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Road Cycling and Saddle Height; Down to the Last Millimeter

September 2019
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I’ve been struggling, a happy struggle mind you, with the saddle on my Trek 5200. Specifically, the height of said saddle on said 5200.  The fore/aft location is darn-near set in stone, as I prefer my kneecap to line up with the pedal spindle per the normal setup of a road bike.

First, that Montrose Pro carbon saddle is one fine saddle and some the best money I’ve spent on that bike went to that saddle. It’s got the perfect blend of lightweight, flexibility, and padding for a long distance saddle. I can even wear my thinner chamois bibs for 70+ mile rides on it – bibs I once only wore for 25-35 mile rides on inferior saddles.

My biggest issue has been getting the height dialed in so my Trek feels like my Specialized, though.  So, second would be the disclaimer that I’m notoriously picky about saddle height. Obsessive isn’t really a good word, but it comes pretty close to reality.

When I picked the saddle up, I first set it just a touch too high (my measurement is exactly 36-3/8″). I lowered it once because my keister was hurting. Then I lowered it another bit because it still hurt my heinie and by that time, my back was hurting and starting to seize up on me every now and again.  The second lowering did the trick, and that’s where I left it for DALMAC. I rejoiced for the weekend because the saddle felt excellent, with only a minor flareup of baboon @$$.

It wasn’t until I got back and rode the Venge a few days, then took the Trek out once more, that I realized the saddle on the Trek was a little too low. It felt it at the time, but in reality, it wasn’t by much.  It just felt… off.  It felt like I wasn’t getting my full leg extension, that I was working just a little too hard.

Well, Saturday afternoon I raised the saddle up to test my theory, thinking maybe I lowered it too much the last time. I didn’t raise it much, maybe 1-1/2 to 2 millimeters:

With the heightened chance of rain on Sunday, I rode the Trek. At first he saddle height felt right, or better at least.  I was definitely getting full leg extension, and I felt a bit stronger.  40 miles in, I was antsy in the saddle and my back pain started in again.  I knew I’d raised it too much. There was too much pressure on the sit bones. On coming back, I split the difference and lowered it by about half… and nirvana!

I rode with my buddy, Chuck Monday night, picking my lightest pair of bibs, and I could tell instantly, I nailed it.  Finally.

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I almost can’t believe it, the infinitesimal amount I’m talking about, but I’m here to tell you, that millimeter made a difference (actual difference once I lowered the saddle is half the gap shown above between the seat post and the marker line).

So here’s what was messing me up; having the saddle high helps keep your butt up and your head down – it’s aerodynamic.  Having the saddle up also allows for a stronger pedal stroke.  Unfortunately, having the saddle too high also hurts like hell.

Does it help that I’ve got the Venge to contrast what I’m feeling on the 5200?

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*Does it or doesn’t it help to have a phenomenal race bike to contrast my other bikes against?  Look, this is going to be a matter of perspective.  It’s more a blessing than a curse as I see it.  Having the Venge to match the Trek to has made the Trek a significantly better bike.  I never could have gotten it to where it is, as fast as I did, without the Venge.  Mrs. Bgddy might disagree with that assessment as it pertains to cash, though.  Ouch.

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2 Comments

  1. joliesattic says:

    I see you’re all bundled up already. Is it starting to get chilly? You are right about saddle heights. When I first started riding, mine was low compared to when I got better. It does make a difference and finding just the right height can be a challenge.

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