How Saddle Position Makes Your Ride Worst…or The Best?
More than half of your weight will be on your bike’s saddle when riding, not to mention that your sweaty derriere can make its surface a slippery one. This is why you need to ensure that your bike’s saddle is in the right position.
By doing so, you get better control, comfort and at the same time, keep yourself safe. The right saddle size, style and shape is a personal-fit aspect of choosing your bike. You must then try several saddles on for size in the same way that you have to experiment with the saddle height and angle for size.
Importance of Saddle Position
The saddle position is a crucial aspect of riding well particularly in pain-free riding. You have to be aware of the saddle position in relation to pedal position since your knees’ risk for repetitive stress injuries increases otherwise.
If your saddle and pedal position results in more knee extension than the optimum range, your risk for developing IT band syndrome also increases. The optimum range of motion for your knees should be between 150 degrees during full extension and 70 degrees during knee flexion.
The IT band syndrome is an overuse injury characterized by the inflammation of the illiotibial band, which moves the knee and stabilizes it. The repetitive stress injury, in fact, accounts for 15 percent of knee pain among cyclists.
Your saddle position will also affect your riding position and, thus, your comfort throughout the ride. Too high and your legs will struggle to reach the pedal’s bottom position but too low and your knees will hit the handlebar.
Too tilted upwards and your genital region will be in discomfort but too tilted downwards and you will push against the handlebars.
Aside from comfort, the right saddle position will have an impact on your pedaling performance especially your speed. Your leg muscles should be in the right position to deliver maximum power to the pedals without overexerting yourself.
Your fatigue level will likely decrease after each riding session because your body exerts less effort in achieving the same goals.
Common Pain Issues Related to Saddle Position
Here are a few saddle-related pain issues that you can easily resolve. Indeed, making saddle adjustments are the easiest bike adjustments that provide the highest cycling benefits.
First, if you suffer from aching hands, wrists and arms, your bike’s saddle nose is titled downwards. This is also true when your knees have a slight niggle to them.
When the saddle’s nose is titled forwards, your pelvis has an unbalanced tilt while on the bike. Your hips will slide to the saddle’s front resulting in knee pain and genital discomfort (i.e., numbness).
This is because your forward position on the bike results in your legs exerting greater pressure on the pedals. Your body compensates for the incorrect weight distribution on the saddle and insufficient support for your genital area.
Your discomfort on your wrists, hands and forearms is the result of applying too much pressure on your bike’s handlebars. Your body compensates for sliding forward on the saddle by distributing its weight to your arms and hands resulting in the pain.
Second, if you have lower back or neck pain after riding, your saddle’s nose is tilted upwards. Your pain issues will be worse than when your saddle’s nose is titled downwards, too.
The slope caused by the saddle nose pointing upwards will push your body backwards. Your pelvis will also be angled backwards, which means undue pressure will be on your lower back. You will feel more pain in this area the longer your ride is.
Even your neck and shoulder will be in pain, too, from sitting on the downwards sloping saddle. Your perch at the back of the saddle means that you’re hanging on to the handlebar for dear life. Your neck and shoulders will take the brunt resulting in cricks and cramps there.
The bottom line: You have to ensure that the saddle position is in its optimum position – neither too high nor too low, neither too tilted upwards nor too tilted downwards. You have to experiment with various positions until you find the right saddle position for your current riding needs.
Adjustments to Saddle Position
You can adjust the saddle position in three ways, namely, saddle height, fore and aft position, and tilt. The adjustments are usually made on the seat post and its clamps, which hold the saddle to the seat post.
These are simple adjustments for the most part since your job involves loosening either the bolt or clamp, adjusting the seat, and re-tightening the bolt or clamp.
You may also use a saddle height calculator and tape measure in getting more accurate measurements. But your best judge of saddle position is your comfort and energy efficiency levels when you’re riding on the adjusted bike.
You have to remember, too, that the most comfortable seat position isn’t necessarily the best for energy efficiency, power transfer, and safety. You must experiment with several saddle positions until the right balance between comfort and energy efficiency is achieved.
One of the best ways to measure saddle height involves these steps:
- Sit on your bike with both your feet on its pedals. You can lean against a wall to do so.
- Place the pedals in their 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock position.
- Check the position of your legs, knees and heels.
At this position, your bottom leg at the 12 o’clock position should be fully extended when your heel is on the lower pedal. You may have to raise the saddle otherwise.
You may also observe that you’re rocking your hips to reach the lower pedal, which means that a lower saddle is necessary. You may also lower it if you’re sitting on the saddle’s narrow front part although it may also be the inappropriate saddle tilt at fault.
Your knee should have a slight bent when the pedal is at the bottom part of its rotation. Tip: Avoid raising the saddle above the manufacturer’s recommendation. Otherwise, the seat becomes unstable, even break after several hours of use.
Saddle Fore and Aft Position
You can position the saddle by putting it anywhere between 2 and 2.5 inches behind the bottom bracket spindle or axle’s centerline. You may also check by putting both pedal cranks in a horizontal position and checking your kneecaps’ position – both should be directly above the spindles.
You can check the saddle tilt by looking at its position relative to the ground – it should be parallel. You may prefer a slightly upwards or downwards tilt but the difference should be very small.
Note: Men prefer a slightly upward tilt while women prefer the opposite.
Of course, you must get out there on your bike! It’s the only way to determine whether the saddle position works best for your current cycling needs.