Out of all the measurements on a bike, saddle height is arguably the one that gives clients and fitters the most food for thought.
It’s easy to see why. Too high, you get issues. Too low, you get issues. Just right? You get power, efficiency and a perfect pedal stroke.
If that’s not a cycling holy grail, what is?
The problem is that, for some clients, the difference between success and failure can be a couple of millimetres, which makes it a difficult bullseye to hit.
You can find plenty of formulae for saddle height; on paper, in cyberspace, on club runs and in bike shops.
Percentages of a rider’s inseam measurement, various variations of the old heel on pedal idea and knee angles of anything between 45 and 25 degrees.
But for me, the first rule of setting saddle height is that there aren’t any rules.
Like most aspects of fitting, there are too many variables. And it’s not just how long your legs are and whether you can touch your toes, although we make clients do that too.
How do you pedal? Toes down? Neutral? Where do you sit on the saddle when the heat is on? On the nose? Or slide backwards?
Those factors alone can make a massive difference to what is right in the real world and what isn’t.
Don’t forget about the front end of the bike either; bar height and reach can impact significantly on what happens behind.
And what’s without thinking about physical changes a rider might experience over time. What works one day may not be optimal six weeks, six months or six years down the track.
So how do you get it right? By using all the tools available; a combination of motion capture, dynamic measurement, observation and rider feedback.
That last one is key, and a client who is more aware of their own sensations can quicken the process, making it a lot more hit than miss.
So, the next time you’re riding, take some time to be aware of your pedal stroke and whether you feel it could be better.
Because if you feel it could be better, than it probably can.