How should I set my saddle height?

Properly setting your saddle height is essential for efficient and comfortable cycling, whether based on measurements from a previous bike or personal adjustment to align with your hip bone and ensure a slight knee bend.

Last Updated: March 11, 2022

Before you head out the door for your first bike ride, setting the saddle to the proper height is one of the most important things you need to do! When set at the correct height, you’ll get more efficiency out of every pedal stroke, deliver more power through the cranks, and get the most out of every effort. Not only that, but it’ll be easier on your joints, and you’ll be far more comfortable, especially on longer days in the saddle. Setting it up incorrectly, can lead to knee pain, wasted energy, and unnecessary discomfort. 

The simplest way to set your saddle height is to take some measurements from your current bike and apply them to your new bike. The key measurement here is from the center of the BB (bottom bracket) to the top of your seat, which should be taken in a straight line (see figure below). The other thing to take into account is the crank arm length. If your new bike and old bike have the same crank arm length, you’re all good. However, if your new bike has a different crank arm length, you may need to add or subtract a few millimeters, depending upon the direction of the variance, to get the exact height. This will, at the very least, provide you a great baseline from which to make finer adjustments. 

If, however, you don’t have a bike from which to gather said measurements, try this method: stand next to the bike and raise the saddle until it is just about even with your hip bone. Then, put on your riding shoes (this WILL make a difference) and get on your bike. It’s preferred to have a counter or wall nearby that you can lean against for some stability, so that you can sit in your riding position with your feet on the pedals. Hop on the bike with your HEEL on the pedal, and pedal backwards slowly. If the saddle is too high, you won't be able to do this without your hips rocking during the movement. If it’s too low, you won’t be able to execute the motion smoothly. Ideally, when your heel is on the pedal and you’re on the bike, your leg will be fully extended at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and your hips will not rock while executing the movement. This will result in a slight bend at the knee when your feet are fully on the pedals. 

With your foot on the pedal as you would be riding, you should observe a gentle bend in the knee. Make sure it’s comfortable and that you aren’t rocking. 

These methods should provide you with a great starting point for setting saddle height, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. If, after trying various heights and positions, you are experiencing knee pain or other discomfort, it’s always a good idea to visit your local shop for assistance in addressing these issues. After all, that’s what they’re there for!

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