The right seat height makes for powerful pedalling

Plumb bob shows knee and ball of foot are in linePower to the pedals: you’ll be most efficient if your seat is the right height and your knees and balls of your feet are in line. Photo: Allison Hanger.

Cycling is all about bio-mechanics. The “bio” part is you. The “mechanical” is how efficiently your muscle power is transferred to your bike.

Efficiency depends on where your legs are in relation to the pedals. And the nicest part about bio-mechanics is that the most efficient set-up is generally the most comfortable.

The most critical part is your saddle because that determines your relationship to the pedals. So you need to check the height, fore and aft position and make sure it’s level.

One of the most common problems you see among recreational cyclists is saddles set too low. It’s possibly because they fear not being able to reach the ground quickly. Trouble is it doesn’t allow the powerful muscles in your thighs to extend far enough so they can’t work efficiently.

What’s the right height? A quick rule of thumb says that with your toe under the pedal at the bottom of the stroke, your knee should just be bent.

You can also calculate the right height which is 96 per cent of your leg length.

Measure your leg length in two sections: from the outward bump on your hip to the middle of your knee, then from your knee to the middle of your ankle.

Add these together and multiply by 0.96. Next add an allowance for the soles of the shoes you wear, usually 5-10mm. Now you’re ready to transfer the measurement to your bike.

Arrange your downward pedal so the crank arm is in line with your seat tube. Measure from the top of your saddle to the top of your pedal. That distance should be the same as the one you just calculated.

Now your height’s right, next thing to check is your saddle’s fore and aft position. First, you need both sit bones comfortably planted in the right place on your saddle.

With your pedal horizontal, the pivot part of your knee should be directly above the ball of your foot, which should be sitting right above the pedal axle. The easiest way to check is by dropping a stringline with a weight at the bottom from your knee. It should hang right next to the pedal axle.

Finally, your saddle should be level. If you have it tilted back or forward to alleviate discomfort, it’s probably because some other part of your set up was wrong. Now the saddle’s in the right place you should find that problem is gone.

See you on the road soon, God willing.


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