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Proper Seat Height Positioning

The fit of a bike is critical for comfort and pedaling efficiency for both on-road and off-road riding.

This article is on saddle height and how to determine what the ideal height should be for you. A large number of people set their saddles too low because they feel more comfortable when their bike is stopped – they’re able to easily touch the ground with their feet. This doesn’t give them proper leg extension when pedaling and is inefficient because it doesn’t use all of your leg strength. Putting your seat too high (which is less common) will result in you rocking sideways on the saddle to reach the pedals – this will be uncomfortable and could cause further pain and discomfort in your hips. There are a few guidelines – I’ll cover a couple of them:

Greg LeMond, a well known U.S. cyclist, who is into analyzing bicycles and just about everything to do with them, came up with a formula. He says the distance from the center of the bottom bracket (the pedal connects to the crank arm which in turn connects to the bottom bracket) to the top of the saddle should be 0.883 of your inseam length (measured in bare feet from the floor to your crotch). Another guideline which is often used is to adjust your seat to the height at which your leg is fully extended when your heel is over the center of the pedal. Then when you’re pedaling (with the ball of your foot on the center of the pedal) your leg will have a slight bend when the pedal is at its lowest point.

Words of caution:

  • never extend the seat post past its maximum extension line
  • don’t be afraid to experiment with seat adjustments – but changes should be made in small increments until you find the perfect height
  • proper seat height for steep downhills may be as much as a few inches lower than regular riding to allow the rider to easily slide his rearend past the saddle and over the rear wheel.
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