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How to find the right saddle position

Stu Bowers
16 Jun 2022

Why your saddle position matters, and how to adjust it for comfort and power

How do you set your saddle position? And where exactly should your saddle be anyway? The bicycle saddle is an easy component to adjust. By just loosening a couple of bolts you can change the height, tilt and fore/aft placement – also known as setback. For this reason, it’s often the first thing that riders tweak in the search for improved comfort or more power. What isn’t always fully understood, though, is how best to adjust the seat.

Editor’s note: If you're just looking for some quick advice on saddle height, head to our article on how to change your saddle height.



How should I position my saddle?

‘There’s no actual ideal position,’ says Phil Burt, leading figure on all matters of bike fit and founder of Phil Burt Innovation.

‘I like to refer to a bike fit “window”. But if you were to ask me what’s the most important part of bike fit, I’d always say saddle position: setback, height and tilt.

‘Those points are interrelated and absolutely critical. If you get those wrong everything else becomes a bit of a bodge job.’

Cube Axial WLS GTC SL Review Womens Saddle

It’s time for an art class. ‘If you drew a box around the saddle, force generation will typically be lower and comfort easier to find in the bottom right-hand corner – in other words the point that’s lowest and furthest back,’ says Burt.

‘Conversely, the upper left-hand corner will bring benefits in terms of power output but may not be a position you can sit in comfortably all day.’

So, as is often the case with bike fit, much will depend on the individual case relative to what your body can cope with and what your chosen discipline is.

‘Seat setback obviously affects reach,’ Burt adds. ‘I see a lot of people who have their seat too low and too far back and they can’t ride comfortably on the hoods.

‘But it’s mad to run the seat right back. If you look at the evidence you want the seat as high and as far forward as possible for power delivery.

Saddle Position: Rules for pros

A bike is checked for UCI regulations

‘The UCI has its “five behind” rule [the seat nose must be a minimum of 5cm further back than the centre of the bottom bracket], and if you want to be more powerful you want to run right up to that line where possible. And not just forward, but higher too, to open up the hip angle.

‘I regularly see riders who have their seat setback at around 80mm behind the BB, but they’re struggling to reach the bars so they go and buy a shorter stem.

‘In most cases what they actually need to do is run the seat much further forward. The result is a better position with your weight further forward over the front, which will benefit handling as well as power generation from your legs.

‘Think about this: if you try to stamp on something that’s directly by your foot, you can crush down on it with a lot more force than if the object is half a metre in front of you.

‘You’re just way more powerful when you’re applying force directly underneath you, and it’s the same with pedalling.’

Saddle angle and short-nosed saddles

So why aren’t we seeing all the top riders perched on the noses of their saddles, and the saddles all the way forward on the rails?

It turns out we probably are, it’s just we might not have noticed due to the latest saddle designs.

‘If you look back at pictures of the older generations of pros generally the trend was to sit lower amd further back,’ says Burt.

‘That mentality is changing now, especially with the newer types of saddles. Shorter, snub-nosed saddles allow you to bring the support you need from the saddle further forward [within the rules].

‘The saddle also has to be at the correct tilt, to get that position to work. For me a saddle should never be nose up. That will stop the pelvis rotating forward which would mean doing all your reaching from the lumbar spine, which is not ideal.’

If you intend to reposition your seat, you need to be clear about what your goals are. ‘If it’s purely a “more power” thing there’s a position for that.

‘But if it’s a case of needing to be comfortable for a five-hour ride we’d need to make a different call.’

Burt has one final piece of advice: ‘Remember, bike fit is evolution not revolution. You can adjust the bike instantaneously but your body will not do the same.

‘If you want to find out whether your body will accept a new position, the best way is to make adjustments in little chunks, and that way work out what the sweet spot is for you.’


Enjoyed our series on bike fit variables? Check out our guide on how to measure your bike frame

This article first appeared on Cyclist in 2019 and has since been updated by our team of experts.

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