Commuting 101: Seat Position

Recently I twisted around a bit to look behind me and twisted my bicycle seat in the process. I’d been happy with the position of the seat before, but having ridden the bike with the alignment off a bit I noticed a little numbness at the end of my ride. When I reached the office I straightened the seat and raised it just a hair; I thought I imagined an increase in power on the way home so I researched. Here is what I found out:

According to owner’s manual for my bike: “If the seat is too low, power will be low. But if the seat is too high, stress is placed on the knee and lower back.” Makes sense, but what is the best position and how do you find it?

Harnessing the power of the internet I searched several sites regarding bicycle seat adjustments. The majority of the sites recommend sitting in the saddle with a hand against a wall or car, placing your heals on the pedals and pedaling backwards. If your legs are straight at the bottom of the stroke you’re seat should be in the correct position. If you notice that your hips are rocking from side to side, you seat is too high.

So I gave it a try. Here you’ll see me seated and standing (without resting a hand against anything – sorry) with my heal on the pedal and leg comfortably straight.

Seat Adjustment 1
When I put the ball of my foot on the pedal my leg is bent in this angle.

Seat adjustment 2
I would suggest this as a starting point. Ride a time or two this way and make some small adjustments up or down to find the position you’re happiest with.

Additionally, you can adjust the saddle up and down and forward and back. Make sure the seat is level and move it forward or back until your knee is directly over the pedal when the crank arms are parallel with the ground. Again, you may want to tweak this ever so slightly for a few rides.

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0 thoughts on “Commuting 101: Seat Position”

  1. Ludwig says:

    Glad you posted this as it’s something I believe that turns a lot of people off cycling. If the position is uncomfortable or if you have pain in your knees then there’s not much enjoyment in the activity.

    For a quick measurement you’re exactly right. If you want to get a bit more precise then multiply your inside leg measurement in cms by .885. This will give you the get correct centre of bottom bracket to top of saddle distance.

    I struggled with knee pain for months and found that this sorted it out in a matter of days.

  2. Noah says:

    That’s pretty much how I adjust my saddle height. Now, if you find the magic bullet for offset and angle, let me know. Please!

  3. Ludwig says:

    Hmmm, I don’t think there is a magic number for that. As far as angle I keep mine level, adjusting it 3 degrees up or down as needed, but this is also relative to the handlebar height which (ahem) deserves an entirely different article.

    For fore/aft position I use a plumbline to determine where my knee intersects the pedal axle. I did find the following though.

    * If you’re over 6-feet tall, ride long distances, climb a lot and pedal at about 90 rpm, you may prefer to be as much as 1 to 2 cm behind the pedal axles.
    * If you’re less than 6-feet tall, spin at 95 rpm or faster and like to sprint, you’ll probably prefer to be directly over the axles.

  4. Warren T says:

    Ludwig, I really appreciate your input on this. By the way, I was thinking about doing another post in a bit about handlebar height — so stay tuned.

    I’ve updated my link for 32spokes … I missed the post where you’d moved. Nice to see you in Google Reader again.

  5. Fritz says:

    Be careful about your handlebar post idea — there is no “correct” height and depends entirely on personal preferences.

  6. Mike in Florida says:


    You’re absolutely correct. Handlebar height should vary from rider to rider. I have some hand numbness issues, and I’m not racing, so I have my handlebar very high. One on bike it’s exactly saddle height, and on another it’s actually an inch higher. Not very cool looking, but it’s very comfortable for me.

  7. Steve says:

    that’s MY bike!!

    haha just kidding

    but my ride is a 7.3 FX with blackburn quadrant headlight and tail lights, Freddy Fenders, a Trek Rack for the ol’ back seat, and a Kryptonite Keeper (not the circle key)

    i just thought it was cool to see my bike on here. seems like these bikes are getting pretty popular

  8. bill says:


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