The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

General bike chat that does not fit elsewhere
skygod49
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The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby skygod49 » Sun Jan 06, 2013 23:18 pm

I don't consider myself a beginner but I'm by no means an expert. I've cycled road and mountain bike all my adult life and I enjoy the detail in squeezing as much bike as I can out of my budget and as much speed as I can out of my (ageing) body!

I have always been sceptical of "bike fit" specialists but have read more and more about the revelation they have provided some folk. I have decided to enter the world of "marginal gains"....

After conducting the 109% method for saddle height, my results have concerned me slightly. I have measured my saddle height at 795 mm. According to the 109% method it should be 766 mm.

As a relative sceptic to this area of cycling, if the difference had been millimetres I'd have carried on as before but this seems a margin of "error" worthy of the considered opinion and experience on this forum!

Please give your opinions with test cases or based on experience and I'll absorb it all fully!!

Thank you.

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BikeSwan
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby BikeSwan » Mon Jan 07, 2013 00:30 am

I fiddled around with saddle height on my MTB for ages. Eventually I just settled on the height that "felt" the best, and made me ride the fastest, which luckily for me was the same height for both! My saddle is a good 2.5 inches higher than what the 109% rule says I should be riding. Ride the height that feels comfortable, fast, and efficient. It's always good to get a fitting to see what they say, and then play around with height from there.

skygod49
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby skygod49 » Mon Jan 07, 2013 06:08 am

Thanks for your thoughts BikeSwan, great collection of bikes too!!

Anyone used a geniometer to achieve the 25 degree knee bend and subsequently found a significant change in saddle height?

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diy
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby diy » Mon Jan 07, 2013 07:22 am

Loads of roadies comment that my seat looks too high for me, but it just doesn't feel right any lower. My MTB seat is actually higher than my road bike seat. But that is probably BB height differences, when the suspension is unloaded.

I'd say as long as your hips are not having to move to get the pedal reach, then its probably OK.

I set my seat correctly and I felt I was losing too much power. However, it did push me to go with a smoother stroke, so maybe the body fit stats are right, but it needs a different technique to make it work.

HiDidleyHi
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby HiDidleyHi » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:04 am

I found the saddle height article on the blog here http://www.bikedynamics.co.uk/blog/ quite informative. The formula seems to work quite well for me. You need to go down the page a bit to find the right bit

Danlikesbikes
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby Danlikesbikes » Mon Jan 07, 2013 13:02 pm

skygod49 wrote:Thanks for your thoughts BikeSwan, great collection of bikes too!!

Anyone used a geniometer to achieve the 25 degree knee bend and subsequently found a significant change in saddle height?



Yes thought my saddle was high enough already but might need to adjust fore/aft of saddle, however quick check in my LBS and we moved the saddle up by 2.5cm & made a massive difference to my setup. It did take a few weeks to get used to as my hips needed some time to adjust but it was worth making the change as it feels much more "fluid" (only word I can find) when I pedal now.
Pain hurts much less if its topped off with beating your mates to top of a climb.

skygod49
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby skygod49 » Mon Jan 07, 2013 15:25 pm

Thanks all, the spread of answers confirms what I thought initially, that no single method suits everyone!!

None of which helps!

DrDavros
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby DrDavros » Mon Jan 07, 2013 16:29 pm

FWIW, I found this very helpful

http://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/blo ... can-it-be/

As I result, I lowered my saddle by more than 2cm a while ago (far lower than suggested by various formulae and old wives tales), resulting in a marked improvement in comfort and an end to years of knee issues.

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cyberknight
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby cyberknight » Mon Jan 07, 2013 18:00 pm

DrDavros wrote:FWIW, I found this very helpful

http://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/blo ... can-it-be/

As I result, I lowered my saddle by more than 2cm a while ago (far lower than suggested by various formulae and old wives tales), resulting in a marked improvement in comfort and an end to years of knee issues.

Interestingly enough his formula comes to within 1 of a mm of what i use which is inseam x.889 for seat height from BB.
FCN 3/5/9

rsands
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby rsands » Mon Jan 07, 2013 18:46 pm

main thing is its not forcing you to peddle toe down too much and rocking your hips. Some people have toe down naturally but my seat was too high...which was forcing me to pedal toe down....over use, over stretch on the pedal stroke and bam there goes my IT band, bursitis, etc,etc..been out for a bit. Back on bike and now its sorted the muscles that were compensating are now sore! As you can find on google better being a mm or two too low than too high and causing bad injury.

I have lowered around 6-8mm, may not sound alot but that has allowed me to pedal alot less toe down, feels smoother seated on the climb, and my hips feel solid - can also ride free handed again comfortably (rocking hips was causing wobble)

You should have a slight bend at extension - but as mentioned there is no one formula suits all.

Critch
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby Critch » Mon Jan 07, 2013 20:05 pm

skygod49 wrote:Thanks for your thoughts BikeSwan, great collection of bikes too!!

Anyone used a geniometer to achieve the 25 degree knee bend and subsequently found a significant change in saddle height?


I bought a goniometer a while ago from Aamazon UK for £11 to check and tailor my seat height. My seat height felt right, and on measuring the angle it was actually spot on the recommended 25 degrees. Oh well :)

jouxplan
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby jouxplan » Mon Jan 07, 2013 20:07 pm

A subject close to my heart! I have seen around half a dozen bike fitters in UK, and then eventually flew out to Colorado USA to see one. Why so many and why spend so much money getting to a bloke in USA? Six years ago I started having problems with my right leg - my ankle was not comfortable and I was getting no power in the pedal stroke. I hoped bike fitters could help me.

Before I ever visited a fitter, my saddle height was 726mm, and it had been like that for 20 years. I used to race, and I regularly went and played in the French Alps - I was a good climber and loved it. Losing all that 6 years ago was horrible. The first bike fitter used a gnoimeter thingy and video capture and set my position up so that I 'conformed' to his formulae. My saddle went up to a huge 746mm. It felt great for a week or two, and then it felt worse and worse. I suspect now it injured me more.

I saw other bike fitters. They all had slightly different approaches, but one common theme - what knee angle did I have when pedalling, and how should we adjust position to 'conform' to the formulae of that particular bike fitter. Whilst the subsequent fitters gradually reduced my saddle height, it still remained high at over 730mm. This included the state-of-the-art chap I saw in USA. Things improved a little, but I still felt like I was riding one legged.

Last year I nearly gave up cycling - I was so unhappy and uncomfortable on the bike. Then I discovered an article on the web about saddle height by Australian bike fitter Steve Hogg - I see one of the posters above has already given you the relevant link. That article blew my mind and changed the way I thought about saddle height and bike set up generally. I began to apply the Steve Hogg principals - the most significant being to lower my saddle further and further. I ended up at 715mm! But this felt AMAZING. Suddenly I was fluid throughout the pedal stroke and powerful and climbing like a beast. I cannot tell you how happy this made me.

I soon learned that Steve Hogg endorses a bike fitter here in UK, at The Bike Whisperer in London. I went to see him. It was wholly different to all the other bike fits I had been through. No formulae, just using his eyes and his experience. He tweaked my position, but in essence, I had applied the Steve Hogg website info correctly.

My advice, for what it is worth, is this - do not use gnoimeters or knee angle formuale or any formulae especially the 109% thing. Do not use bike fitters that use a formulaic approach. Use people who use their eyes and experience. Avoid fitters who rely on video capture and so on, unless they are prepared to ignore it and use their common sense.

I hear good things about Adrian Timmis, but I have not used him. The Bike Whisperer is brilliant.

I am currently having a great winter on the bike and will be going back to Mount Ventoux in July to do the thing properly - I was ashamed of my one legged 1'59 two years ago, and the way I am going right now, I am certain I will knock 15 to 20 minutes off my time, and barely be out of breath :D All because I lowered the saddle!

Best of luck!
Trek Project One Series 6 Madone 2010
Trek Madone 5.9 2006
Trek Madone 5.2 2004
Cougar Custom 1995
Viscount Aerospace 1982
Some mountain bikes gathering dust

skygod49
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby skygod49 » Mon Jan 07, 2013 20:56 pm

This is fascinating stuff, I am more convinced now than ever before that saddle height is the jewel in the crown for bike set up, but it is sooooo person specific.

I'm off to follow the link to Steve Hogg......

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Raffles
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby Raffles » Mon Jan 07, 2013 22:22 pm

Im real glad I read this thread.

There are so many variables when it comes to a good bike fitting and there is such a degree of variance amongst fitters that it can make the entire process a walk in the dark. Like so many riders Id love to be dialled in for my bike to perfection and I had considered Retul. For every rider singing Retul praise I stumbled across others who shelled out the £170 and it was useless :shock: . Now if the state of the art Retul has a high degree of inconsistency amongst users, what is the one man operation in his shop going to be like :o

I am firmly of the opinion that the best fit comes from a fitter who uses his eyes and has gut feeling for what is right and is going to yield long time satisfaction for the customer. The guy who spends his time focussing on computer programs and basing his judgment on what the computer tells him is probably the type of guy I wouldnt want to use for a fit. There is no substitute for experience and I think an experienced eye will get better results that data spouted out from a computer program.
2012 Cannondale CAAD 8 105

skygod49
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby skygod49 » Mon Jan 07, 2013 22:34 pm

Raffles wrote:Im real glad I read this thread.

There are so many variables when it comes to a good bike fitting and there is such a degree of variance amongst fitters that it can make the entire process a walk in the dark. Like so many riders Id love to be dialled in for my bike to perfection and I had considered Retul. For every rider singing Retul praise I stumbled across others who shelled out the £170 and it was useless :shock: . Now if the state of the art Retul has a high degree of inconsistency amongst users, what is the one man operation in his shop going to be like :o

I am firmly of the opinion that the best fit comes from a fitter who uses his eyes and has gut feeling for what is right and is going to yield long time satisfaction for the customer. The guy who spends his time focussing on computer programs and basing his judgment on what the computer tells him is probably the type of guy I wouldnt want to use for a fit. There is no substitute for experience and I think an experienced eye will get better results that data spouted out from a computer program.


You need to get onto Steve Hogg Bikefitting webpage Raffles, enlightment awaits if you read through it all.....

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Raffles
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby Raffles » Mon Jan 07, 2013 22:55 pm

skygod49 wrote:
Raffles wrote:Im real glad I read this thread.

There are so many variables when it comes to a good bike fitting and there is such a degree of variance amongst fitters that it can make the entire process a walk in the dark. Like so many riders Id love to be dialled in for my bike to perfection and I had considered Retul. For every rider singing Retul praise I stumbled across others who shelled out the £170 and it was useless :shock: . Now if the state of the art Retul has a high degree of inconsistency amongst users, what is the one man operation in his shop going to be like :o

I am firmly of the opinion that the best fit comes from a fitter who uses his eyes and has gut feeling for what is right and is going to yield long time satisfaction for the customer. The guy who spends his time focussing on computer programs and basing his judgment on what the computer tells him is probably the type of guy I wouldnt want to use for a fit. There is no substitute for experience and I think an experienced eye will get better results than data spouted out from a computer program.






You need to get onto Steve Hogg Bikefitting webpage Raffles, enlightment awaits if you read through it all.....





Agreed.................I will do just that
2012 Cannondale CAAD 8 105

neeb
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby neeb » Tue Jan 08, 2013 09:22 am

Biggest problem I have is measuring and replicating saddle height. Modern saddles (my toupes at least) have a curved profile on top. The tiniest change in saddle angle will alter the height of the back part of the saddle (where your sitbones go) quite significantly. At my last bike fit they told me to measure from the centre of the BB to a straight edge placed crossways across the exact midpoint of the saddle, but of course different saddle angles can have the same measurement with this method but quite different heights at the back, and even individual saddles of the same brand and model can differ slightly in their profile. If you always have your saddle completely level (i.e. a straight edge placed back to front across the saddle is level) it's easier of course, but I find I fit my toupe best if the rear is just slightly higher than the front.

What I'm trying to do now is pick a point on the rear of the saddle and measure to that, but it's quite tricky to isolate a single point that has a consistent relationship to the overall height of the rear part of the saddle in different examples of the same model.

And then there is the problem of how you adjust to changes in foot stack height, e.g. if I remove a 4mm thick foam insole, how much should I lower my saddle by? How much does the foam compress when it is under pressure?

Yes, I have a slightly obsessive personality... :wink: Don't ask me about trying to measure saddle setback and my interminable search for a completely flat piece of floor...

Incidentally, at my last bike fit the guy used all of the tools, but the end result was based on personal judgement. My recommended knee angle at extension is actually 44 degrees, which is quite a bit outside the standard textbook range and in line with the slightly lower heights mentioned above by others. Seems to work for me.

jouxplan
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby jouxplan » Tue Jan 08, 2013 09:58 am

neeb wrote:Biggest problem I have is measuring and replicating saddle height. Modern saddles (my toupes at least) have a curved profile on top. The tiniest change in saddle angle will alter the height of the back part of the saddle (where your sitbones go) quite significantly.
What I'm trying to do now is pick a point on the rear of the saddle and measure to that, but it's quite tricky to isolate a single point that has a consistent relationship to the overall height of the rear part of the saddle in different examples of the same model.

And then there is the problem of how you adjust to changes in foot stack height, e.g. if I remove a 4mm thick foam insole, how much should I lower my saddle by? How much does the foam compress when it is under pressure?

Yes, I have a slightly obsessive personality... :wink: Don't ask me about trying to measure saddle setback and my interminable search for a completely flat piece of floor...


Ha! Ha! You are not alone in your obsession! I have gone through all the same issues during my quest to achieve a great bike fit -

Saddles - if you have more than one bike, I thoroughly recommend getting relica saddles on every bike you use. It is potentially costly, but will save you endless aggravation. Curved saddles are indeed hell on earth to set up. I now use very curvy SMP saddles, and I'll be dammned if I can measure the height properly. What I have done is this: once the height is correct (in my case, The Bike Whisperer set it up), I then measured from bottom bracket to the centre of the bolt connectiong the saddle clamp bolt. This can be done to within a millimetre, and is very repeatable - allowing you to do the same thing on other bikes.

Saddle angle - I have found that there is no alternative but to invest in a digital spirit level. Cost £100! But damn me, it works. But only if you place the bike on a level surface in the first place! I put my bike on a turbo trainer, then measure between wheel axels with a long spirit level. Use paper / cardboard to shim wheels until it is dead flat. Then, and only then, use the digital spirit level on the saddle. Once you have a saddle angle you get on with, record the angle following above procedure, and then hey presto, it is repeatable across bikes. My SMP's require strange angles - nose points down by 3 degrees. I have noticed that I don't like 2.8 degrees or 3.2 degrees, a difference which is not visible - so I think the investment is well worth it.

Shims in shoes - this is a real pain. My right foot is such a mess that it has 7mm of shim between cleat and pedal (I am on Speedplays). This messes with saddle height, and has made me very aware of how shimming affects saddle height. For me, the issue is to get saddle height set for my functional left leg, and then all is well. Your question is more about equal shims in both feet - ie thicker insoles. Same principal applies - if you think your insole is say 3mm thicker than the old one, then you must RAISE the saddle by 3mm to achieve the same saddle height.

Something which I think many people may overlook - in winter, we all use thicker socks and thicker shorts / bibtights or perhaps two pairs of shorts (I use bibtights and then shorts on top, and lower saddle by 4mm). Your butt will be 3 to 5mm higher in relation to the pedals! So if things feel weird in winter, they probably are - lower the saddle by the amount of extra padding you think you are packing!

Compression of the insole :D For many people, this will not matter too much provided it is 2mm or less. But for people like me with dodgy ankles and millimetre critical shim heights, it is important! So you are not necessarily being obsessive :oops:

Saddle set back - this is horribly difficult to meaure. Steve Hogg sets out how to do it on his site. Get the bike flat as per saddle angle measurement. Use a spirit level to create a vertical line through bottom bracket. Use another short metal rule to measure distance from saddle nose (curved or otherwise) to the spirit level. beware parralax (get your eyes in the right place). Repeat measurement three times. You should be able to get within 3mm or so like this. With practice, about 1mm. You need to be obsessive as hell to get this right - good luck :D

Hope this helps
Trek Project One Series 6 Madone 2010
Trek Madone 5.9 2006
Trek Madone 5.2 2004
Cougar Custom 1995
Viscount Aerospace 1982
Some mountain bikes gathering dust

mamba80
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby mamba80 » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:37 am

Surely though as we all move about on the saddle, ride on flats, hoods and drops, let alone stand up, then all these millimeter precise measurements go out the window?
How about muscle fatigue on long hard rides, altering how you sit on the bike?
what about early morning rides, before your spine has compressed and you r a cm or 2 taller?
Saddle sag on a hot day compared to a cold day, weight loss - less fat on your butt = raise height to compensate?
Perhaps to much Analysis leads to Paralysis ?

jouxplan
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Re: The Endless Saddle Height debate.....

Postby jouxplan » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:55 am

mamba80 wrote:Surely though as we all move about on the saddle, ride on flats, hoods and drops, let alone stand up, then all these millimeter precise measurements go out the window?
How about muscle fatigue on long hard rides, altering how you sit on the bike?
what about early morning rides, before your spine has compressed and you r a cm or 2 taller?
Saddle sag on a hot day compared to a cold day, weight loss - less fat on your butt = raise height to compensate?
Perhaps to much Analysis leads to Paralysis ?


:D

For many people, your comments are reasonable. But for people with issues such as leg length discrepencies, dodgy ankles, poor posture etc, or people who are very keen to get super comfortable and smooth and powerful on the bike, all this analysis can be very worthwhile.

Most people will not notice much if they are 3mm to 5mm out of 'perfection'. Some of us do. I now know I am one of them.

Hand position on bars changes centre of gravity and things, and provided you have your cleats in the right position on the shoe, everything remains equally smooth in the pedal stroke whether on drops or tops. Muscle fatigue - if your position is right in the first place, this is minimised. Not sure about the spine compression thing in the morning - I think you are having a laugh now :D though I admit I see the logic.

Saddle sag and weight loss - good idea. I must remember to raise my saddle by 0.5mm every 30 minutes of ride time!
Trek Project One Series 6 Madone 2010
Trek Madone 5.9 2006
Trek Madone 5.2 2004
Cougar Custom 1995
Viscount Aerospace 1982
Some mountain bikes gathering dust


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