Seat Height

The height of the seat can have a very significant impact on the efficiency of riding. In one study of short-term total power output, saddle height was optimised at 109% of the inseam length (the distance between the bone in the crotch and the ground, in bare feet). While the experiment was quite specific in focus and there is individual variation, on average an alteration of saddle height of only 4% affected power output by approximately 5%. This performance increase is about as much as a guy I know who spent some $600 on new wheels with streamlined, 16-hole rims and bladed spokes to shave 59 seconds off of his 15 km time trial.

Cycling is a repetitive activity where the longtime cyclist becomes strongly accustomed to a saddle height, so changes should be made in small amounts and at long intervals, such as 1/4" each month, towards the formula result. Large variations in saddle height can be compensated by the degree and even direction of ankling.

In general, you want your leg at maximum extension to bend by 25 degrees. Less won't allow your leg muscles to operate near maximum extension where they are most efficient, and more disrupts your pedalling stroke and the health of your knees as well. Similarly, if you rock back and forth in the saddle, the saddle is too high.

Women, with their longer legs, will want a higher saddle than a man who is just as tall. When you find your perfect saddle height, mark your seat post and periodically check it, as your seat post will slowly sink into the tube over time. And be sure to record your bike's adjustments to it can be reliably duplicated if your bike gets mangled when you try to ship it to a race.

For the trail

Mountain bikers who ride on rough trails may want to lower their seat just a little, as they spend a large amount of time out of the saddle, going over bumps.

Also trail riders should make use of their quick release seat-posts and adjust the height during the ride if need be, for extended steep downhills or extremely bumpy terrain. Just make sure that you put the post back to the marked normal optimum, so you can quickly switch back at the bottom of the valley.

 

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copyright 2005 - Team David Salon