Saddle Height Poll

After a bike fit yesterday and looking up information on saddle height I am curious as to what ranges are ‘seen in the wild’.

So, a quick poll, in bare feet/socks and the pedal at 6 o’clock, can you put your heel on the pedal without dropping your hips? If not, roughly how close are you?

I can touch…if you have to rock your hips to touch or can’t touch at all then you have it too high which could lead to knee issues. I use the 109% guideline and micro adjust from there.

Hmm, I have always done the quick heel test with my shoes on, I wonder if that makes a large enough difference?

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As a bike fitter, I’d like to point out that this test ignores shoe and pedal stack height. It also ignores the rider foot angle in the stroke, which is very individual and will definitely impact final saddle height.

Large or small amounts of toe pointing at the bottom of the stroke will affect saddle height up to centimeters difference, even for riders with the same inseam length (which is essentially the test suggested here, but on the bike).

Not everyone pedals with the same bottom foot angle, and that is ok. I caution against taking too much from a poll like this without having the complete picture in mind.

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Exactly. The way I’ve been taught is - go up until you start dropping your hips, then go down a bit. Extremely precise, as you can tell.

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I agree, it’s a crude and static method but I wanted to get an idea.

My retul bike fit had my at the minimum acceptable range of knee extension and I my heel was about 2cm away from the pedal when locked out. I was left wondering:

  1. what I would need to do in order to be comfortable with that saddle height
  2. where the “optimal range” comes from
  3. how the pedal/shoe stack height (both low-stack top of the line road racing stuff) could introduce 2cm of a difference, especially as I don’t have huge feet and tend to prefer a smaller ankle movement range.
    and
  4. if a saddle height where I can’t touch the ground is sensible/safe

Those are all great questions, and should be directed to your fitter. But I will offer what I can for background, based on likely similar training as your fitter.

  1. This is impossible to know without seeing your exact position and pedaling motion on the bike. But based on your comments, I am guessing that you have a fairly significant toe point at the bottom of the stroke.
  2. My training comes from the 3 years of classes in the Specialized Body Geometry era (last one was the same year that Spesh bought Retul, but before their branding swap to Retul for all fitting purposes).
    • As such, the basic range of knee angle trained at that time was 30-40* when measured manually, at with the fitter holding the rider’s foot. With the push to using the Retul Vantage (live video capture and measurement) and more dynamic fit measurement, They are aiming for the 35* more from what I understand. But I have not attended those classes myself, and am going on what I learn via the Retul FB user site and related discussion.
    • I don’t have the background as to exactly why that range is what it is, other than Dr. Pruitt and others have found that it works best across a range of amateur to professional riders. It also seems common among other fit systems, so I think it is a safe starting range. The ultimate height will be individual, of course, and can differ to meet each rider’s specific needs.
  3. The shoe/pedal stack would only introduce that much delta in a MTB Shoe/Flat Pedal combo, IMHO. That is about the thickest standard setup I know. A typical road setup is low stack in most cases.
  4. What exact bike and type of riding are you doing?
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Yes. That is not a fitting criteria, and also a non-real-life condition, as you always get out of the saddle when you stop.

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Nope, not very significant toe point, I prefer riding with my foot flatter.

I am riding a Scott Foil with Shimano pedals and Bontrager XXX shoes. Thanks for the detailed answer, it is interesting.

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Chad, how do you determine the difference between a natural “toe-down” rider and someone who does this to compensate for excessive saddle height? Would it be fair to conclude this by whether the toe was still dropped when knee angle is greater than 40 degrees?

In other words, how low do you have to drop the saddle down before determining that a rider is a natural toe-down rider?

It’s a combo of watching various cues. Part is what you mention. Part is watching the evolution of the dip (how and when it occurs) throughout the circle. You look for smooth transitions vs short and sharp changes. It’s those observations and the related adjustments.

You can try higher and lower and watch the changes (or lack there of) when the rider remounts and rides the adjusted bike.

As with most fitting, it is an iterative process. I often try to work from one end to the other (getting to an undesirable condition on each side) and then returning to somewhere in the middle. That middle is determined via discussion with the rider and my observations within the entire scope of the tests and in light of their fitting goals.

As to how low, that will vary, but seeing a distinct change in stroke at the low end (significant change in angle, “hiccups” in the stroke or other oddities) are some of the things that can signal that you have hit the low end.

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Thanks for the reply. Think I will have a play later tonight!

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If you are experimenting with your setup, I highly recommend another point of view. These issues are hard to impossible to diagnose from the saddle.

I use cameras and replays to work on my own fit. But I still get the opinion of a friend as I go through the process. It helps to have a different take on things as we can sometimes be blind to issues that are obvious to others.

Thanks. I’m going to get set up on the turbo and then use a camera. It will be my first time doing this so I’m sure it will be an eye-opener regardless of what I find.

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Feel free to post in the fitting thread I made.

I and others try to help via web for questions and issues if possible. There are limitations to the process via this path, but I think we have helped a number of riders with this process.

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I use this approach also. Interestingly, in the attached study that Coggan references (see slide 13), this approach probably gets you close to the saddle height that allows for the best cycling efficiency (the white bar on slide 13)

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Also check out, https://bikefitadviser.com/ some good videos for the ‘at home’ bike fitter.

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