Cycle Clinic

Saddle Height

Q   I have been told that my saddle is the wrong height. Does this matter, and what is the 'right' height ?

A Yes, it does matter, but how much depends on how much you cycle and what sort of riding you do.

A Chartered Physiotherapist, James Moore, writes that Cycling is great for knees and hips because the joints move through a comfortable range but make sure that the saddle is 'quite high' so you're not jamming your knees to your chest.

When we learn to cycle we normally want the comfort that comes from being able to put our feet on the ground until we are sure of our balance. To do that we have the saddle low, but that means that our knees come up too far for comfort over a longer ride, as James has said.

However saddle height is more than this.

Professional cyclists and racing teams have spent fortunes on trying to find the best height for each rider in the team, but we normal cyclists don't have to go to such lengths.

The reason they worry is that they want to get the most energy from each push on the pedals, and that really comes from straightening the leg.

Imagine walking up stairs with  your legs bent. If you doubt me, just try it ! You lift your knee just as you do on the bike and push down to get up the step, but you get the maximum lift with the least effort in the last few inches as you straighten your leg.

In practice you can't quite do this on a bike without standing on the pedals so we have to find a position that we can manage best.

It is also not a good idea to have your saddle too high, because if you do, you have to roll from side to side so you can actually get your feet down far enough to stay on the pedals, and this can cause knee and hip problems over time.

There are all sorts of  measurements and specifications for getting the 'perfect' saddle height, but as I have said this is probably only needed for professionals and really 'serious' cyclists.

The best thing is to raise the saddle a bit at a time, and as you get used to each position feel if it is actually better as you ride.

If you can get your toes on the ground to steady yourself when you stop whilst still sitting on the saddle, that shouldn't be too far out, but if you find that uncomfortable, or you feel unsafe then a lower position might be best for you.

Mike Skiffins, Portsmouth CTC
Posted on Wed, 17/04/2019 - 18:44