Motion Capture Fitting & Saddle Height

Over the past few years, I have had several motion-capture bike fits through a major brand (initial & follow-up due to new bike purchase). All of them (from 2 different fitters) set me at about the same saddle height --771 mm. They also landed around the same saddle setback – 100 mm, with a stubby-nosed Specialized Power Saddle. After delving pretty deep into bike fitting sites/videos from sources like Steve Hogg, BikeFitJames (Bike Fit Tuesday video series on Frances Cade’s YouTube channel), and Neill Standbury (through Cam Nichols’ YouTube channel), I have pretty much determined that the system simply set my saddle too high. All the resources mentioned above are excellent if anyone wants to take a deep dive. However, I’m curious if anyone else has had this experience?

By way of background, here is my basic info: Height – 179.5 cm (5’10"); Inseam — Somewhere around 850-865 mm, or 32-33", depending on how you measure; Physical Characteristics – I’m around 85-87 kg (190-95 lbs), and have always been a broader-shoulder/arms build, certainly not a “climber” type. I’m also pretty tight through the glutes/hamstrings/hips, due to sitting at a desk all day.

Through all my experimentation, I find myself much more comfortable around the 745-755 mm saddle height, depending on cleat/pedal choice and setup. This is true even with shorter cranks (165mm versus 172.5mm) recently installed, which typically allow you to raise your saddle. I don’t feel like I have to reach through the bottom of the stroke, I do not get any numbness-related issues with the saddle, and for the most part, I feel much less weight on my hands when riding. The only potential downside I’m sensing is potentially getting a little tight in the hip angle through the top of the stroke. However, I do not appear to have lost any power due to the lower seat height.

I find it crazy that the motion-capture system would set me up almost 3cm higher than I ultimately find myself comfortable. I even scoured CGN and other outlets’ “Pro Bike” videos and compared my motion-capture prescribed measurements to World Tour riders in a similar height range. Riders even a little taller than me still ended up with lower seat heights than the initially-prescribed 771 mm. Nibali, Sagan, and other riders in the 5’10" to 6’+ range had saddle heights ranging from 745 mm to 760mm. Presumably, these guys are much fitter/more flexible than me, but their saddle heights are lower than my initial settings through my last few professional fits.

I’m just baffled and wanted to vent/get others’ input on whether they fought this critical bike fit metric for years, only to significantly drop their saddles?

  • Based on what factor(s)?
  • In what way(s)?

Were any of the above issues after the prior fits and were they addressed by follow-up visits with the fitter(s)?

I’m curious to understand what lead you to the research and experimentation in the first place, as well as the reasons you like the lower height now.

The determination that my saddle was too high is primarily based upon my overall comfort/balance on the bike after lowering my saddle, combined with the lack of adverse effects on performance. Additionally, the comparison to other similar-height riders helped confirm/solidify what I was feeling on the bike. As far as what led me to delving into this issue deeper, it was based upon continued discomfort following initial setups, follow-ups, etc. I tried my best to trust the process/initial fit and ride it to give my body time to adjust. However, I inevitably ended up uncomfortable resulting in my lowering the seat to find a more sustainable position.

In terms of the specific issues I faced: foot discomfort – hot/foot, lateral foot pain, etc., despite multiple attempts at wedging, adjusting q factor, different shoes, etc. with my fitter; saddle discomfort – numbness/saddle sores despite large cutout saddles; neck/back stiffness and hand numbness from too much weight on the hand after longer rides.

Lowering my saddle significantly improved each and every one of these issues, though I’m still tweaking in some instances.

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In my experience with a motion capture system and some of the issues I needed addressed my seat went 17mm up to 781. Now my biggest issue was knee pain(cartilage issues from years of baseball). From what my fitter tells me he went with the high number to relieve pressure in the knee joint. He told me some issues to watch out for with this saddle height and if they showed up drop it 3mm to start with. I also did the custom footbeds with this system and it helped a lot also with my specific issue. Now like I said I went into this fit with specific needs I needed addressed and that is why we wnded yo where we did. In bike fit Tuesday’s with Francis Cade they talk about the smoothness of the knee at the bottom of the peddle stroke and I have that smoothness with no jerk at the bottom. I’m 3 months into This fit and it’s made a tremendous difference.

I love fitting issues threads so I’ll keep up.