How to Perfectly Adjust Your Saddle
Author: Ben Malvern
Adjusting Saddle Height and Seat Position
When thinking about comfort and control on your bike, the places that you “connect” to the bike are the key. One of the most overlooked but critical adjustments to any rider’s bike is the saddle position. Having correct saddle height is the foundation for good cycling form. If your saddle poorly adjusted, it puts your knees at greater risk of injury when adding miles on the road. Saddle position can be a sensitive adjustment, but with a few rules and guidelines, it can be easy.
How to know your Saddle needs to be Adjusted
Before swapping out your saddle for a new one, check to make sure it’s properly adjusted. Having too much or too little tilt can create unnecessary pressure points on the saddle, which will cause discomfort on rides.
When going through your pedal stroke on your bike, if you feel discomfort in the front of your knee, it’s a sign that your saddle height is likely too low. Having too much bend in your knee will create an extra strain that can be avoided. Similarly, having your saddle too high may result in pain in the back of the knee. If you have signs of Patella Tracking Disorder, it becomes extra important to make sure that saddle height is dialed in.
If your saddle is tilted too far forwards, it can result in your spine not having enough of a bend when seated, causing discomfort or pain. Again, if your saddle is tilted too far backward, your spine and hips will need to compensate for this.
Adjusting your saddle doesn’t have one solid recipe that will work for everyone. Everyone’s bodies are different shapes, lengths, proportions, etc… With that said, there are still guidelines you should follow to help find the optimal position for you.
To get started, you will most likely need a set of Allen keys. The most essential Allen keys for bike maintenance are 4, 5, and 6mm. Different bike manufacturers use different clamping mechanisms or bolt styles. Many bikes will use a quick release which will not require a tool for adjusting the height.
1. Step One (Put your Cycling Gear on)
First off, you will want to check the height of your seat to give yourself a baseline. To this, I recommend wearing your bike gear such as padded shorts or shoes, because it will slightly alter the stack height of your shoes or saddle.
2. Step Two (Checking Saddle Height for a Baseline)
Next, set yourself up on your bike so that you’re seated on the saddle, and can put your feet on the pedals while balanced against a wall. Then, Place your heel on the pedal axle. Your knee should be fully extended, but not quite locked out. If your knee is locked out, or you have to roll your hips to reach comfortably, then it’s too high. If your leg isn’t fully extended, then your saddle should come up.
3. Step Three (Making the Adjustment)
Now you’ll need to make the adjustment to your seat post. Start by loosening your seat post clamp, by turning the bolt located in the collar counterclockwise. Then, slide the seat post up or down according to your test in step 2. Make sure to make the adjustment in small increments, because a little can go a long way. Once you’ve made your adjustment, re-tighten the seat post clamp to about 5NM, which is firm but not too tight. When doing this step, it’s important to make sure you keep the seat post straight.
4. Step Four (Checking Saddle Height Again)
Step back on the bike to test another time. If correct, when your heel is on the pedal axle, your knee will be fully extended, but not locked out. If the height is still not correct, repeat steps Two-Three until correct.
5. Step Five (Saddle Angle)
Set your bike up on a flat, and level surface. Now take a step back and notice the angle of your saddle. As a general rule, it should be close to level, and not pointing too far up or down. This will be a micro-adjustment that will be specific to your body and saddle. Start by loosening the saddle rails by locating the clamping mechanism underneath the saddle. Depending on your seat post, these can look quite different from one to another. Next, once the saddle is loose, then you can tilt the saddle nose up or down to make it level. For help, you can use a level to check the angle of your saddle. Before completely tightening the rails, take a step back and check the angle. If it looks good and level, tighten the bolts back to 5NM, and test it out to make sure it’s comfortable. This is an adjustment that will need to be made over a couple of rides to find the right angle.
6. Step Six (Saddle Setback)
When you loosened your saddle, you may have noticed that the saddle was able to slide backward and forwards. This is called the “Setback”. The simple test to see if your setback is correct is to check your knee’s position when your crankarm is at the 3 O’Clock Position. If you can put a vertical stick on the end of your knee, and it will hit the pedal axle, then it is set up correctly. If it’s in front of your pedal, then you need to move your seat backward. Similar to this is the idea that your knees shouldn’t go over your toes when squatting.
7. Step Seven (The Adjustment)
If your setback was adjusted properly, you can skip this step. If it was too far forward or behind, then loosen off the saddle rails again, and move it in the desired direction. Make sure to test the bike after every adjustment.
Adjusting your saddle can be a finicky process. Keep in mind that everyone is different shapes and sizes, so what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. After a ride or two, revisit your adjustments to see if something needs to be tweaked.