How your bike fits you is incredibly important for having an enjoyable experience. But it is also essential for staying safe and preventing injury.
Let’s assume your bike frame is the correct size for you, but you can tweak a few things to make it more comfortable and enhance your performance. One of those things is getting the proper bike seat height.
Some riders use trial and error to determine the proper bike seat height. There is nothing wrong with this, but you can overthink it and get frustrated about finding a position that suits all the terrain your ride.
In this article, we will go into:
- Why you need to determine the proper bike seat height for you
- How high your bike seat should be
- Minimum seat post insertion
- Dropper seat posts for mountain bikes
- Setting the sadle position
Let’s fine-tune your ride for surprising results!
Why You Need To Determine The Proper Bike Seat Height For You – 3 Reasons
You can jump on any bike and go for a ride without adjusting the saddle height unless it is far too high for you. But it won’t take long for you to realise that you shouldn’t have been so eager to ride without tweaking it first.
Here are a few ways not having the proper saddle height will affect your rides sooner or later:
1. You Will Be Uncomfortable
After a while, you may experience pain in your back, hips and knees. This will happen if your seat is too high or too low. You may not notice it straight away, but it will happen at some point in your ride.
When you don’t have the proper bike seat height, the friction between you and the saddle can increase. Unfortunately, this can cause particularly unpleasant saddle sores.
2. The Incorrect Saddle Height Can Cause Injuries
Churning away on your pedals is a repetitive exercise. When you go out for extended rides without the proper bike seat height, you stress your joints unnecessarily.
Over time, an incorrect saddle height can cause injuries such as tendonitis, muscle strains, or irritation of the spinal nerves.
3. Your Cycling Performance Will Be Compromised
When your bike seat is too high or too low, you don’t ride with proper cycling form. Therefore, you don’t ride as efficiently or as powerfully as you are able to.
Without the proper bike seat height, you will fatigue specific muscle groups. This will affect your power output, especially on longer rides.
How High Should My Bike Seat Be?
You need to remember that the perfect riding position comes from fine-tuning your bike to fit your body. You shouldn’t sit on your bike and put up with the discomfort.
One way to determine the proper bike seat height for you is to go for a bike fitting session. Most good bike shops can do this by sitting you on a jig to scientifically work out what changes you need to make to your bike.
However, there is a quick and easy way to estimate the proper bike seat height for you at home. When you get it right, your rides will be more comfortable, and you may even be able to ride faster.
The Proper Bike Seat Height
On a road bike, the first thing to do is position your bike’s stem correctly. The top of your handlebar should be roughly an inch below the top of your saddle. However, if you are a racer that wants to be slippery through the air, you may want to drop it even lower.
Cyclists who ride longer distances will probably want to set the handlebar height higher. This will take some pressure off your lower back.
On a mountain bike, your handlebar height is less important when it comes to your saddle height unless you are a cross country racer. If you are, you will have a lower stem than a trail or enduro rider.
The next thing to do is sit on your saddle and check your knee position. At the bottom of the pedal stroke, your knees should be slightly bent. You will know that you have the proper bike seat height when your hips don’t rock as you pedal.
You can either put your bike on a turbo trainer, get someone to hold your bike, or just lean against a wall.
Go for a ride when you think you have the proper bike seat height. If you feel any pain in the front of your knee, raise your saddle slightly. If you feel it in the back of your knee, this is your cue to drop it slightly.
Don’t adjust the saddle seat too much each time. Small changes of about 2mm are best until you get it right.
You can be a little more scientific if you ride with clipless pedals. To work out the proper bike seat height, stand with your back to the wall on a hard floor. Make sure you are barefoot and place a book between your legs with the spine facing away.
Measure the distance from the floor to the top of the book’s spine. Multiply the measurement by 0.883, then take away 4mm.
The answer you get is the proper bike seat height for you measured from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat. But remember to run your tape measure along the seat tube.
Minimum Seatpost Insertion
When you are setting the proper bike seat height, you need to consider the minimum seat post insertion. Most bike seat posts are marked with a minimum insertion line close to the bottom.
It is essential for you to pay attention to the minimum insertion line. If you don’t, the seat post could snap at the most inopportune moment. Or it could damage your bike’s frame, which is far more serious for your wallet.
You need to insert your seat post into the frame well below where the top tube joins the seat tube.
You may need to buy a longer seat post to ensure the proper bike seat height. You may be able to cut off some of the excess tube to allow you to set the seat post lower in the frame.
Dropper Seat Posts For Mountain Bikes
A dropper seat post makes your mountain biking much more enjoyable. They are pricey, but you won’t want to go back after trying one.
The idea of a dropper seat post is to allow you to raise your saddle for pedalling and drop it out of the way for descents. All this is done with a remote trigger on your handlebars.
A dropper seat post makes undulating mountain bike trails and downhill trails much more manageable. You don’t have to get off and adjust your bike seat height; you just do it on the fly. It helps you maximise your power when you need to, as you can set the height accordingly.
When you set the seat height with a dropper seat post, ensure you set it based on the fully extended length of the post using the method stated above. You don’t need to set the lower height, as you will just squash it ass low as possible for descents.
Setting The Saddle Position
When you set your proper bike seat height, you should also set the saddle’s position.
Sit comfortably in the middle of your saddle with your cranks horizontal. Get a friend to drop a plumb line from in front of your forward knee until it touches the crank.
This is the position you should be aiming for regarding your saddle’s position in line with the bike’s frame. Loosen your seat post clamp and slide the saddle on its rails to the desired position.
If you do a lot of climbing or time trials, you may want to set the plumb line slightly behind the crank. Doing this gives you a bit more leverage when riding in larger gears.
On the other hand, if you ride track or short races, you may want to move your saddle slightly forward to give you more leg speed.
The next thing to do is make sure your saddle is level. You can do this by putting a spirit level along the length of your saddle. Alternatively, download a levelling app for your phone.
If you ride with an exaggerated forward position for aerodynamics, you may want to give your saddle a slight forward tilt. Don’t overdo it, though, as this will place more weight on your arms.
Now You Are On Your Way To A More Comfortable And Powerful Ride
As you can see, it is well worth tweaking your bike setup. You will become faster and more comfortable, enhancing the experience. It isn’t that difficult either, but you may prefer to visit a bike shop for a proper fitting.
If you want to learn more about getting the perfect riding position and how to ride faster, check out the blogs below:
Proper Cycling Form – 14 Tips For Best Riding Practice