As a bicycle enthusiast, you must be well versed in the different bike terminologies and their importance in your biking experience. Every part of a bike such as the bike frame and the seat height has its significance and the proper measurements make the cycling experience worthwhile.
To ensure the bike is at the right height, measure the bike’s spine from top to bottom and then multiply that number by 0.883 and subtract by 4. This is the accurate height of your bike. You need to take the measurements along the seat tube from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat.
A proper bike seat height is crucial for maximizing your comfort. You need to be able to ride in a relaxed manner and not one where the bike itself is preventing you from doing your best.
Let’s find out more about the right seat height and how it can affect your riding experience.
How to Measure Your Bike’s Saddle Height?
To evaluate the height of your saddle:
- Measure your saddle from the front and back to determine a midpoint.
- Mark this point to make it visible. You can use a sharpie for this.
- Align your tape at the center of your saddle and measure in a straight line to the center of your bottom bracket.
- Lastly, take your readings in millimeters.
And just like that, you’ll have successfully measured your saddle height.
The most basic measurement you must know of is saddle height. Your saddle height is what determines what is a good or bad seat position. How comfortable or irritating the bike feels depends on the saddle’s height.
There’s more than one way to measure it but for the sake of ease, I’ll talk about the simplest one. All you need is a measuring tape or a smartphone.
Before getting into the measurements, it’s always good to document your starting position.
What this will do is show a clear indication of any difference or when the changes don’t suit you; you can go right back to the start. This also eliminates saddle-specific features. So now you only have to measure the saddle and no other difference.
» I have covered more on this subject in this blog post: What Bike Size to Get? (Size Charts & Bike Sizing Guide!)
How to Determine the Saddle Fore/Aft Position?
Measuring the saddle height was just the first step in the 3 step measurement. After you’ve accurately noted down the readings for the saddle height, next comes the saddle fore position.
- To measure the saddle fore position, place your bike against a wall; to give support. How you do it doesn’t matter as long as the bike is vertically perpendicular to the floor and horizontally perpendicular to the wall.
- For the aft position, you’ll need 2 measurements, so for measurement number 1 measure along the bottom bracket to the wall.
- Measurement 2 goes from the wall to the tip of the saddle.
- Now deduct measurement 1 with 2 and get your next value.
After determining the saddle fore/aft position, you have to determine the saddle tilt. Let’s have a look at that.
How to Determine Saddle Tilt?
This bit is a tricky part, mainly because many seats have contours and deviate from the original reading. Since there’s no possible way to measure the tilt, excluding the slit is the best way to measure the overall tilt.
Now onto finding the tilt:
- Just place a piece of board over the seat.
- Then you can either use your smartphone or an inclinometer for finding the overall seat tilt.
This is usually all there is but as a precaution, it is important to make sure that your bike is upright before measuring. Document it to the nearest 1/10th degree for good measure. Once that’s done, then you’ve got your tilt.
The saddle height, fore position, and tilt are the 3 measurements that determine a good saddle height for you. These 3 values go together in unison and can be looked at separately, too.
» Read my blog post about: Why Bike Seats are Uncomfortable?
Getting the Perfect Saddle Height on Your Bike
You now officially have all 3 necessary measurements; the tilt, height, and fore/aft. These 3 readings are what are going to help you find your perfect saddle height.
The good thing about determining the perfect saddle height is that there are many methods to choose from. You can be as old school as you want and as modern as you like as well.
Methods like the heel or pro methods are all different ways to measure the same thing.
Setting Your Bike Height: The 3 Ways
There are more than 3 ways to determine your bike saddle height but these 3 are by far the most used. Holmes, pro, and the heel methods are the top 3 in saddle height determinants.
Though they may have slight differences in technique, as long as your result is constant, it shouldn’t matter much. Now let’s dig deeper into the 3 different ways.
To perform the heel method, it’s best if your bike is stationary against a wall or door. To begin, hop onto your stationary bike and place your heel on the pedal. This can be done irrespective of the sort of shoes you’re wearing. This is an easy way to set a baseline height.
This may seem irrelevant but you’ll see later on just how useful it can be.
Next, pedal the front and back a bit but slowly. If your saddle is too high, you’ll have issues pedaling smoothly without having to rock your hips. Here you can lower the height by a few until it’s better.
Likewise, if you feel it’s too far down and you’re able to paddle smoothly, then try going up a notch until your feet lightly touch the pedals. With this to-and-fro motion, you can find the perfect sweet spot for you.
For this method, it’s best to consult an expert or better yet call someone experienced over to do it for you. This is because it pays more attention to the positions and placements of your handlebars and seat.
So to use this method just ride on your bike to adjust the fitting of both handlebars and seat. Then see if your body’s comfortable with the change or not.
If it’s a yes then readjust it until your body is more suited to the positions of the handlebars and seat. You should be aware that while doing so, your back and knees should not be constrained.
Lastly, the holmes method is one of the most precise ways to measure the saddle height and adjust it. To do this all you have to do is pay attention to your feet on the bike’s pedal.
While doing this, your knees need to be at a 25-degree angle whilst the pedal is set to the position. If you’ve issues with your knees you can change the angle but 25 is the ideal.
If your knees bend beyond 30 degrees then it’s a strong indicator to lower your saddle.
Using An App to Determine Your Saddle Length
Another equally helpful way to determine your saddle length is by using an app. This is mainly so if you prefer to ride on flat pedals. To do this, you’ll need a stationary trainer so they can make accurate measurements. If you don’t have such a trainer then just grab your smartphone to do the trick.
Go to the app store and purchase any of the lists of free apps they’ve there. I prefer the app Hudl Technique which is quite easy to use. The main purpose of these apps is to create still images for you to evaluate. Then ride your bike a few times while using the app to take pictures.
Since we’re looking for knee bend here, if the tension at the front of the knee is high then the seat is too high. Likewise, if there’s a dull ache on your lower back then it’s too low.
The images help you to track a point where the crank arm is forward horizontal and your knee isn’t restrained.
» You can also read my post: How-To Guide: (Turn a Bicycle Into a Stationary Bike)
How Do I Know If My Bike Seat Is Too Low or Too High?
There are plenty of easy ways to determine this, for example, your heel should barely be able to touch the bottom when your leg is fully extended. If you can touch the ground then your saddle is low.
Similarly, if your seat is too high it’ll result in your hips rocking back and forth. This in turn makes your pedaling less efficient and causes discomfort, too. To determine whether or not your hips rock you can just ask someone to observe you riding from behind.
The rocking of your hips should be easily distinguishable and once confirmed, you can lower your seat until it stops.
How Does Using the Wrong Saddle Affect You?
Having the wrong height adjusted for your bike can have serious repercussions. As I’ve mentioned before, it can even lead to physical discomfort. The first repercussion you’ll face for the wrong height is muscle pain. Specifically, you may have discomfort in your calves and lower back along with an array of other such pains.
Having a good bike seat height allows you to have good posture when biking. Namely, it helps align your back, shoulders, arms, and even legs when biking.
Here’s a more in-depth explanation of the sort of pain resulting from the wrong bike height.
Discomfort To the Calf
Since your legs play a major role in biking, your calf muscles can be severely affected if you ride at the wrong height.
This happens when the seat is too high or too low and you have trouble pedaling with ease. Then, you’ll start to feel pain in your calf area and the muscles around it. This can be detrimental if not taken care of, too.
The wrong seat height makes you put in extra effort in pedaling so conveniently straining your calf muscles and ultimately causing pain and pressure.
Pain In Your Hamstring
Secondly, a badly positioned bike seat can seriously harm your hamstrings as well. This happens in the way that if your bike saddle height is way too low then your thighs can undergo immense pain and discomfort.
This can damage your bones and muscles in the long run. It’s just a stark example of exactly how serious these pains and cramps can get if prolonged.
Pain In Lower Back
Lastly, biking at the wrong saddle height can result in you having horrible lower back pain. If your bike seat is not properly aligned with the handlebars then it’ll be difficult to reach the bars properly.
This way you would put more effort into reaching the bars and simultaneously distress your lower back region from the stretch. This happens as your spinal cord gets stretched beyond its capability and in turn, receives immense strain all caused by adjusting the wrong saddle height.
So, now you know just how severe the wrong saddle height can get for your body and the intense aftereffects it’ll bring; make sure to always set your height to your best fit.
Should Your Feet Touch the Floor On a Bike?
For your ideal bike height, it’s important to note the position of your feet when you fully extend them. In case of the ideal height, your feet should reach the ground and slightly graze the floor beneath. For ideal comfort, the heels of your feet should also touch the ground just enough to feel the floor below but not firmly touch it.
Should Bike Seat Be Higher Than Handlebars?
The position of the handlebar and your saddle determine comfort. As a general rule of biking, your bike’s handlebar should ideally be higher (like a lot higher) than the saddle. This is not important if you want to ride in a more sporty way and go quicker. But, for 100% comfort, your handlebars should be placed a lot higher than the saddle.
Why Do Road Bikes Have High Seats?
Road bikes have seats relatively higher than other bikes because it aids in riding faster and straightening your legs at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Along with this, it also helps in comfort and makes sure that you can ride your bike with ease.
» Read my blog post: Road Bikes Easier To Ride? Learn The Various Bike Properties
Knowing the knick-knacks of your bike, especially those about its height, is of utmost importance. As you probably know by now, one mismatched measurement can cause you serious pain.
To avoid the pain and the struggle, to begin with, isn’t it better to just learn how to measure your saddle height and go accordingly?
I mean, I think that watching a short tutorial or reading this article is far better than having irrevocable back pain. So, would I consider this information important? Only if I want to keep biking.
As long as you and I bike and want to bike, this is one small value that can change your entire experience.