Seat height is one of the most important things impacting your bicycle fit and efficiency. It is best to have your bike fit professionally measured, but if that is not an option for you, how can you find the correct saddle height?
If you ever get dropped from your group ride, a good excuse is to say you did not have the correct saddle height. Saddle height is very important and studies have shown that a change in as little as 2% can have a significant impact on cycling efficiency and even increase injury risk.(1) (2)
Finding correct saddle height
In the modern era, the best way to find your correct saddle height and all around bike position is to get a professional bike fitting. If this is not an option, there are some methods you can use to do it yourself. However, studies have shown that these methods are varied and not well established.(2) Let’s look at how these methods work and which is the best.
The LeMond method
This is a classic method popularised by the three time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. Here you measure the inseam of your leg and set your saddle height at 88.3% this number measuring from the bottom bracket. This is a simple method, but among other things it does not consider crank length.
Similar to the LeMond method, you measure your inseam and set the saddle height at 109% your inseam measuring from your pedal spindle. This takes into account different crank lengths this doesn’t account how you sit in the saddle, for your shoe and pedal height nor does it take into account that some riders naturally pedal toe down while others naturally pedal heel down
For this method you put your heel on the pedal in the downward position. If your leg is straight in this position, this is the correct saddle height. If not, adjust until it is correct. A professional fitting looks at knee angle and it has been shown that this method is more likely to give you the correct knee angle than the other two
With this method you do not measure the inseam. Instead, you focus on your knee angle like they would in a professional fitting. With your foot in the downward position, measure your knee angle as shown below. This angle should be between 25° and 30°.
To do this you need a goniometer which can be purchased online cheap. Focusing on this angle will give you the most efficient position that is least likely to cause injuries. (3) The main problem with this method, is that it focuses on only one thing and is done in a static setting. Professional bike fits measure multiple angles while you are actually pedalling.
As mentioned before, this is the best method. It takes into account dynamic variables. Everyone has a different pedalling technique and or sits on the bike slightly different. A professional fit also looks at areas outside of saddle height to improve your position. However, these other methods can be helpful when this is not possible.