Adjusting the bicycle saddle

Many parts of a bicycle can be adjusted to best fit the cyclist. Using the metric hexagonal wrench set, you can adjust the saddle height. The hexagonal screw is located at the bottom of the saddle tube, on the bicycle frame. You only need to loosen that screw until the saddle can be moved with a light effort. It should not move unless you apply a force on it. Do not loosen it too much as you will lose your current saddle height setting, thus having to start over your tuning. Adjusting a saddle is a trial and error process that may require a few attempts. Gradually raise the saddle and ride the bicycle for a few seconds or minutes between each adjustments.

Image source: (Bicycle only). Modified by The bicycle Shopping Guide.

How do you know when you have reached the correct height? If you can ask someone to help you, make him hold the bicycle by the handlebar firmly. If no one is around, put the bicycle close to a clear wall, at a few inches from it. Then take position on the bicycle. Use your hand opposed to the wall side to hold the brake lever firmly so that the bicycle can not move. Then, using the other hand on the wall, put a foot on the pedal that is on the wall side and sit on the bicycle. You should be able to rest on the bicycle with your two feet on the pedals. Slowly turn the pedals in reverse until one of the two legs is at its maximal elongation position. Your knew should flex very slightly (making a few degree angle, not more). If your foot ankle flexes down as you reach that point, the saddle is set to high. The foot should rest in a flat position with respect to the ground. Personally, I tend to cheat a bit and set my saddle so that my ankle flexes a few degrees downward. This enable to use more muscles when pushing on the pedals and give some extra power. If you have not trained much lately, do not try this as it will probably cause more pain than gain. An other good trick to know if your saddle is set correctly is to pay some attention as you ride the bicycle on the way you sit on the saddle. If you are moving, slipping left and right on the saddle, it is definitely set too high. On the other hand, if you set your saddle to low, your legs will rapidly hurt because if the toxins that will form up more rapidly in the muscles. Why? Because you are constantly using your leg muscles in a working zone that forces them to work harder to provide the same power. This has to do with the lever effect. The more flexed are your legs, the less strength they can develop.

Image source: (Bicycle only). Modified by The bicycle Shopping Guide.

The figure above gives an idea of the ideal body position on the bicycle. Notice the red lines showing the slight angles at the joints. Why the small angle flexion at the joints? Mainly to act as natural shock absorbers, dissipating high stress energy coming from the road imperfections. If you do not set your saddle and handlebar correctly, you may end up in a position where your elbow and knew joints are totally locked (no angle at all). This situation is not recommended as the high energy shocks will directly transmit over all your body skeleton, possibly causing you pain and premature fatigue. This is a general principle that should be observed all the time.

Okay so now the saddle height is perfectly tuned. Wait, we are not done yet with it. You must also adjust the saddle slope (the angle of the saddle with respect to the ground) and forward position (You can move the saddle forward or backward a few centimeters). The adjust these two parameters, you need to loosen an hexagonal screw located under the saddle, at the top of the seat post. Look under the saddle and you should find it easily. Here again, the same principle apply. Only loosen the screw so that you can move the saddle but it should not move easily if you are not applying forces on it.

When the bicycle is stand still on the ground, the saddle angle should be almost parallel to it. To see if it is adjusted correctly, put a straight object on the saddle (a level or some straight bar). It should be almost parallel with the ground. If you feel like you are drifting backward of forward as you ride the bicycle, readjust the saddle.

Lastly, you can fine tune your seating position so that you are standing at the correct distance from the handlebar. This is more tricky to adjust and more a personal taste than anything. Pay close attention to signs of back pain and such as you ride. After many rides you make, you should periodically adjust the saddle distance until the pain and such symptoms are reduced to a minimal value.