Adjusting your saddle height (MTB & Hybrid bikes)

Watch as Paul and Rosie demonstrate how to set the correct saddle height on a flat handle bar bike (and what happens when it is too high or too low).

Video Transcript

Adjusting your saddle height (MTB & Hybrid bikes)

Hello, and welcome to this tutorial. And what we’re going to do today is we’re going to show you how to adjust your saddle height to an appropriate height. So you’re going to get the maximum amount of efficiency, leg extension but not overextending. So to make it uncomfortable. How am I going to do this today? Well, very simply, I want to introduce my wife, Rosie, who is going to be my able assistant.


Okay, so this video is appropriate for any type of flat handlebar bike. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a hardtail mountain bike, which is a mountain bike with no rear suspension (so that suspension system won’t be there) and also for hybrid bikes, commuter bikes, dual sport bikes, all those things. That’s no problem at all.


The reason why today we’re using the full suspension mountain bike is that we want to show folk who have full suspension mountain bikes, what position they need to have that rear suspension shock in. And also, if a bike is fitted with a dropper seat post, the position the dropper seat post needs to be in and so that is the only reason why we’re using a full suspension mountain bike in this particular video. So, hope that all makes sense. We’ll run our jingle now and see you on the other side.


Right so there’s a few things that we need to do first of all to before we start sorting out the saddle height. Now the first thing again, if it is a full suspension style bike, you need to make sure that the rear shock is in its firmest or climb position.


[Now I’ve done other videos on setting up your full suspension bike, and also the “trail adjust” positions that are available on your rear shock as well. So please watch those if you’re unsure. If you already know, obviously make sure that your suspension is set up correctly and it is in the climb position.]


The other thing is, is that if your bike is fitted with a dropper seat post, you must make sure that the dropper post is in its fully raised position. So those are the key things that we need to understand about the setup on a full suspension bike. Obviously on hardtail mountain bike hybrid bike dual sport that’s got a fixed seat post and no rear suspension, you don’t have to worry about that bit.


Next thing is whichever type of pedal system that you’re using, so in this instance Rosie’s using a flat mountain bike shoe with a flat paddle. So you’ll see that the ball of the foot is going to be positioned onto the pedal and that is going to be our data for setting up subtle height.


If you are clipped in, so you use a clipping shoe system, you obviously need to make sure that the cleats on your shoes are adjusted correctly. And then when we’re just about to adjust the saddle height, make sure you’re clipped into the pedals. So those are the only things that you just need to understand the principles first, and then I’m going to get Rosie back. I’m going to show you whether a saddle height is too low, where a saddle height is too high. And what we’re looking for an optimal saddle height and where your crank arm position, which is this part needs to be to determine your maximum leg extension. So those are the things that we’re going to do just now with Rosie


Right, so we’ve got Rosie on the bike now, and what we’re going to do is show you at the moment the saddle is too low for Rosie and what you hear and hopefully the microphone will pick this up and you’ll be able to see it by Rosie’s foot action is as she goes over the top of the pedal stroke, you’ll hear a sharp acceleration backwards, so we’ll just do that now.


So why are we hearing that sharp acceleration as Rosie’s getting to the top of a pedal stroke. The reason being is when the saddle is too low, and Rosie’s foot is coming up towards the top of the pedal stroke, Rosie’s running out of hip flexion here and that, going over the top, starts to accelerate. So, if your saddle is too low, what will basically happen is now if you took it to go in forwards in your normal pedalling, when you get to the top of the pedal stroke, you will run out of hip flexion. And you’re fighting your own hip muscles to go over the top of the pedal stroke. And that is why you see people cycling along almost as if, if you looked at them from the back, almost as if their knees are out to the side. And the reason being is, is that they run out of hip flexion going over the top of the pedal stroke, so then the hip rotator will move the leg out to allow the leg to carry on round it’s pedal stroke. And this is one of the reasons why you see people riding down the road with the knees out because the saddles are way too low.


What’s also important that a lot of people don’t understand is where your maximum leg extension is around the pedal stroke. A lot of people believe that it’s when the pedal stroke is absolutely vertical. It’s not. Your maximum leg extension is when the crank arm is in line with the seat post angle. So that’s when the greater trochanter which is the centre of the hip socket is at the furthest distance from the pedal spindle. So it’s really important to understand where your maximum leg extension is around the bottom of the pedal stroke. So that’s the first thing. So that’s the saddle too low.


What are we looking for when the saddle is at the correct height? Well, if Rosie comes round to the three and nine position stand up, and we’re going to raise the dropper post. That’s the handy thing here about having a dropper seat post. What we’re now going to do is get Rosie to paddle backwards again. Now we can hear the pedal stroke. is a lot smoother going all the way around the pedal stroke. And if we just keep going to the maximum leg extension, we can now see that Rosie has got a much better leg extension now -it’s not straight, it’s not locked out because we don’t want to do that either. But there is a nice kink to the leg. We’re not over stretching the muscles on the backs of the hamstring and the calf and we’re not overstretching the IT band which runs down here and could then start pulling the knee out. So we’re going to demonstrate when a leg is overextended as well. And the other thing that you’ll find when you’re overextended is that you’ll get a massive saddle discomfort as well.


So that’s what’s really important. Hopefully you can see there. If we just drop the saddle height down again, Rosie, that’s it. So that’s gone all the way down. We can then go to the maximum leg extension, which is here and you can see the saddle height is the leg extension is just no leg extension that there’s going to be no performance, no efficiency whatsoever so if we now rise back up to the top again. And we can now see that we’ve got a reasonable leg extension. And that’s going to give Rosie optimal riding position.


Now, the negative of this, you’ll see that Rosie physically can’t touch the floor. Okay? That is normal.


Okay, so, a lot of people think that and that’s why a lot of people ride around with saddle heights that are way too low. Because from a confidence perspective, which we totally get the people when they’re setting the saddle height, they set them very low, simply purely because they want to ride with an ability to be able to put the feet down.


Now the problem is, is that if we drop the saddle height, so now Rosie can now put her foot down – Okay, so Rosie’s now got a foot down on the floor. The problem is now his foot back upon the pedal,we now have a leg extension that is just way too low. Okay, and up again, whereas now, obviously can’t put our feet down, but we’ve got a much better leg extension.


So when you come to a stop, obviously on the dropper post you want to make sure that we drop the seat post so you can put your feet down. But if you’ve got a fixed seat post, what you’ll have to learn to do is to bring your bum forward, stand over the top tube. And then when you’re ready to go again, what you do is you bring your foot up to a push off position, we release the brakes and on to the saddle. And we’d start pedalling again.


So that is the correct way of starting and stopping on your on your bike with the correct saddle height. Okay, so what we’ve done now is we’ve seen what it’s like when the saddle is too low. We’ve seen what it’s like when the subtle is at the correct height. Now what we’re going to do is we’re going to see what it’s like when you are overextending.


So, what I’ve done, you might be able to just see this masking tape, just here. And the bottom of the masking tape was Rosie saddle height. And now I’ve lifted it by about a centimetre and a half higher than what it was before. So what we’ll do is we’ll get Rosie back on the bike now, so you can actually see what her leg looks like going around the pedal stroke again.


Okay, so that’s Rosie back on the bike now. And I’ve got to be honest, she’s not happy. So, Rosie if you just go down to your maximum leg extension please. Okay, so now you can see how Rosie’s leg is virtually locked out. She’s having to be properly on her toes so lifted her heel up to try and get any form of respite there at all. But Rosie is now pitching her hip off the side of the saddle to reach down to that leg extension.


So, Rosie, do you have a lot more pressure in the saddle? Yes. So Rosie is now feeling if Rosie now goes around the pedal stroke. What’s happening is that you can probably see from her face, Rosie is basically, her pelvis is pitching side to side to try and reach down to that leg extension. And it is not comfortable. And you can now hear that the acceleration is at the bottom of the pedal stroke now not at the top of the pedal stroke, because we’re reaching a maximum extension.


So that’s why it’s critical, that’s only a centimetre, but you can drop your settle down a little bit there, Rosie, that’s a perfect – take the pressure off. So that’s why it’s important. If your saddle is too low, you’re not going to get an efficient pedal stroke and we’re going to run out of hip flexion.


If your saddle is too high, you’re going to be overextending, you’re going to be causing damage and it’s going to be very uncomfortable in the saddle. Get the saddle height just right and we’re going to have a really nice smooth efficient pedal stroke.


So hopefully that was helpful. Again, if you’ve got any more questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. But hopefully that’ll just give you a good idea of how to get your subtle height set.


Thanks so much for watching.