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Setting the saddle height

Difficulty level : easy
Reading time: 3 minutes

Properly setting your bike saddle, will ensure a comfortable ride, an optimal power transfer, a boost for your pedal efficiency and a safe cycling experience. When you set the bicycle saddle, you should pay attention to the saddle height, the saddle setback (fore/aft) and the saddle tilt (= the angle of your saddle). We therefore would like to inform you about how to set the bike saddle and what tools you need to properly do so.

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Setting the height of your bike saddle

Setting the height of your bike saddle

In practice there is an easy way to determine the proper height of your bike saddle, The correct saddle height can be set by using the so-called heel method; sit on your bike, put your heel on the centre of your pedal and extend your leg. If the saddle is adjusted too low, your leg is slightly bent and not straight. However, if the saddle is set too high, you will not be able to reach the pedal with your heel. If your leg can be easily extended without discomfort, your saddle height is perfect.

Measuring and calculating

An incorrect bicycle saddle height can quickly lead to pain in different parts of your body; something we will cover in much more detail later. When setting the optimal saddle height, it is also important to pay attention to the movement of your hips. If you feel your hips rocking and shaking a bit while cycling, you need adjust your bike saddle. The optimal saddle height can also be calculated. Proceed as follows: Measure your stride length and multiply the stride length ((length between the crotch and the sole of the foot) by 0.885. This calculates the distance between the top of bicycle saddle to the center of the bottom bracket, after which the optimal saddle height can be set.

Allen key

To set the seat post lower or higher, you need a suitable Allen key. By loosening the seat post clamp (sometimes via a bolt and other times via a quick release lever) the seat post can be pushed deeper into the seat tube or pulled further out of the seat tube. If required you can also pull the seat post completely out of the seat tube and replace the seat post. If you tighten the seat post again always respect the torque specifications on the clamp. However, there is always an adjusting screw or bolt at the bottom of the bike saddle which can only be loosened and tightened with an Allen key. This screw can be used to set the tilt and the fore-aft position of your bike saddle.

The adjusting screw at the bottom of your bicycle saddle should therefore also be loosened if you want to replace your bicycle saddle. After mounting the new saddle and setting it right, the adjusting screw of your bike seat should be tightened again to ensure you can make your rides safe and sound.

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Setting a bike saddle: the fore-aft position and the tilt

You can adjust the angle or sometimes also called the tilt of the bicycle saddle by loosening the adjusting bolt (sometimes two bolts) which sits between the saddle frame and the seat post. Ideally, the angle of the saddle is leveled, which means the saddle angle is more or less horizontal front to rear. You will need a spirit level for this. Loosen the bolt(s) beneath the saddle and place the spirit level on your saddle to horizontally level it. When the saddle is horizontal, the bolt can be tightened again. With a saddle that has an uneven shape, you should make sure that the middle part of the saddle is always level.

Right angle

The saddle tilt is very important. An incorrect saddle angle whereby the rear of the saddle is raised and the tip therefore is tilted down, can put too much weight on the arms, hands and wrists. Besides, it can also have a negative impact on your sensitive genital area. Tilting the nose of the saddle too far up on the other hand can cause hip or back pain. Therefore, we recommend only making small and incremental adjustments when trying to find the right the angle of your bike saddle. Along with the tilt of your bicycle saddle, you should also determine the proper fore-aft position of the seat; i.e. the distance between the handlebars and your bike saddle.

Anatomy and flexibility

The taller the cyclist, the more the bicycle saddle should be moved backward, and vice versa. To check whether the saddle fore-aft position is set correctly, your knee (or kneecap) should be directly above the pedal spindle (= the KOPS rule) with the crank horizontal to the ground. Setting these three aspects (the saddle height, the saddle angle aka saddle tilt, and the fore-aft position) will be you a good starting point. From there on it is a matter of fine-tuning the aspects until your cycling posture is perfect. Because the anatomy and flexibility of each person is different these general guidelines can vary from one person to another to find the optimal sitting position. As mentioned before, if you start adjusting your bike saddle settings do it gradually with small and incremental fine-tuning.

Setting a wrong bike saddle position and the consequences

Setting a wrong bike saddle position and the consequences

A seat post that is set too low can lead to pain in the knee joints, buttocks, spine, or feet. If the bike saddle is set too high, the pressure point when pedaling is transferred to the tips of the feet, which can lead to numbness at the tips of the feet. In addition, this increases the pressure on the sit bones and it tilts the pelvis to the side which can lead to intervertebral disc problems. If the saddle angle (tilt) is incorrectly set, either the pressure on the arm muscles increases (the tip of the saddle points downwards too much) or the pressure on the back muscles (the tip of the saddle points upwards too much). It is also important to choose the right bike saddle. There is a wide range of different shapes and types of bike saddles. Visit your local bike dealer test, try and then buy.

When you are confronted with chronic pain or when you are recovering from surgery, an ergonomic bicycle saddle should be considered. This type of bike saddles is also available in different bicycle saddle sizes, shapes and designs depending on the symptoms you are suffering from.

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