How to set your saddle height

Ensuring your bike saddle is set to the correct height can make the difference between an enjoyable ride and one spent discomfort. Setting your saddle height is a simple adjustment to make but is essential to getting the most out of your riding. Finding your optimal saddle position can help improve pedalling efficiency, provide ride comfort and prevent unnecessary short and long-term injuries.

How to know if your saddle height needs adjusting

One of the most common signs that your saddle is incorrectly set is knee pain. As a general rule if you’re experiencing pain at the front of your knee then your saddle might be too low and if you’re struggling with anterior (back of) knee pain or overextended hamstrings then it’s likely a case of the saddle being set too high.

Another sign that your saddle is too high could be that as you pedal your hips rock slightly from side to side, this is due to the legs being overextended as you reach the bottom of the pedal stroke. If you ride with a friend get them to ride behind you and observe as you pedal.

Setting your saddle height

The saddle height measurement that we’re talking about is from the centre of the bottom bracket to the centre of the saddle. To provide a base height that you can adjust from, we’d recommend standing to the side of your bike, loosening the seat clamp and bringing the saddle to a height that is level with your hip bone. This will give you a good benchmark from which you can make further adjustments as you fine-tune your setup.

Once you’ve got this height roughly setup you can now tighten the seat post bolt and begin to explore in greater detail. The best way to dial in your saddle height is to set the bike on an indoor turbo trainer at home, this way the bike remains stationary and you can easily get on and off the bike to make minor adjustments. If you don’t have access to an indoor trainer you will need a friend or partner to hold the bike steady while you find your position.

Set up the bike on the trainer and climb on. Place your heel onto the pedal and rotate so that the pedal is at its lowest point in the stroke with the crank in the 6 o’clock position. With your heel flat on the pedal your knee should be fully extended and your leg straight. If there is any bend in your knee move the saddle upwards until your leg is straight. If it feels as if you’re overstretching to keep your heel on the pedal in this position then jump off and gradually lower the saddle until you find that optimum position.

When you feel as though you have found this optimal height with your heel flat on the pedal try clipping into the pedals and pedalling as normal. Once you’ve pedalled around a few rotations stop at the bottom of the stroke with the crank in the 6 o’clock position once again and observe your knee angle. Your knee should be slightly flexed with an extension angle of between 30 and 40 degrees, depending on flexibility.

In conclusion

It is important when making adjustments to your saddle height to do so in small increments, as a sudden significant change will feel alien and could result in an injury and prevent you from riding your bike. Once you’ve made the adjustments and are feeling comfortable pedalling on the turbo we’d advise going on a short ride outside and gradually building up the miles as you get used to the new position.

Other factors to consider when looking at your saddle height include crank length, shoes and cleat condition and pedal type. Saddle fore/aft is also something that can affect your pedalling efficiency – it is important to ensure you have a straight line from the knee cap down to the ball of the foot and through the centre of the pedal axle.

If you still feel as though you aren’t quite finding complete comfort with your position and you’re serious about riding your bike we’d recommend looking at getting booked in for a professional bike fit. We have specially qualified teams and equipment at our Lake District and Ilkley stores. For more information visit our bike fitting page.