In the past few years, we've seen a trend toward lower saddle heights for riders. The irony is that just two years ago, the opposite was true; a lot of riders were running their saddles slightly high. Our theory is that these trends stem from riders analyzing the pro's bikes in magazines, websites and during televised race coverage. Obviously if the pro's are doing it, it must be correct, right? Here's the thing: they're pro's. Most of us are not. They have superb pedaling form and technique, refined (often with the assistance of professional coaches and trainers) over years, possibly even decades, of riding. Most of us do not. When we discuss the merits of saddle height with our customers, we typically mention a few key points: First, correctly fitting a rider is not as simple as slightly raising or lowering their saddle height. Second, saddle height is typically (and often incorrectly) determined by the amount of "bend" in the rider's knee at the bottom (6 o'clock position) of the pedal stroke. Our SpinScan™ analysis often shows that the characteristics and efficiency of the rider's spin—mapping their particular "dead spots" in the pedal stroke—also factors in to saddle height calculations. Obviously, if the rider pedals with their heels low, the bend of the knee is different than if they pedal with their heels high. If the pedaling form is incorrect, the saddle height becomes irrelevant to a certain degree. When saddle height is lowered, it also affects the set-back measurement on the saddle, the angle of the knee relative to the pedal and the reach to the handlebars. These changes can dramatically affect power production and create additional dead spots in the rider's pedal stroke.
Here are basic rules of thumb regarding saddle height:
Product more power on average
Minimize the dead spot at the top of pedal stroke (between 11 and 2 o'clock)
Make it more difficult to "pull" through the bottom of the stroke (between 5 and 7 o'clock)
Can close the hip angle if the bars aren't adjusted accordingly
Allow for a better spin
Make it more difficult to "push" through the top of the pedal stroke (between 11 and 2 o'clock)
Make it easier to pull through the bottom of the pedal stroke (between 5 and 7 o'clock)
Open the hip angle (assuming no change in bar height)
This is just a quick overview on saddle height and the myriad of things that it affects. It's never just a matter of raise this or lower that. Saddle positioning needs to be considered as a component of a holistic fit, not something to be changed without first considering the other physiological implications. Thanks for reading. As always, if you have questions regarding fit or wish to talk to someone about specific changes you're considering, please give us a call at (323) 418-2726 or stop by our facility in Canoga Park, CA. We'd be happy to help!