Bike Shorts: Why Is My Saddle Suddenly Too High?
Saddle height is a critical measurement for the cyclist. Apart from the saddle itself, there’s no bigger factor for cycling comfort.
That’s why, from the moment you get a new bike, you’ve got the saddle height dialed in for a perfect, comfortable ride. And if it gets thrown off, you’ll perceive it quickly. In some cases, you may notice that your saddle suddenly feels too high for no apparent reason.
If you’re asking why your saddle is suddenly too high, it’s probably something seasonal. Longtime cycling coach and professional bike fitter Darryl MacKenzie has seen it a thousand times, and he’ll shed some light on what’s going on so you’re prepared next time.
Precision Is Paramount for Saddle Height
Saddle height isn’t just one of the most important measurements on the bike. It’s also one of the most precise. If it’s off by even just a few millimeters, you’ll eventually notice. This makes it a critical measurement to monitor regularly.
When a saddle is too high or too low, it throws off your knee angle, which measures how far your leg extends when your pedal is at its lowest point. The correct range for this angle is incredibly narrow. When you’re in that window, you’ll have the ideal mix of pedaling power and cycling comfort. When you’re outside it — even slightly — you’ll lose a little bit of both.
More often than not, Darryl sees cyclists with their saddles too low. This can seriously limit their power on the flats and when climbing hills. It also gradually causes discomfort in the knee over months or years — and it can take equally long to remedy.
“In the vast majority of cases, they don’t know that they could be faster on the flats and climbing if they just fix the saddle,” says Coach Darryl.
When your saddle is too high, it still affects your pedaling power and is much more readily noticeable in terms of knee discomfort. The good news is that you can fix the pain as quickly as it develops.
What Makes Your Saddle Feel Too High
Generally speaking, most cyclists don’t err on the side of having their saddle too high. There is one particular time of year, though, where this can become a sudden problem: late fall and early winter.
“People quite often experience a saddle that’s too high because of what happens in the winter,” Darryl explains. “And there are two things: putting on thicker clothing and gaining weight.”
Both changes are common in winter as you bundle up, ride less often and celebrate the holidays with rich foods. And both changes can add padding between you and the saddle, raising your buttocks slightly higher off the bike and widening your knee angle just a bit. In other words, it’s not your saddle that’s moved — it’s you!
It doesn’t take much to cause an issue, either. Darryl notes that even gaining 8–12 pounds can be enough to warrant an adjustment. Add an extra quarter inch of padding from thicker clothes, and you could be looking at some serious knee pain if you don’t tweak your saddle height.
Make a Winter Saddle Adjustment
Because it can cause such discomfort and diminish your pedaling power, it’s important to make quick adjustments in wintertime. If you know you’re wearing thicker clothes or that you’ve gained a few pounds, be proactive to lower your saddle and get your knee angle back to where it should be.
This is especially easy if you already started with a professional bike fit. If you worked with a good fitter, they should have given you detailed information about your ideal saddle height on that specific bike, making it easy to tweak on your own. Many will even make a minor adjustment for you free of charge.
“If you know what your numbers are, it doesn’t take much to get them back,” says Darryl.
Making this one simple adjustment during the cooler months can save you a lot of knee trouble in the long run. Keep an eye on your saddle height and stay comfortable and strong out there.
Looking for more information about saddle placement? Read our “Complete Guide to Bike Saddle Adjustments.” You can also find more insights over at Coach Darryl’s website.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio