One of the secrets to a comfortable and safe ride is having the correct saddle height and position. If it is set too high or too low, it can cause problems like back pain and neck or knee pain. Setting your saddle height correctly can take a little time. But it’s worth it!
Before setting your saddle height, you should first measure the current height of your saddle. This way, you know how high or low your saddle is before making the necessary adjustments.
There are various methods used in getting the correct saddle height for your road bike. In this post, we have listed the three most popular techniques: the Heel method, the 109% method, and the Holmes method.
The Heel Method
The heel method, the most common of the three, is used by many road cyclists to determine the saddle height of their bike. Checking the bike saddle height using this method is quick and easy. This involves sitting on the bike, whether on the turbo trainer, just holding on to a chair or table, or just leaning against the wall. Despite its simplicity, the Heel Method is the least precise among the three.
How to check your bike saddle height using the Heel Method:
- Stand next to your bike and raise the saddle to your hip.
- Sit on the saddle and touch the pedal with your heel. Ensure that the crank arm, which is supporting your foot, is pointed down and in line with the seat tube.
- Once your leg is now fully extended, you are at the correct saddle height. It means your leg is straight without overextending your knee.
The 109% Method
Using the 109% method, you can get a more precise and better result compared to the heel method.
The steps are as follows:
- With a fairly thick and sturdy book clamped between your legs, stand against the wall and firmly pull the book upwards. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to feel a little uncomfortable.
- Mark the top of the book on the wall. The mark will indicate your inseam.
- Measure the distance from the mark to the ground in millimeters. This is your inseam.
- Calculate your ideal saddle height based on your inseam. On average, the saddle height should be 109% of your inseam. You can then use a calculator to multiply your inseam in millimeters by 109. The result is your saddle height in millimeters.
The Holmes Method
Of the three techniques, the Holmes Method is the most precise as it takes into consideration the way you put your feet on the pedals.
With the Holmes method, the ideal knee angle is between 25 to 35 degrees. This angle is the difference between your upper and lower legs when your pedal is in its lowest position. If you suffer from knee problems, then the value should be somewhat closer to 25 degrees.
In order to determine the value, you need a turbo trainer or a roller, and a friend to back you up.
Here are the steps:
- Mount your bike on the turbo trainer and start riding.
- Have your friend film you from the side while you are riding on the turbo bike trainer. Let them record for a minute or longer.
- View the recording and pause it the moment your pedal is in the lowest position. Use a set square to measure the angle.
- Raise your saddle if the angle is larger than 35 degrees. If it is smaller than 25 degrees, then your saddle has to be lowered.
Now that we’ve determined the correct height of the saddle, it is also necessary to check whether the saddle is too far forward or backward. This horizontal position of your saddle is called the setback.
The correct setback of the saddle can be determined by using a plumb line (a piece of string with a weight at the end). Here are the steps:
- Sit on your bike and bring the pedals in a horizontal position. Make sure to keep the pedals in that horizontal position when determining the setback.
- Drop the plumb line over the front of the knee and hold it steadily.
- The plumb line should fall right through the axle of the pedal. Move the saddleback when it’s too forward. Move it forward if the line is too far backward.
Usually, the saddle should be set horizontally. But you can change it to a slanted position in case you suffer from specific problems after making sure that your saddle height and setback are correct.
If everything is set up and you are not suffering from any discomfort, then you are all set! Feel free experiment with your saddle height and position — just keep these tips in mind:
- If your hips move from side to side while you’re riding then your saddle is too high. Make it lower until you find your hips steady.
- When you try to raise your saddle, raise it with small increments and not with centimeters at a time. You can start off by going up to 2 or 3 millimeters. When you feel comfortable, try adding another millimeter or 2.
- Your body easily adapts to almost any position, so don’t hesitate to experiment! Something that feels awkward at first can feel completely natural after a while.
“What if I didn’t achieve the desired results after doing these?”
If that’s the case, then it is advisable that you ask a professional expert. A bike fitting at a sports center can also help as your body position is analyzed in detail. Thus, helping you set up your bike accordingly.