Saddle height is one of the most important things to get right when setting up your new bike.
There are several reasons for this, the first among them being that a low saddle can massively reduce your efficiency and pedaling power.
A low saddle can also cause your riding position to be unbalanced leading to discomfort which could really affect your ability to enjoy and get the most out of your bike.
Being uncomfortable like this will reduce how far you can ride and how hard you can push yourself during difficult sections of a route, which can have a really detrimental effect on the whole experience of cycling.
There are also physical effects to having your saddle too low, and these can even cause serious and lasting injuries which is why it’s so important to make sure your saddle is correctly positioned before every ride and throughout the ride also.
Injuries such as tendonitis as well as aching in the back can be caused by poor riding position which can have a terrible effect on your overall health and fitness.
The added strain your muscles are put under with a low saddle can also lead to a higher chance of cramping, straining, and pulling as your muscles have to work harder to power the bike, with less efficiency and often in quite cramped and awkward positions that can lead to other issues too.
Signs Your Saddle Height May Be Wrong
One key sign that your saddle is too low is that your knees are very bent at the bottom of each pedal stroke.
While some cycling disciplines such as downhill and freestyle prefer a low saddle, these cyclists also don’t need to pedal in the same way as other cyclists.
The most important thing for these riders is that they can move around the bike easily and not get pushed over the handlebars but their seat.
Most cyclists don’t need to worry about this problem and should focus on making their riding position as comfortable and efficient as possible to get the most out of each pedal stroke.
Ideally, you want the bottom of your pedal stroke to result in your leg nearly fully extended without fully locking it out.
This allows you to get the maximum power transfer out of each stroke, offers balance and control while also promoting a healthy overall riding position on the saddle.
Another way to measure this is to sit on the bike with someone else steadying it and position your foot at the bottom of your pedal stroke. Your heel should be able to touch the pedal in this position, to give you some idea of what’s right for you.
Another sign that your saddle height is wrong will be that you start developing aches that you don’t normally feel when cycling or exercising.
Pain in the front of the knee, as well as the lower back, are common signs that your riding position is not correct and that your saddle needs to be raised or repositioned.
It’s a very common problem among beginner riders, as they often set their bikes up to make mounting and dismounting feel easy and comfortable instead of considering how to set the bike up for actually riding.
There are some other ways of measuring what will be the best seat position for you, but generally, the methods mentioned above will be the best for home use.
If you’re really struggling with your seating position it may be best to seek professional help from your local bike shop who should be able to advise you on what’s wrong and how to fix it.
If you do own a dropper post, be aware of sag and the effects this can have on your seating position also.
Despite the advantages they bring, dropper posts can sometimes sink down a small amount which can definitely change your riding high and position. Make sure to keep an eye on this and to service your post often.
When should you drop your saddle?
Sometimes it is important to drop your saddle in certain scenarios, particularly as the popularity of dropper posts continues to grow.
If you find yourself adventure riding or touring and are entering into a long or steep descent, lowering your saddle will make navigating this type of terrain much easier and safer.
Don’t be afraid to pop your quick release and give yourself some room to maneuver on difficult terrain.
The chances that you injure yourself falling off will be reduced, and as you’re likely to be heading downhill you won’t need to pedal so a low seat position shouldn’t cause any issues for your knees or back as it would when needing to generate power.
Can My Saddle be too high?
Just because a low saddle is bad, it doesn’t mean you should go too far the other way. A high saddle can cause just as many problems.
Riders with a high saddle will tend to lead forward in their cockpit a lot and will also increase their chances of developing saddle sores as the uncomfortable riding position puts added strain and pressure on your sit bones and groin.
Again, use the techniques mentioned above to check your heel can touch the middle of your pedal without needing to move your hips, and adjust your seat accordingly.
Investing in a quality seat clamp is a great way to make sure your setup doesn’t alter or move even during long harsh rides or in wet conditions.
What if I get a new seat?
If you get a new seat you should always check your riding position again using the methods previously mentioned to prevent any issues from arising.
A different seat can have a different shape and width which may require you to adjust your setup slightly, and this is something to keep in mind.
How high should a road bike saddle be?
You should be able to touch your heel to the pedal with your leg almost fully locked out, as mentioned above.
Some road cyclists do like their saddles a touch higher than this depending on their preference and body size, so don’t be afraid to tweak things to get them just right for you.