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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Finding the best riding position for you is a gradual process of refinement and trial and error. Cyclists have different riding styles and their bodies have different proportions. So there is no universal, 'best-for-everyone' solution.
First, ask yourself a couple of key questions:
Then, use your answers to guide making adjustments. How are you riding? How does it feel? If you are not happy, consider making one of the adjustments below. If you think an adjustment might help, try it out and see.
Repeat this process of review and adjustment until you can't make it any better!
Knee Angle Rule: With the pedal at the bottom of the downward stroke, set the saddle so that the angle at the knee is 25-30 degrees. Mechanically, this is an efficient arrangement, so it is common amongst 'sporty' riders.
Saddle-Spindle Rule: Set the saddle so that the distance from pedal spindle to top centre of the saddle equals your inside leg (crotch to floor) x 1.09. This formula approximately describes many sporty riders' set ups - strange but true!
Other rules: as you pedal sitting on the saddle:
Working joints hard outside their natural tolerances will lead to injury.
Comment: New bikers often set the saddle quite low, so that, when seated, toes still touch the ground. As you get more confident, a more efficient, comfortable position might be higher.
set the saddle so that, with the pedal pointing forward and the crank horizontal, the front of the leading knee is directly above the pedal spindle.
set the saddle slightly further back, so that with the pedal pointing forward and the crank horizontal, the front of the leading knee is fractionally behind the pedal spindle.
Why sit further back?: Sitting further back transfers a little weight from the handlebars onto the pedals and saddle - worth a try, if you are getting aches and pains in your wrist, neck and shoulders.
Does sitting back make you bend and reach?: If you sit further back, all other things being equal, you will need to bend your back more, and stretch out your arms more to reach the handlebars. Too much of this can lead to aches and pains in your back and arms, so adjusting the saddle back is often followed by raising the handlebars and/or shortening the stem (see Adjust handlebars).
Saddle angle: A horizontal saddle is usually right for everyday riding. If the saddle tilts, you'll either slide forwards onto the narrow front of the saddle, or backwards and have to cling on.
Saddle design: The more upright your position, the wider the saddle. The more leaning forward your position, the narrower the saddle.
Adjustment: set the bars lower - many sporty riders have bars 2-3 cm lower than the saddle to reduce their profile to the wind. But remember - aerodynamics do not count for much under 20mph. Are your really going that fast?
Adjustment: raise the handlebars. A more upright position is often preferred by older riders with less bendy backs, commuters who need a good view of their surroundings, or on long rides.
Buy the right stem: As you lean forward, so your hands extend further forward also. Similarly, as you sit up, so your 'reach' is reduced. But your handlebars stay in the same place. So, as you adjust your position, your bike may begin to feel too short or too long.
In this case, consider flipping over your stem (the 'stick' that connects the steering column to the handlebars), or consider buying a new one. Stems have different amounts of 'rise' (increase in height) and length (forward extent), and the right stem will give you the handlebar position you need.
Cleats are the 'clips' on special cycling shoes that securely attach the shoe to the pedal. They make for more efficient riding.