Simple Seat Height Adjustment in Bike Fitting
Can Reduce Injury Risk
Trevor G. Leavitt and Heather K. Vincent, PhD, FACSM
Assuming that the cyclist has an appropriately sized bike
frame and correct saddle set back, we believe that the ad-
justment of vertical seat height is a critical aspect of the
fitting. An improperly set saddle height can result in knee
injury (1) and low back pain. Saddle heights that are too
low or high alter the knee angle and, thereby, the mechan-
ical work (2) and pedaling efficiency (6,7). A correctly set
seat height helps prevent injury and improves rider economy
and power by optimizing the knee angle. Multiple methods
can be used to determine proper seat height, ranging from 3-D
motion capture dynamic fitting to a simple measurement of
knee angle using a goniometer.
When 3-D techniques are not available, the following
method can determine whether cyclists have a correct sad-
dle height. First, with a goniometer, adjust the seat height so
that the knee angle measurement at the bottom of the pedal
stroke is between 25-and 35-(Fig. 1). Second, observe pelvic
vertical oscillation motion from a frontal plane view, looking
for any excessive excursion (4). Excessive pelvic motion is as-
sociated with a saddle positioned too high causing the cyclist
to reach further to push the pedal (Fig. 2A) (5). However,
eliminating all pelvic motion is not ideal either because it
transfers power from the upper torso to lower limbs (Fig. 2B).
Even adjustments as little as 1 mm can make a significant
difference in the amount of pelvic motion that occurs. Re-
peated observation after minute adjustments to the seat and
feedback from the cyclist may be required to optimize po-
sition and comfort for the cyclist. Focusing on saddle height
and pelvic movement is key to getting a bike properly fit for
the cyclist and not fitting the cyclist to the bike.
1. Asplund C, St. Pierre P. Knee pain and bicycling: fitting concepts for clini-
cians. Phys. Sportsmed. 2004; 32:23Y30.
2. Bini R, Hume PA, Croft JL. Effects of bicycle saddle height on knee injury
risk and cycling performance. Sports Med. 2011; 41:463Y76.
3. Fonda B, Sarabon N, Li FX. Validity and reliability of different kinematics
methods used for bike fitting. J. Sports Sci. 2014; 32:940Y6.
4. Holmes JC, Pruitt AL, Whalen NJ. Lower extremity overuse in bicycling.
Clin. Sports Med. 1994; 13:187Y205.
5. Mestdagh KDV. Personal perspective: in search of an optimum cycling pos-
ture. Appl. Ergon. 1998; 29:325Y34.
6. Peveler WW. Effects of saddle height on economy in cycling. J. Strength
Cond. Res. 2008; 22:1355Y9.
7. Peveler WW, Green JM. Effects of saddle height on economy and anaerobic
power in well-trained cyclists. J. Strength Cond. Res. 2011; 25:629Y33.
Figure 2: (A) Excessive pelvic drop. (B) Minimal pelvic drop.
Figure 1: Knee angle measurement at the bottom of the pedal
stroke between 25-and 35-.
130 Volume 15 &Number 3 &May/June 2016 Clinical Pearls
Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, Division of Research; UF
Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute, Gainesville, FL
Address for correspondence: Heather K. Vincent, PhD, FACSM, Depart-
ment of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, Division of Research; UF Ortho-
paedics and Sports Medicine Institute; PO Box 112727, Gainesville, FL
32611; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current Sports Medicine Reports
Copyright *2016 by the American College of Sports Medicine
Copyright © 2016 by the American College of Sports Medicine. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.