever since. He spends most weekends riding through the woods near his house or taking longer bike trips on the road.