How to find the correct height for your bike saddle

Bike Saddle Height
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Maintaining the correct posture on an urban bike is essential in order to pedal comfortably, improve cycling performance and to avoid pain and discomfort. With this in mind, the height of the bike saddle is a fundamental factor that you should keep very much in mind.

Now, what height should the bike saddle be placed at? Let’s look into this question and how to adjust the saddle on a bike. Take a seat!

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Saddle height: what is the ideal?

The saddle, along with the handlebars and pedals are the points of contact between the cyclist and their bike. Adjusting the saddle to the right height and fixing it into the correct position is essential to boost your pedalling dynamic. It will also help to prevent a multitude of injuries, particularly those of the back, knees and neck.

Taking measurements

The first thing you should be clear about is that the location of the saddle depends on the length of your inside leg.  So the first thing you need to do is to measure this: standing barefoot in front of a wall, lean up against it with your heels touching the wall.

Then, use a large level or a book and place it in the uppermost part of your inner thigh. Now, with another person’s help, measure the distance from the uppermost thigh area to the floor with a measure in centimetres.  This is the essential data that you need to base yourself on.

saddle height wall

Establishing the appropriate height of your bike saddle

You don’t have to be an expert in maths to calculate the ideal height for your bike saddle when you have the measurement for your inside leg. According to major studies on biomechanics, such as the one written by Christian Vaast, the correct height is around 88% of the length of the cyclist’s inside leg. The other 12% is necessary to help with the flexing of the knee.

So, the formula that you need to apply to establish the saddle height is: height of the inside leg by 0.88, and that’s the figure you are looking for!

Evidently, the next step is to set the correct position for the saddle on your bike, and we’ll tell you how to do this soon. However, a very important thing to do is to make a note of this measurement and keep it in an accessible place. Sooner or later you will need to have it to hand, either because you have changed your bike, because you need to take it apart, or because someone else has used it and changed the correct position of your bike saddle.

Adjusting the saddle correctly

Now that we are clear on the theory, and we know the height of the bike saddle that you require, the next step is to find out how to adjust the saddle on your bike.

Be aware that the saddle height is measured from the central axis of the pedals to the middle point of the seat padding, as a rule.  Use a metric tape to mark the reference point

saddle leg

After this, loosen the clamp that secures the saddle, move it until it is level with the measuring point you have marked, and place it at a right angle to the handlebars. When you have done this, secure the clamp again and the process will be complete.

However, it would be useful to get on the bike and pedal for a short distance to make sure that you are comfortable when doing so. Make sure that you maintain the appropriate body positioning while you try it out: straight hips and a complete turn of the pedals with each push forward.

What should the distance be between the saddle and the handlebars?

Another significant factor, related to the height of the bicycle saddle, is the distance between the tip of the seat and the centre of the handlebars. As a general rule, you should allow between 45 and 65 centimetres.

Thus, if the height of your saddle is between 60 and 68 cm, the appropriate theoretical distance would be 47 to 50 cm. At the other end of the range, with the saddle placed at 79 or 83 cm, the distance between it and the handlebars would be between 59 and 63 cm.

And what is the correct tilt of the biike saddle?

After having got to grips with how to adjust the saddle on your bike, you will also need to give some thought to this question. The angle of the saddle also influences the biomechanics and the risk of injury. The recommended guideline is to keep it completely flat or with a minimal tilt of one degree.

If you have it with the point leaning upwards, you could suffer from inflammation of the urinary or reproductive system, as well as lumbar pains. If you are going too far in the other direction, and you tilt it towards the back, you will tend to slide off the seat, your hands will go to sleep, you will suffer from discomfort in the patella at the front of the knee, neck tiredness and pain in the perineal and lumbar areas.

What happens if the position of your saddle has been calibrated badly?

This is no joke! Using a bike with a badly positioned saddle may be physically harmful.  Never use a bike if you don’t know how to adjust the saddle on it, unless there is someone with you who is able to help you.  

Pay attention to the following indicators in relation to the position of the saddle:

  • Saddle is excessively high. When pedalling, your hips balance out. When this is maintained over time, you end up suffering from intense and continuous pain in the glutes and the lower back.
  • Saddle is excessively low. When this occurs, your knee movement is much more forced and, when you pedal, you end up producing overload and serious, and often, long-lasting injuries.
  • Saddle is in the ideal position. When pedalling your hips remain straight, firm and immobile. Your knees are also much less strained, the legs are slightly bent and each full turn of the pedals is done naturally.

Which is the most appropriate saddle for your bike?

There is no single response to this question. For example, there are saddles for men and saddles for women each with different features.

Factors such as body anatomy, gender, the way of cycling, the steering style and personal preferences greatly impact this decision. However, to give you an example, it should not be too soft or excessively cushioned: in the long run, it will make you uncomfortable.

Regardless of this, you need to have a bike saddle that is high quality, reliable, suited to your requirements and from a leading brand. At Santafixie, we can help you to choose yours.

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