How to increase the driver's seat height

This is how you will find the ideal seating position on your MTB

The right setup is essential if you want to get the best out of your bike and have years of fun with and on it. That's why we talked to the professionals at gebioMized. The topic: How do you find the right sitting position?

There are now so many nice updates that you can buy to make your bike faster or lighter - many of us fail to take care of the actual “engine”. Adjusting the saddle perfectly to you is a free way to get more out of your bike and it brings you an incredible amount. It's crazy to imagine that you could have done this wrong all these years!

With the introduction of one of the best achievements to date in mountain biking, many have forgotten the need to adjust the saddle height. If the height can be adjusted at the push of a button, do you really have to take care of it? Yes, you have to! On climbs and on the flat, when you have to put power on the pedals, your saddle just has to fit.

What do I do if my saddle is not the right height?

1. Discomfort - what you notice immediately

If the saddle is too high, it hurts. You will slide back and forth to make up for that. Research in the gebioMized laboratory has shown that a height adjustment of just 5 mm reduces the pressure on the saddle by 15–20%.

2. Knee problems - what lasts a long time

If you sit too high or too low, it goes to your knees, especially the patella (the kneecap). The effort to put power on the pedals is focused on your knee joint.

3. Lower back pain - which makes you gasp like a grandpa

Incorrect saddle height is more likely to cause left-right movement of the hip, which irritates the loin discs.

4. Hamstrings - what makes you waddle like a duck

If you have short tendons, a wrong saddle height leads to tension and even cramps.

At the optimal saddle height, the important gluteus maximus takes over 20-30% of the power transmission when pedaling - if your seat post is only slightly incorrectly adjusted, the muscle tension and movement will be mixed up and you will lose strength.

The message should be clear: the correct saddle and sitting position has to be found. But how does that work best?

The best way to adjust the saddle is to visit a professional bike fitter who will use dynamic knee joint measurements to determine how you should sit. But you probably didn't want to hear that. So we're going to show you a few simple ways to get your saddle right.

Optical notices

There are a few visual clues that tell you whether something is wrong with your saddle height. You have to ask someone to watch your driving position.

  • Sideways sliding on the saddle: Either your saddle is too high or much too low
  • Outstretched foot: Do you straighten your foot to make the pedaling motion round? Your saddle is too high
  • Much of the back of the saddle is visible: your saddle is too high and you compensate for this by sliding forward

The famous "heel rule"

The heel rule will get you on the right track and a lot further, but it doesn't stop there.

What you need:

  • your bike
  • Allen key
  • your bike shoes and pedals
  • a training roll or wall to lean against

Put on your shoes, get on your bike and put your feet on the pedals. Put your heel on the pedals, then turn the crank backwards a few laps. Your leg should be almost straight when you are at the bottom of the crank movement (at 6 o'clock). Now adjust your saddle so that your heel just touches the pedal when it is all the way down.

Now you put your foot “normally” on the pedal. Your knee should now be slightly bent as you turn the crank. You should make sure that you never have to lower your hips. On the first ride, let someone ride behind you to make sure you don't "rock" your hips. If you do that, lower your saddle again a little.

The heel rule impresses with its simplicity, but finding the perfect saddle position is a bit more complicated and variables such as tibia, femur and foot length should be taken into account.

The Holmes Method - now we're getting closer to it

There is more than one formula you can use to determine your saddle height, but we think this is the best.

What you need:

  • a roller trainer or a flat area to ride around and a wall to lean against
  • a goniometer (available from Amazon for about 5 €)
  • colored glue dots or any kind of opaque tape
  • a good buddy

Put your bike on the trainer and pedal for a few minutes until you feel like you are in the right position on the pedals and saddle (or spin around and finally lean against a wall). Now bring one leg down, at 6 o'clock. Now glue the colored dots to 1. the hump on the outside of your ankle, 2. the point on the outside of your knee where it protrudes the furthest and 3. the bump on your hip where the thigh bone attaches. If necessary, you have to feel the different points, hence the buddy.

Now place the goniometer on your knee so that its center is on the marking. Your thighs should point in the direction of the markings on your ankle and hip. Now read the angle from the goniometer with your leg extended.
For optimum comfort and strength, the value should be between 25 and 30 °. Adjust the saddle higher or lower until you have a corresponding value. If the difference from your normal position is greater, it will feel rather strange for a while. But once you get used to it, you will notice the increase in strength and performance.

For this article, we worked with Lotte Kraus, a physiotherapist and biomechanics specialist at gebioMized, a provider of bike fitting and analysis. Lotte is responsible for the International School on Cycling Optimization (ISCO) at gebioMized, which trains bike fitters from the USA, Europe and Asia. As a bike analyst, Lotte is currently working with the World Tour Team Cervelo Bigla and top athletes like André Greipel. So she knows what she's talking about.

You can find more information about gebioMized in these blog posts on estimated saddle height and the relationship between saddle height and power transmission.

Text: Catherine Smith, Lotte Kraus Photos: Trevor Worsey