Setting the right saddle height is essential for comfort, efficiency and avoiding injury. Here we explain why it's important and tell you how best to set your saddle height for the maximum combination of comfort and speed

Set your saddle height: how to do it yourself

Several factors determine your comfort on the bike – but saddle height plays a huge role. Having your saddle set too low or two high can result in niggles and injury if left unchecked.

The video above was created with bike fitting expert Ben Halim from Bespoke Cycling. It shows two key methods: the first uses your inseam measurement to determine the ideal height of your perch. The second is a very traditional method, in which you place the heel of your foot on the pedal at the bottom of the stroke, and set the height so that your leg is completely straight. When you clip-in this should leave you with a height that’s close to ideal.

If you choose to use the inseam measurement option, we’ve got detailed advice on exactly how to go about it, from Kernow Physio’s Scott Tomkinson, below. Tomkinson has been responsible for advising WorldTour teams on elements of bike fit, including saddle height.

So – are you ready to go? Here’s how to set your saddle height in four easy steps…

Step 1: Place a spirit level (or ruler) between your legs

As a rule of thumb for someone who has just purchased a bike, never ridden it, and has no previous fitting history, we start off by measuring the rider’s inseam leg measurement. It’s important for this that you stand (shoes off) with your feet at shoulder-width apart.

Set your saddle height: get your inside leg measurement

Set your saddle height: start with your feet shoulder-width apart

Place a spirit level (come on, everyone has one somewhere in the back of the garage) between your legs and pull up slightly to simulate pressure from sitting on a saddle. We get the rider to ensure the spirit level is level – and if you don’t have one, a ruler will do.

Set your saddle height: use a spirit level

Set your saddle height: use a spirit level

Step 2: Mark the height of the spirit level (or ruler)

Next up, we make a mark on the wall at the height of the spirit level (use a pencil if you’re doing this in the living room!), and take a measurement from this point straight down (not following the line of the leg) to the floor, with a measuring tape.


Step 3: Take 10cm off the measurement

We then take 10cm off that measurement. This provides a good starting point for a bike-fit. So, for example, if the person’s inseam leg measurement is 76.9 centimetres, subtracting 10cm gives their initial saddle height as 66.9 centimetres.

Set your saddle height: take 10cm from your inseam length

Set your saddle height: take 10cm from your inseam length

Step 4: Apply this measurement to your saddle height

Once you have this vital measurement, it is applied to your bike from the centre of the bottom bracket to the very top of the saddle (positioned in the middle of the rails) following the line of the seat tube. It’s vital you measure from the centre of the BB.

Set your saddle height: measure from the bottom bracket to centre of saddle

Set your saddle height: measure from the bottom bracket to centre of saddle

This method will get you into the correct ball-park. When it comes to fine-tuning your saddle height for optimum performance, Tomkinson points out: “As with any method, there are other variables that will cause your saddle height to need to be tweaked.

“These could include a rider’s flexibility, leg length discrepancy or posture — which could include a number of things such as scoliosis, pelvic instability or medial foot arch collapse.”

Saddle height: why is the correct height so important?

A perfectly set saddle puts you in the optimal position to pedal efficiently but also avoid short-term discomfort and long-term injury. Saddle height is the simplest of adjustments you can make to your bike with probably the greatest benefit.

Results from research by Spanish scientists have shown that a variance of 1-1.5cm from your optimal saddle position can have a huge effect on energy expenditure when riding.

>>> Endura launch new custom bib short PadFit system

In fact, the research indicates that a change of just 0.5cm can still make a noticeable difference. The study suggests that setting the saddle height too high is worse than setting it too low. Once you get used to your ideal saddle height, you’ll certainly find that making adjustments alters your comfort on the bike.

If you have access to a heart rate monitor and an accurate power meter you’ll find that your optimum saddle height will be the one that produces the lowest heart rate for a given sustained power output.

>>> Cleats explained: How to set them up correctly 

Saddle height and knee pain

Beyond the speed benefits and segment achievements that the correct saddle height will allow, it is also key to keeping aches, pains and permanent injuries at bay.

Tobias Bremer, lead physiotherapist at Physio Clinic Brighton says: “The saddle position is central to all aspects of pain-free riding. Its relationship with pedal position is important, as the knees take many revolutions per minute and are likely to suffer from repetitive strain injuries.

“If your saddle/pedal set-up is such that you go into more knee extension than the optimum range of motion of between 150 degrees at full extension to 70 degrees of knee flexion, the likelihood of developing IT band syndrome goes up enormously. This accounts for 15% of all reported knee pain in cyclists.”

>>> Injury prevention: foot pain 

Common pain caused by incorrect saddle height

If your saddle is set at the wrong height, it’s too far forward or far back on the rails, you’ll may start to notice some discomfort.

Bremer elaborated on saddle height related problems and how to overcome them:

Problem: pain at the front of the knee.
Solution: adjust the saddle upwards and backwards.

Problem: pain at the back of the knee.
Solution: put the saddle down a bit and forwards.

Problem: pain at the outside of the knee.
Solution: adjust saddle height up or down to achieve 150-degree knee extension with the pedal at its lowest point. Also adjust cleat position inwards.

Problem: pain at the front of the pelvis.
Solution: lower the tip of the saddle slightly or raise the handlebars.

>>> Cycling training plans: get fitter, ride faster and go further 

Do’s of setting your saddle height

* Make changes to your saddle height in small increments
* Take into account that different crank lengths will affect your seat height when changing your bike
* Keep your seatpost well maintained — you won’t be able to adjust it if it’s seized
* Be prepared to reassess your seat height at a later date, based on improvements in your flexibility

Don’ts of setting your saddle height

* Persevere with a riding position that’s uncomfortable
* Forget that changes to your handlebar or cleat position necessitate saddle height re-evaluation
* Mimic the pros — they’re set up according to their own physical needs and comfort tolerances
* Forget to make sure your seat is in line with your top tube when tightening everything up again

Original article by Marc Abbott

  • chollo9

    No, this is writing. Speaking is hard to read.

  • chollo9

    It took you five months to come up with that?

  • Frumpster

    I bet you’re an ass to ride with

  • Philip Bamber

    I hope this guy speaks like that all the time.

  • chollo9

    Shoes. Heel to pedal started when we were still riding with toeclips & straps. Shoes then were fairly flat from forefoot to heel, but now (and for quite sometime) there’s a pronounced rise from front to back, which changes the ratio/formula enough to make it basically useless.

  • Tobes

    Heal pedal was great to get a good ball park height. What do you honestly think has changed that much?

  • chollo9

    What year is it? Heel on the pedal is from the 1970s and earlier. The Kochli/Lemond/Hinault formula is from the mid-1980s. Saying, “that will get you close, and if you have knee pain . . .” isn’t advice from a fitter, it’s not even advice. Rather than start high, as shown here (and he has set her too high), start low and gradually increase height until you bounce at high cadences, or just start to rock your hips slightly. Observation is the only way to determine what is right for an individual. Formulas are crap.

  • ShaggingComa15

    I’m a new biker. Started just 6 days back on my Firefox Rapide. My bike saddle height was set by a well informed cycle shop person and it matched with what you mentioned. Ride is comfortable to be. I don’t have any knee pain but I feel slight pain in my left testicles during the ride and after it for some time. After that I vanishes. Once or twice I felt that maybe my testicles are being pressed by my stokes. Sitting a little on the back side of the saddle helps but little bit. Any idea what should I do. Do I need to do any adjustments in saddle? Should the saddle by inclined towards front or back or it should be just flat ?

  • burttthebike

    Mostly good, but perhaps they should have got someone who did maths at school? That isn’t 150 degrees, it’s 170! Dangerously misleading to anyone with the briefest acquaintance with trigonometry.

  • Bianca

    To be fair, most of my clients come in because they are having musculoskeletal problems, or I have seen them in my physio clinic and identified it is the set up that is poor, not the client. Not everyone has the insight to make these adaptations and it’s interesting to see everyone’s amazement when they realise what can actually be changed on a bike.

  • Dave2020

    Put a little oil or grease on the q/r cam. If it still won’t close effectively, it’s the retailer’s responsibility to correct the fault.

    Set the height with the heel-on-pedal method. If you don’t use cycling shoes with cleats you may feel you want to raise the seat a little, but first make sure you’re sitting back on the saddle, as it’s designed to be used, and don’t push a big gear slowly.

    It’s a pedal cycle, not a push bike!

  • Sherrie Vitello

    I’ve just received a new bike. I have been assembling it and everything has come together quite nicely.. except I keep having a problem with the seat stem keeps sliding down when I ride it. I’ve tightened the quick release bolt as much as I can, that allows me the ability to close it properly. If I tighten the bolt too tight, I can’t close the quick release clasp. I really want to have the proper height of seat but I’m not sure how to prevent the seat stem from continuing to slide down. Any advice that can help is appreciated.

  • Knee extension angle and ankle angle are tethered to hamstring length. Longer hamstrings means that you can put the foot further away from the hip at the bottom of the pedal-stroke without dragging the heel up to compensate. I don’t know of any cyclists that can tolerate a 25 degree knee extension without losing power or feeling discomfort

  • Bob

    omg all that buggering about – just sit on the saddle, put your heel on the pedal and pedal backwards making sure your leg is fully outstretched and not straining. ride a few miles and adjust up or down by a couple of milli’s at a time until it feels right – there’s no magic formula or equation everyones different – GL

  • Dave2020

    Saying “push harder” is a bit silly and was a flippant remark on air. (BeSpoke – BBC Radio 5 Live)

    You don’t have to imagine whether I’m “qualified” or not . . I simply refer to stuff that’s a matter of record, so it can all be checked and verified, if you so wish.

    Boardman disqualifies himself by calling it “weightlifting”, because that’s not the same as strength training. The erroneous appliance of ‘science’ is all too common (GIGO). See CW article 3/6/14. ‘Is strength training really necessary?’ The second half of ‘lap one’ is in the saddle. The faster you can pedal (for less than ten seconds!) the lower the gear you use, to accelerate quicker from a standing start! NB: a prolapsed disc nearly put Jess Varnish in hospital and Jamie Staff’s career was brought to a premature end by a back injury, both suffered doing ill-advised weightlifting. Team GB have a shocking record of training injuries in the gym.

    Nobody does a standing start by only pushing down on one pedal. Accomplished climbers don’t concentrate all their effort on pushing down hard. At the other extreme, maximal power is best generated at a high cadence (150rpm track racing), which calls for exquisite co-ordination, sitting in the saddle. Therefore, it’s only logical to set up your saddle position to facilitate a comfortable, efficient high cadence, NOT to ‘push harder’! (from your so-called ‘core’)

    “For years people always said to pull up as well as push down, and make circles with your legs,” says Tomkinson. “After studying this and performing in-depth analysis of riders’ pedal strokes, I found that this, far from making you better, actually slows you down.” People who know what they’re talking about don’t say; “pull up as well as push down”. Tom Simpson told me; “Don’t pull up against the strap – pull back against the shoe plate.” Greg Lemond gives similar advice.

    A flawed analysis, based on a false premise, is bound to reach the wrong conclusion. CW May 22: ‘How to pedal efficiently’. “The push forward from 12 to 2 o’clock, plus the pull back from from 6-8 can generate the same torque as twice the force on just one crank, pushing down from 2-4 o’clock.” That technique ALSO gives you the perfect balance for pedalling fast (without bouncing).

    The superlative skill of a perfectly co-ordinated ‘series’ of muscular contractions, using each major muscle group during the most appropriate part of the circle, and ONLY then, enables a cyclist to get the most out of their ‘engine’. This is sometimes called ‘souplesse’, but often as not, the speaker doesn’t actually understand what that means.

    When Reg Harris won the National Sprint Title at the age of 54, he was using 71° frame geometry and he probably knew what saddle height worked best for him!!

  • dfd

    I would have thought Boardman of all people would know exactly what he was talking about, and I am curious as to why you should think you are qualified to call his or Hayles’ statements examples of errors. Starting from a relatively low speed in a biggish gear will involve pedalling relatively slowly while producing a large torque. Calling it “weight-lifting” is perfectly legitimate. And to say that answering “push harder” is an example of an error is a bit silly.

  • Dave2020

    50 years ago, the all-time great professional riders I spoke to did not measure anything. They’d fit the bike to the rider and tell you which component parts should be changed, if necessary. It was the best way then and it still would be, if the science was better informed.

  • Dave2020

    There’s one very good reason why this article goes straight in the trash. . . .

    1.) It assumes that there’s a conflict between power and comfort: “the maximum combination of comfort and speed.” – That’s only true if you plump for an uncomfortable aerodynamic position! In any other circumstance; i.e. for the majority of the hours we all spend in the saddle; there is no compromise between comfort and maximum power output. On the contrary, the body (biomechanical and respiratory function) and mind enjoy an optimal performance when the athlete is comfortable (i.e. ‘in the zone’).

    . . . and three other equally important factors. . . .

    2.) It is also based on the idea that more pressure on the pedals = more power. No! In fact, a lower force on the pedals, applied in the most effective way and at a higher cadence = more power. Why don’t they understand that power = force x distance moved, over time, and put it into practice? To give two examples of this error:- “How do I go faster?” Simply “Push harder.” – according to Rob Hayles! In the team sprint; “Lap one is just weightlifting.” – according to Chris Boardman!

    3.) STAs of 74° and steeper are an historical accident (in part influenced by a fashion for very short rear centres). More by accident than design (one hopes!), my Boardman frame actually has a 74.5° seat, when the spec’ was 73°, which was the ONLY reason I chose it! A bike fit professional isn’t going to tell me that the geometry is wrong (for me), but the complete bike is only supplied with long cranks – no custom build. I had to modify the seat post clamp to set the saddle in the “correct position”!

    There’s no reason for sitting (uncomfortably) too far forward. It’s just a brainless theory, that they call ‘KOPS’. (A fine example of garbage in – gospel out!) Many so-called ‘experts’ base their fit on the received ‘wisdom’ of ‘KOPS’, but in reality it just ain’t so.

    4.) It makes the utterly false assumption, that it’s possible to establish “the correct saddle height”, without reference to saddle setback. In practice there are many sub-optimal saddle heights, which can never be effectively improved without first correcting individual biomechanical discrepancies, such as sitting ‘on-the-rivet’, and these cannot even be addressed, if you ignore the fore/aft setting of the saddle, as this article does.

    To quote Mark Twain: “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” Does the guy with the tape measure know for sure that the fore/aft position of the saddle has no bearing on its height?! It sure looks that way.

    How can we be sure that all the problems listed are “saddle height related”? It ain’t necessarily so. . .

  • dfd

    That is anything but a naive proposition. A tape measure and spirit level is all any of the all-time greatest cyclists had.

  • Gordon Haywood

    My only assumption is that someone seeking a professional bike fit wouldnt just go to the first bike shop that sits you on a bike on a trainer. Perhaps that is a poor assumption. Maybe Im fortunate or maybe Im able to undertake basic research. By professional I meant someone who has a university qualification and a policy of 100% satisfaction.
    I stand by my comments, Im no more qualified to do a bike fit than someone writing an article on the internet. Go to a professional, get a professional bike fit, and reap the benefits.
    Perhaps the naive proposition is that a rider can do a proper bike fit with a spirit level and a tape measure.

  • dfd

    But you are making what is perhaps the most naive assumption of all: that, just because somebody charges you money, he or she has a clue what she is doing. Any charlatan can call himself “professional”.

    A good starting point for reach is that when you are riding with your hands on the brake hoods, the front hub is hidden by the bars where they are mounted in the stem. This rule might seen “unscientific” (you might expect the whole thing to be effected by the rider’s neck and head length) but does actually match the way many racers have their bikes set up.

    For bar height: go as low as you comfortably can. Lower bars generally mean lower aerodynamic drag, which is always a good thing. There is a current fad for “comfort geometry” with higher bars, but there is no evidence to suggest that is what most riders need.

  • Gordon Haywood

    So many assumptions in this. Do yourself a favour and get a professional bike fit. Its worth it for many reasons. Comfort is one but also speed, stamina, injury prevention. So what about reach to the bars, height of the bars, what if you ave 170mm or 175 mm cranks. Middle of the crank is only a guess.

  • Dave2020

    It is Marc Abbott who attaches millimetre accuracy (in step 2) by referring to saddle “pressure”.

    My point is that every step is open to error and the sum total could easily be 1cm. If the spirit level is made in China, you’d be well advised to turn it around and take the average of two pencil lines on the wall!

    For many combinations of STA and seat post, “following the line of the seat tube.” will give you a measurement to the wrong point on the “very top of the saddle.” On average, 1° out on the STA is a difference of 1cm. If you ride on a saddle with a ‘pressure-relief’ cutout, how do you replicate that on the spirit level? The whole measuring process described here is a nonsense.

    Hinault’s method may suit a rider who prefers to push, rather than pedal, since he and his coach thought that higher cadences were inefficient. Didn’t do his knees a lot of good! For me, all these formulae put the saddle too high. Any methods that ignore the fore/aft setting and biomechanical function – e.g. using the calf muscles (no, it’s not ‘ankling’) – are ill-conceived and irrelevant.

    It’s better to eliminate the maths by sitting on the saddle – KISS! That set-up can be done in a few minutes at the point of sale, free of charge. But then we still need to address the serious lack of customer choice on seat post set-back and STA, which are issues on small frames in particular!

    I would post some links, but then the moderator gets involved. Heaven knows why!

  • Neilo

    I wouldn’t describe the “inseam” as “soft tissue”. In my case, I would say it was less soft than the weight-bearing parts of the bottom of my feet. I think the “inaccuracy” is likely to be a few millimetres at worst.

    I reckon the 0.885 x inside leg formula recommended by Hinault seems as reliable as anything else anyone else has come up with.

  • Dave2020

    “The study suggests that setting the saddle height too high is worse than setting it too low.”

    Would I guess right that “take 10cm off” has been proven by some ‘science’?

    Using the formula above puts my saddle over 2cm higher. Er, no thank you!

    Using the popular old (1967) formula of 109% places the saddle 3cm too high. Back then, a coach took this garbage as gospel and made a young club-mate ride a 10 mile tt on a low ratio fixed. Not surprisingly, it all but crippled him.

    The old dynamic method is a better datum to start from; i.e. Sit where you should sit on the saddle and turn the cranks backwards with your heels on the pedals. Your hips should not rock. If some ‘expert’ tells you that this is too low – best to ignore them.

    Applying this “vital measurement” apparently assumes the saddle to be “positioned in the middle of the rails”. That is a senseless assumption, ignoring the variables of STA and seat post set-back. It is impossible to arrive at the “correct saddle height” without specifying optimal set-back and crank length. The saddle on the Giant bike pictured is several centimetres too far forward . . . discuss?

    An “inseam” (soft tissue!) can only be measured approximately. Mine is around 79-80 cm. My sit bones determine the effective distance from seat to pedal. You’d only get “pressure from sitting on a saddle” if your sit bones are too far forward. (riding close to ‘on-the-rivet’!) Is that recommended?

    As ‘ESTrainSmart’ wrote below; “Unfortunately research states” a belief that crank length makes no difference! No credible science has ever contradicted these sensible guidelines:-

    Leg length 72 to 75 cm. Crank length – 160 mm.

    75 to 78 cm. – 162.5 mm.
    79 to 81 cm. – 165 mm.
    82 to 83 cm. – 167.5 mm.
    83 to 86 cm. – 170 mm – 172.5 mm.
    87 to 90 cm. – 175 mm – 177.5 mm

    There’s a simple principle that should be applied here: A crank that is longer than ‘ideal’ inhibits the learning of an efficient technique and encourages the rider to over-gear, which in turn spoils their acceleration and can lead to injury. You will find that there are no deleterious effects, using cranks that are shorter than the current ‘standard’.

    We can be certain that most industry designers don’t know what they’re doing, because track bikes are now being marketed with 170s and mountain bikes were fitted with longer cranks as standard, when they were first introduced. Then that error was compounded with bio-pace rings!

  • FredHasson

    Whatever. Haters gonna hate. If you want to deny the science, or if you believe that all of these 2-cents-worth comments equal a professional fit, then by all means save your money.

  • dfd

    Yes. If you have more money than sense, go for it. And if you need help deciding how tightly you should do up your cycling shoes, I can help you. I charge 100 quid if we do it by phone or e-mail and 200 for a face-to-face consultancy session at my specialist pro shoe closure tightening clinic, including written assessment and 3D laser scanning. And if I get it wrong you are entitled to a follow-up consultancy for only 300 quid.

  • NYC_Traffic

    Just did exactly that but it took me about 90 minutes with a few incremental adjustments. If you have a bit of experience on a road bike you can “feel” at which seat height you are most dialed in. A smooth pedaling motion, even going uphill, is a great sign, as is a comfortable position on the saddle. If you have the right saddle and shorts, then slight rubbing/chafing can be a sign that the seat is still slightly too high.

  • Fred Hasson

    Next step: Get a professional fit.

  • ESTrainSmart

    I’m a bike fitter. The “standard” depends on the size of the frame- small=170mm, medium=172.5mm, large=175mm. Unfortunately, current research states that optimal crank length has no correlation with height, leg length, inseam or femur to tibia ratios. A six foot tall cyclist can be most efficient on a 170mm crank. Research on crank length have identified that crank length directly affects your naturally selected cadence. Since cadences 90rpm and above optimizes venous return, it’s typically best to choose a crank length that allows you to naturally reach this cadence. Exceptions would be those who have orthopedic limitations preventing full range of motion. Hope this helps!

  • William Noah

    That’s right on the money!

  • DB

    If you want to look at BB-Saddle then 10-12% less than inseam will usually give a knee angle in the right range (145-150deg). If you get pain in the front of the legs your saddle may be too low, at the rear it’s likely too high. But give any change a week to adapt as even if you make a change that is correct your body will dislike it at first. For me saddle height is 82cm, inseam 94.The 10cm would work quite well if your inseam is right around 85cm.

  • @DB So for the normal person in-between 10cm sounds right? for me this setup works been out a few times and it seem a lot better its just the For back of the seat is tricky to get back, but as one users says do a “shakeout ride” which I plan to do

  • musictomy

    @DB So for the normal person in-between 10cm sounds right? for me this setup works been out a few times and it seem a lot better its just the For back of the seat is tricky to get back, but as one users says do a “shakeout ride” which I plan to do

  • Bren

    I wondered about this also. What is considered a standard crank length? My current setup with 170mm cranks has my saddle at 2cm higher than if I used this method (never had a pro bike fit) and I’m fairly comfortable at that. I used the old heel in the pedal and slight bend of the knee method. Just curious, if I changed to follow the above, I might find it hard to get accustomed to, but at the same time I might benefit from it in the long run. The time it takes getting accustomed to a new setup might be misinterpreted by some as discomfort and readjusted too soon.

  • DB

    For those looking for a simple measurement. Height from pedal to top of saddle should be ~equal to the height of your greater trochanter from the floor. Or ideally slightly less (96%-100% is the target). Of course, you have to know how to find the Greater Trochanter – it’s the bony point at the top of your thigh bone. Using this method you’re taking account of crank length and pedal stack and there is good research behind it. From there the tweaks described in the article make sense. But the inseam – 10cm is a terrible point to start from – will be too high for tall people and too low for petite riders.

  • Crydda

    Having been a keen cyclist for more than forty years; I’ve never been one for all the technical stuff, formulas or mathematics.
    For me, comfort and no pain on 100km plus rides are the ultimate goal and this, of course, depends on a number of factors – body as well as equipment.
    My tips would be
    1. spend £200 to £300 less on the bike and buy quality clothing, especially shorts and shoes.
    2. Make sure your saddle is the correct width for your sit bones.
    3. First off, adjust your saddle height to, what feels about right and then make micro adjustments, up or down and forwards and back, until you’ve found your optimum position. This could take some time, a number of rides and several hundred kilometres, but if you adopt this approach, you will be rewarded, eventually.

    Finally, be careful with your choice of bike. Choose one best suited for your type of cycling. An aero bike is hardly going to be your best choice, if you’re forty plus, 10kgs overweight and only do a ten kilometre commute with an occasional Sunday afternoon couple of hours, but I see this so often and nobody is ever going to mistake you for Mark Cavandish. No wonder new cyclists often get disillusioned, when ego overrides sensible, considered choice – the flasher, most expensive steed, does necessarily mean, it’s the best one for you.

  • AngryDoc

    Pack a multitool and go for a “shakeout ride”. Adjust everything in small amounts and adjust it back if necessary. After a 20-30 mile ride, you will have a great fitting bike.

  • Patrick Crew

    This is one area that fascinates and frustrates me at the same time. Having got back bike into riding last year, lost two stone, gained more flexibility etc I have begun to study the bike position, moving a few mm on saddle height, saddle fore and aft and stem length by a cm to see what happened. I did get knee pain on the front after two hours plus and increasing height helped. Whilst its useful to have the basics above as a starting point, it doesn’t solve what I am going through now, as saddle height has gone up by 1.5cm, strength has improved, but and here is the interesting bit, I do not yet know if the position is optimal. At the point the saddle went up I was getting fitter and more flexible so it always felt comfortable (or not uncomfortable). The only ‘real’ way to determine optimal position is spend on a proper bike fit that looks at the biomechanics, power output, cleat position etc. I like, many, have a twisted spine, marginal, but a common problem, the upshot is that one leg is marginally longer than the other, one foot is also smaller than the other in determining cleat position and indeed whether I need shims, which in turn determines saddle height and fore and aft position. Combining biometrics and power outage seems to be the only measurable solution to a true bespoke bike fitting. Everyone is different, I have a long body, shortish legs, with long calves and shortish thighs. Sitting on a bike with the biometrics being measured allows you to see your pedal stroke and whether its optimal for developing maximum power throughout the entire pedal stroke (measuring power outputs). In my case I still do not feel I am making the most of the up stroke. So I have taken the plunge and I am going to spend 2-3 hours having a bike fitting and see all of the above in action. I would like to think I am close to the best position, will be interesting to find out how close I am. As others have said, before dishing out on all that lightness, spend the money on a reputable bike fit to make sure you are riding in the best possible position and that its comfortable.

  • Jamie Wafc Finch

    I admit I have not had my road bike for that long but what I have found so far slightly contradicts this guide. I followed the guide and my measurements with 10 cm deducted is 76cm. I currently have my seat height at 82cm which is considerably higher. The reason I got so high is because I had knee pain in the front of the knees. I’ve moved my saddle around a bit too. I do however still have knee pain but I can’t go any higher as my bike will become unrideable. The only thing I can deduce from this article is that maybe I should go a bit lower and move my saddle back slightly.

  • Mike Prytherch

    I like the “Do” Take into account that different crank lengths will affect your seat height when changing your bike, so when performing the rules set-out, when do they take into account if the crank length is 165 or 175 or bigger

  • unknown

    Sliding forward usually indicates a height problem. Lower the saddle and you should stay planted in the saddle when putting that power out your be able to put more power out for longer because it’s more comfy then the 30second- 2 miniute rivet attack..

  • Andy. I don’t know your situation but I am a bike fitter (which might make me biased to a certain degree) but many people spend upwards of £2000/$2500 on a bike but think that £175/$250 is too much to spend on a fitting. If long term comfort and lessened injury risk is your goal then the bike fit is worth it. I’d also argue that the increase in performance you’d gain from a proper fit outweighs the gains you’d make from spending $250 extra on a bike. So maybe get a 105 bike instead of Ultegra and spend the extra on a proper bike fit or an alumiium stem instead of carbon. Doesn’t matter how light your bike is if your hamstrings/calves/hip flexors etc can’t complete the last part of your ride at maximal effort

  • No Ted there isn’t a universally approved method and while the various bike fitting systems place marketing and revenue ahead of the rider, there never will be.
    The short answer is that there is a ‘right’ saddle height for everyone but it isn’t the same for everyone. It will depend on rider experience, age, physiology, flexibility, adaptability and these factors change for each rider (and also over time too). Get someone to fit your bike to you properly (not a quick 15 minute session by the bike seller). It’s a worthwile investment if comfort and performance are your long term goals.

  • Dave Smart

    Many years ago, another piece of incompetent research (hamley and thomas 1967) set the optimum saddle height at 1.09 x inside leg and that is still quoted to this day. Garbage in, gospel out!! The primary factor you have to focus on, to achieve the best possible “gross efficiency” is technique – muscle motor patterns – biomechanics. Saddle height, the fore/aft setting, crank length AND cadence are ALL determined by an individual’s specific technique, which anyone is free to modify, if they so wish. By adjusting only ONE variable, this research is based on a pig-ignorant false premise and can teach us nothing. (My apologies to the pig – a very intelligent animal, I understand) 5mm “could still make a significant difference.” You’re joking! Slide forward one inch and your saddle height drops one centimetre. Try investigating the pros and cons of that (very common) bad habit. Then we might get somewhere.

  • ted hutton

    in the 1950’s we used to ride fixed wheel and I found that the best saddle height

    was to have the saddle so that you could pedal with proper ankling without your

    hips rocking from side to side but not too low as to have your thighs touching your

    rib cage but the trouble is we dont all have the same measurements so get comfortable

  • Simon Roberts

    Yes, come on guys – Interesting article, but I need to know how to find MY optimum height without an expensive bike-fit. More articles on ‘Old school’ Bike fit please.

  • William

    Another completely pointless article by CW

    What should the height be?
    Did they confirm that the cyclsts tested had their saddles at the exact correct height before adjusting?
    What was the effect of moving the saddle back or forward?
    What was the effect of reach?

  • Spott

    This article is purely bad science. Since when is a decrease of ONE HALFOF ONE PERCENT considered “significantly lower” and “a very big difference”? Also, I very much doubt that biometric GE can be measured to 1/10 of one percent.

    Sure, correct saddle height is beneficial to the rider, in many ways. But it is not nearly as critical as the author of this article, or the reseachers in this study, would like to fool you into believing.

  • Peter Cash

    The ‘preferred’ height is… the rider’s normal height? The height according to a bike-fitter? Calculated according to a formula of some sort? You really ought to have told us at some point!

  • Ken Evans

    Everybody is different, you need to find what works best for you. Michel Pollentier rode more awkwardly than a crab trying to ride a unicycle, Chris Horner climbs very strangely. Don’t just copy the pro stars, don’t just repeat what the text books say. People sometimes have imperfections such as un-even leg lengths. Every millimeter matters, pros will often adjust their positions from one day to the next, just for a change. Everybody needs to experiment to find what suits them. Bike fitting services are the first place to start.

  • ted hutton

    Nice article but does not answer the question how to get the correct height there are so many supposed methods but they all seem to contradict each other . So is there a universal approved method .I would be most interested to hear of one TED HUTTON

  • Andy Taylor

    So what’s the best way to get it spot on then? That would be the most valuable piece of information to have in the article (assuming not everyone can afford to get properly fitted).

  • Robert

    It seems that in the study cited the cyclists were not given any time to adapt to the new positions, so it is perhaps no wonder that GE was affected. For example, if they had ridden in the new ‘higher’ position for a few hundred miles, giving time for the tendons to stretch and the muscles to adapt to a modified motor program, the GE might well have being higher than previously. Another way to view the study would be to say that it found that the most efficient saddle height at any given moment is whatever you have got used to, even if this is higher or lower than the true optimum!

  • keith aitchison

    ….and the right height is?

  • Chris

    So then what IS optimal saddle height… inseam * .883…. 25 degree bend, 30 degree bend?? Any cyclist who has been racing or riding for several years will feel the slightest change.. the question is without a fitting session, what IS the ideal spot…