The 4 Most Common Mistakes Cyclists Make When Installing a Bike Saddle
A comfortable saddle is one of the most pivotal pieces of equipment you can buy for your bike. And there are a lot of details about the saddle itself that can make a big difference on your ride.
But, as important as having the right saddle is, how you install a bike saddle is equally critical. Unfortunately, many cyclists make some key mistakes when they put their saddle on — or have someone else do it. Then, when they try to fix those mistakes, they make them worse by adjusting in the wrong direction.
Coach Darryl MacKenzie has been cycling, coaching other cyclists, and doing bike fits for decades. He’s become so familiar with these issues that he can spot many of them out on the road. Plus, if you tell him what kind of pain you’re having, he can probably tell you which saddle adjustment is wrong. Here are the four most common saddle installation mistakes he sees cyclists make.
Putting the Saddle Too Low
Many riders are guilty of setting the saddle height wrong on their bike. More often than not, it’s too low. When it is, you’re sacrificing comfort and power while wearing down your legs. With each stroke, you’re getting a poor return for your effort.
“I see this saddle installation mistake when passing riders all the time,” says Coach Darryl. “I look at them and say, ‘Wow, they could be so much stronger, so much more comfortable.’ And it pains me to see it.”
He's noticed this is especially common nowadays with cyclists who tend to buy slightly too-small bikes to shave off some weight in favor of speed. Instead, getting a bike that’s the right size is a far better solution to maximize your power.
Some cyclists do make the opposite mistake and put their saddle too high. This quickly leads to discomfort in the back of the knee, which is the most likely problem on this list to send you to the doctor.
Sliding the Saddle Too Far Forward
Another area where cyclists tend to sacrifice power is in their front-to-back positioning, also known as the saddle setback. In most cases, this is set too far forward during bicycle seat installation.
When your saddle is set too far toward the handlebars, you’re awkwardly pushing backward through part of your stroke. This greatly diminishes your pedaling strength.
“You can get far more pressure pushing a little bit forward than you can by pushing backward,” says Darryl.
Instead, you want your saddle set so that you’re pushing slightly forward and down throughout your pedal stroke.
Putting the Saddle on Crooked
Surprisingly, many cyclists fail to notice when their saddle rotation — the angle of the nose from side to side — is off-center.
In most saddle installation cases, you want a straight line from the back of the saddle through the nose to the bolt at the top center of your steering tube. This will keep either leg from rubbing against the nose of the saddle and getting chaffed.
Some cyclists may actually prefer this rotation to be angled slightly to the left or right, especially if their legs aren’t the same length. If that’s the case, you can move the nose slightly toward your longer leg. The point is to get it set so that the saddle isn’t rubbing against your legs or putting pressure on your sit bones.
Getting the Nose Pitch Wrong
Finally, there’s the nose pitch of your saddle — the degree to which it points up or down in the front.
“This affects comfort on the bicycle more than any of the above three,” says Coach Darryl. Many cyclists point the nose too far down while installing a bike saddle, putting too much pressure on their soft tissues. On a lot of saddles, you only want the nose pitch to be level or angled very slightly downward.
However, with a Selle Anatomica saddle, you actually want the nose tilted slightly upward. Most riders will find that an upward angle of 2 or 3 degrees will take the pressure off their sit bones and allow the leather to create a comfortable hammock for their buttocks.
Any of these saddle installation mistakes can cause significant issues for your rides, so it’s important to get them adjusted right. We’ve covered the solutions in more detail in our “Complete Guide to Saddle Adjustments,” so be sure to read more for the full picture. Ultimately, the best thing you can do with your new bike and saddle is to take it in for a professional bike fit to ensure all of this is just right.
Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.