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Home » Cycling » The Noob’s Guide to Saddle Height – Too High, No Comfort. Too Low, No Power… Some Variations on Getting it Right

The Noob’s Guide to Saddle Height – Too High, No Comfort. Too Low, No Power… Some Variations on Getting it Right

December 2016
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I shared a post written by the Ragtime Cyclist a bit ago because it made me laugh.  In that post, however, was a link to a BikeRadar article that explained a few different variations on how to achieve the proper saddle height.  The biggest problem I’ve seen noobs make, especially on road bikes, is having the saddle set too low.

I was out with my wife at our daughters’ swim practice when I read the post and the linked article so I was intrigued to get home and find out how I measured up using the old heel on the pedal method, then dialing it in by feel over the past couple of years.

The three variations in addition to the old tried and true heel on the pedal and pedal backwards option are as follows:

The 109:  Take your inseam, multiply that by 109% and that’s your height from the pedal.
The LeMond:  88.3% of your inseam and that’s the height to the center of the crank*.
The Holmes Method:  Requires a tool that measures the angle of one’s knee – skipped it.

*They say there’s a flaw in the LeMond Method:  It doesn’t work for people with long femur bones, and you’ll see that in action in just a second.

So, I got home and took a book, slid it between my legs, snugged it against the boys and took the measurement from the floor to the top of the book’s spine.  33.5″ on the nose.  109% of 33.5 is 36.515″….

First things first, set the pedals up so the crank arms follow the slope of the seat tube, like so:

Second, take your tape measure and make sure the tape follows the contour of the tube, like so (if you really look close at the photo, it’s a little off because it’s hard to hold the tape in the right place with one hand whilst snapping a photo with the other).  Also, you want to choose and edge that you’ll be measuring with and run that edge up the center of the seat tube:

And:


Bob’s your Uncle.  36.53125″  Less than two hundredths of an inch higher than exactly 109% of my inseam…  In bureaucratic parlance:  “Perfect – right on the nose”.  Or if you prefer fly-over country lingity:  “Good enough for government work”.  My Venge has the same 36.53125″.

So, here’s the problem with the LeMond Method…  88.3% of 33.5″ is 29.58″.  Now, keeping a tape in the proper place at the center of the crank (rather than set on the pedal) whilst snapping a photo actually is impossible.  Take my word for it, the LeMond method is 1/2″ lower, and therefore too low.  Apparently I have long femurs.

In the end, here’s what’s important:  If you have to rock your hips, even a little bit, side to side to get the pedals around, you’ve got the saddle set too high.  This will also cause intense nether-region pressure.  Even a couple of millimeters too high can cause saddle sores.  Worse, too low and you’ll feel like you’re riding through mud.  Not a big deal if you’re on a mountain bike on actual, real mud.  Not so good on a road bike on smooth, paved roads.

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17 Comments

  1. Love this, thanks for posting!!!!

  2. Excellent post. On the road bike, I have a tendency to set the saddle too high, probably because I have a bum knee and too low hurts my knees. However, the higher saddle position causes my hands to go numb, heightened by my tendency to ride more on the hoods.

    Ironically, I tend to go for a low saddle height on my mountain bike. The trails that I ride the most are technical and the lower height is best. What I really need is a dropper post.

  3. The Lemond saddle height works for me. I saw an article once with about a dozen different schools of thought on saddle height.

  4. Boris says:

    Cleat position (too much into forefoot or more middlefoot), insoles (orthopedic, warm ones for winterriding) and saddle (where do you really sit on the saddle) makes a difference too.

  5. unironedman says:

    I guess one should be measuring with the feet clipped in too. There are a lot of mms in the difference. I suspect the biggest failure is not making those adjustments, as a newbie, but settling for something that feels okay. It’s fine having a ‘method’, but the first person to say ‘if that isn’t working, change it’, would be the guy who came up with the method in the first place. I know I fecked about with my saddle height (and indeed which saddle) on my new bike for ages ’til I was happy. I guess it’s easy to get sucked into a ‘method’ when you’re starting out (check out calculating max aerobic capacity, VO2 max, thresholds, and other fun and frolics if you want to drive yourself batty). There’s a lot to learn, but let’s make sure we’re having some craic as well. Merry Christmas to you all, and a year of safe rides, and no saddle sores 😉

  6. Dino says:

    Thanks for posting this informations.

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