A bicycle saddle at the right height is essential if you want to ride comfortably with an efficient use of energy, and it can help prevent injuries. Fortunately, adjusting a saddle on most bicycles is very easy, with a few simple adjustments your saddle will be in the right position again.
Method 1 of 2: Adjusting the saddle height
Step 1. Understand that the correct height provides comfortable and even pedal strokes
Your saddle is at the right height if you can keep your hips stable on your bike, instead of having to move them up and down to get the pedals right. When your foot is at the lowest point of the pedal, your knee should still be slightly bent, and not completely straight (locked) or bent too much.
- Your knee bend should be about 25 degrees. That feels like standing up in an athletic position -- a slight bend will do.
- If you don't have access to a tape measure, you can use this as a guideline for manually adjusting your saddle height: knee slightly bent, hips straight when riding and pedaling comfortably.
Step 2. Measure your inseam
That's the distance from your crotch to the ground, measured along the inside of your leg. Here's how to get an accurate inseam measurement:
- Hold the spine of a hardback book under your crotch so it feels like you're sitting on a saddle.
- Place your feet 15 cm apart.
- Measure from the spine of the book to the floor. That's your inseam.
- Multiply your inseam by 1.09. The number you now get is the distance in centimeters that there should be between the top of your saddle and the axle of your pedals. For example, if you have an inseam of 74 centimeters, then multiply that by 1.09, the distance between the top of your saddle and the axle of your pedals should be about 81 centimeters.
Step 3. Learn how to adjust your seatpost
Seatposts can be loosened and adjusted where the seatpost enters the frame. If you have a quick release, you can push it open by hand, after which you can adjust the height. If you only see a bolt, you need tools: you can usually loosen the seatpost with an Allen wrench or spanner.
Step 4. Adjust the saddle height to the measured length
Carefully slide the seatpost up or down until the height matches your calculation. It can be useful to make a mark at the correct height, so that you can easily get the seatpost to the correct height after you have borrowed your bike or if the seatpost sinks into the frame.
Step 5. Secure the seatpost
Push the quick release back to secure the seat post, or retighten the bolt securely with your Allen key or spanner. You don't have to tighten it too much, because then it's hard to get it off again. Just tighten it firmly by hand.
Step 6. Check the setting with a test drive
Take your bike to a safe place to test the altitude. You should have easy access to the pedals with your feet, and your knees should not be fully extended. Try standing up while cycling to test if you can get off your saddle easily. Always make sure that your saddle points straight forward, otherwise it will be annoying and uncomfortable.
- Place the ball of your foot on the pedal as you ride. Your knee should be slightly bent (25 degrees) when the pedal is at its lowest position. That is the optimal saddle height.
- If you have clipless pedals, use them on your test ride -- clipless pedals affect how you ride.
- Everyone has a different body -- the measurement of your inseam should be your starting point. Then adjust the height to what feels comfortable.
Step 7. Try to solve any problems by adjusting the saddle slightly higher or lower
If your knees are bothering you, the saddle height is probably the culprit. Depending on where you have pain, there can be different problems. But if the pain doesn't go away after adjusting your saddle, it's better to see your doctor.
- If you feel pain in the back of your knee, your saddle is too high.
- If you feel pain in the front of your knee, your saddle is too low.
- Your hips should feel firm when cycling, they should not move up and down. If you move your hips down with each pedal stroke, your saddle is too high.
Method 2 of 2: Adjust your saddle position
Step 1. Understand that the angle and position of your saddle affects your riding comfort
Your saddle height is not the only factor that matters. For more comfortable cycling and avoiding pain, saddles can be moved forwards or backwards, or the angle can be changed. This is how you test the perfect position of your saddle:
- When cycling, stop pedaling when one pedal is at three o'clock, i.e. as far forward as possible.
- Try to imagine an imaginary line from the front of your knee to the floor.
- This line should run right through the center of your pedal. In other words, your knee should be directly over your pedal when your pedal is at three o'clock.
Step 2. Loosen the bolt under your saddle to adjust the position forward or back
At the back of the saddle is a small bolt with which the position of the saddle can be adjusted. By means of the bolt a bracket is attached to two small metal pipes with which the saddle is held in place. By loosening this bolt (counterclockwise) the pressure on the bracket is reduced and the saddle can be adjusted.
Step 3. Make sure the saddle is set back far enough for you to cycle properly
You should have easy access to your handles, and your knee should be directly over your foot when the pedal is as far forward as possible (3 o'clock). You can test this well by standing up when cycling. With your saddle in the right position, you should be able to get up easily, without having to pull or push on your handlebars. Shift your saddle forward or back if any of the following problems occur:
- Your saddle is too far back if you find it difficult to stand, if your handlebars are too far away or if you no longer have feeling in your fingers.
- Your saddle is too far forward if you can't comfortably ride downhill or if your shoulders start to hurt.
Step 4. Make sure your saddle is straight
Use a spirit level to check that your saddle is completely flat -- that way you will distribute your weight evenly as you ride. If your crotch is bothering you, you can always adjust the angle slightly, but never more than three degrees in either direction.
- Women often tilt their saddle slightly forward for more comfort.
- Men often tilt their saddles slightly back for more comfort.
Step 5. Loosen the bolts on the side of your saddle to adjust the angle of the saddle
This bolt, which is usually on the right side of the saddle, allows you to adjust the angle of the saddle and tighten it again. Some older saddles have two bolts under your saddle, one for the seatpost and one behind, both of which need to be loosened to adjust the angle. You have to tighten one side to get this side higher, while loosening the other side, kind of like a seesaw.
Never make major adjustments to your saddle angle. Check your saddle height and forward position first, then adjust your saddle angle if necessary
- If the saddle is too low, cycling is very tiring. If your saddle is too high, you'll have to stretch your legs too far and move your hips too much, which can lead to injury.
- When making the adjustments, wear the shoes you normally ride with.
- Bicycle frames come in all shapes and sizes, and that affects your seating position and riding comfort. The bike shop can help you choose the right bike and adjust the bike for you.
- At the bike shop they are happy to help you find a suitable bike, but you can also have your current bike adjusted better.
- Make sure your bike saddle is pointed straight forward when making the adjustments, not turned to the right or left.
- Always check your bike before riding.
- Cycling on a poorly adjusted bicycle can lead to injuries.
- Never put your seatpost higher than the maximum height, this height should be marked on the seatpost.