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The Intricacies of Leveling a Road Bike Saddle.

February 2016
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If you’re like me, leveling a saddle isn’t rocket science.  You pull out a 4′ level, place it on the saddle and level the thing.  Not much hoopla in that.

I found out recently that this isn’t necessarily right though.

There are three general types of road bike saddles.

From flat:

image

To mild contour:

image

To contoured:

image

The flat saddles are simple.  Slap a level on it and ride.  Maybe drop the nose one degree if that suits you.  The contoured saddles, I have two identical Specialized Romin saddles (one on the Trek, the other on the Venge), and for the longest time, that’s how I leveled my saddle – with a 4′ level.  That’s entirely wrong.  Here’s the correct way to level a contoured saddle:

image

You level the nose with a smaller level.

This is mine and it is wrong:

image

You can see the rise if you zoom in a little bit…

I just changed my Trek’s saddle yesterday and what I thought was a comfortable saddle the day before, became butter:

image

In the end, ahem, the trick is setting a saddle up so it doesn’t slide you off the front of the nose but doesn’t hinder you from reaching the drops… and believe me, nose that contoured saddle up and you’re going to want to sit a little more upright than you probably have to.  I did.

Just goes to show, you learn something new every day. Well I do if I want to, that is.

UPDATE: I found that perfectly leveling the section of the saddle as shown was just a little too much. I couldn’t help but feeling I was being pushed too far forward on the saddle. I raised the nose one or two and that was much more comfortable. My setup is aggressive but not that aggressive.

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9 Comments

  1. A limerick:
    A bike rider who leveled his seat,
    though he tried could not get it complete,
    for nose up or nose down
    when he rode it around
    it instead fairly leveled his meat.

  2. Archetype says:

    I set mine up a bit different to yours Jim! I use a thin piece of metal larger than the saddle to cover it from tip to back end and the width of it also. I do use the proverbial 4″ level though!

    I set my saddle so the bubble is about half way in the middle to halfway to the rear. I like a slightly rearward tilt to keep as much weight off my shoulders and wrists as possible. Plus, I never, never use the drops. 😀

    So, it works out for me. I have had my seats level and I just felt like I was sliding forward most of the time. It amazes me when I see road bike saddles with an obvious pronounced front or downward tilt (read: non TT bikes) Or a severe rear tilt. But I guess to each his own buddy!

  3. On my road bike I use the “ohhhhhhh my nuts hurt” rule. It’s not so easy on the mountain bike. Seat position and height depends on the type of trail that I am riding.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I’ve always had a tough time getting comfortable on the mountain bikes… I like the nuts rule too, but mine were never in distress. What I learned about setting a contoured saddle made the drops much more, erm, reasonable. I like spending as much time as I can in the drops, so this should be a very good thing.

  4. fastk9dad says:

    I also have a Romin Evo on one bike and no way can I set it up with the front level. Tried it that way once and all I did was slide forward on the saddle which caused hand numbness to the nth degree. For that saddle I level it front to back like you did before. Plus riding no hands with the saddle flaring up in the back like that feels weird to me. To each his own, everyones butt is different!

    Ironically, on my new bike I have the Arione saddle and while it looks flat there is a slight dip in the center which can be seen only with a straight edge on top. It came set up perfectly level but it wasn’t quite agreeing with me so I leveled the front half (which is what fizik actually shows in their videos) which results in about a 1degree tilt if measured front to back which did the trick for me. I used to think the Romin was comfortable but the Arione takes that to another level now for me.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I used to have that same trouble bit I’ve since changed riding style, dropped my handlebar considerably… and I used to sit too far back on the saddle. Now that my butt naturally finds the contoured part of the saddle, I could level that part and it doesn’t feel like that anymore. Either way, as we both know, whatever works… Saddles are exceptionally personal things.

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