Avoid Pain and Discomfort with Correct Saddle Height

a young female cyclist riding on a paved road wearing DeFeet cycling socks

by Kurt Holtzclaw

There is no magic wand for getting your saddle height correct. A comfortable and powerful saddle position comes as a result of trial and error. You can avoid the process of trial and error by visiting a professional bike fitter. If you are an athlete looking to achieve maximum performance or a rider who is experiencing pain on your bike after thousands of miles and many fit adjustments, stop reading and make an appointment with a professional bike fitter. If you are an enthusiast of any level who strives for comfort, keep reading.

a male cyclist sits on a bike in the woods wearing teal DeFeet cycling socks that match his bike

It all begins with selecting the correct size frame. If you are not confident about the size of your bike, then take a quick pedal over to your favorite LBS and ask them very politely to take a look. Remember to be appreciative! The advice you get from your bike shop isn't free unless you are a freeloader. Stock up on some essentials as a way of showing you value their time and expertise. Now it's time to hop on and ride. If your saddle height is too high, you may feel your hips rocking back and forth. This can result in hip and back pain on longer rides. If this sounds familiar, start lowering your seat post 10mm at a time until the rocking stops.

If your saddle height is too low, you will often feel knee pain as well as a lack of power for the amount of effort you are exerting. The knee pain results from your knee bending at a much tighter angle at the top of each pedal stroke. The lack of power is the result of not being able to fully engage your quads and hamstrings. If this is what you feel, raise your seat post 10mm at a time until comfort and power are achieved.

a female cyclist stands over her bike on a bridge facing a river

Once you feel comfortable, make sure you take a measurement and write it down for future reference. Seat posts have a tendency to slip over time or move during maintenance. Having a measurement to reset the height will save you from having a bad or painful ride in the future. Proper application of grease, anti-seize, or carbon prep is necessary to keep your seat post and frame in good shape. A torque wrench might also come in handy to prevent damage to your expensive frame, seat post, and collar.

Bike fit is important for comfort, but discomfort is not always caused by improper bike fit. If you are a new rider or an out-of-shape rider, discomfort is to be expected. If you keep pedaling, your body will adapt to the discomfort. Riding a bicycle isn't as comfortable as sitting on the sofa and staring at a screen. Comfort on the bike comes with time and effort.

Keep pedaling, and stay tuned for future words of bicycle wisdom.

Kurt the Mechanic