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Simple Seat Height Adjustment in Bike Fitting Can Reduce Injury Risk

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.
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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.
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Cond. Res. 2008; 22:1355Y9.
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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:
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.
... Localized pain intensity had a moderate effect size in its reduced values in the five body parts of all participants, while a small effect size in pain reduction was detected around ankle and foot body regions. These results are in agreement with other cycling pain studies by other authors [6,8,28,[45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52]. Few studies [1,6,8,28] have detailed information of riding pain of specific body parts (like our study) but instead generalized pain simply as "riding pain". ...
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The purpose of this study is to analyze the long-term riders' subjective responses to a standardized bikefitting method on their bicycles. Eighty-six amateur mountain bikers had their riding posture and bicycle components ergonomically adjusted through a 3D kinematic bikefitting method. Validated subjective scales (Feeling, OMNI, and Numerical Rating Pain Scale) were used to assess their overall riding comfort and fatigue along with localized pain for six body parts. Data were collected just before intervention (baseline or pre), immediately after (or post), and 30, 60, 90, and 120 days after the bikefit session. A Student's t-test comparing before bikefit and after 120 days showed significant (p < 0.05) reduction in localized pain for all six body parts and riding comfort along with a large effect size effect (d = 1.18) for riding comfort. Although initially reduced, fatigue scores gradually increased over the months, showing a high correlation (r = 0.946) with increased monthly training volume. In conclusion, overall riding discomfort and pain were significantly decreased after a standardized kinematic bikefit session even after 120 days post intervention. However, fatigue scores began to rise after 30 days, showing a high correlation with increasing monthly training volume.
... Calibrating the process with knee angle measurement during standing might lead to better accuracy for the latter method and minimize the observed difference (52). After adjusting the seat height, fine-tuning the process to prevent excessive pelvic sway in frontal plane also has been advocated (41). Saddle height determination based on leg length alone may be inaccurate (17). ...
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With the increasing popularity of mountain biking, also known as off-road cycling, and the riders pushing the sport into extremes, there has been a corresponding increase in injury. Almost two thirds of acute injuries involve the upper extremities, and a similar proportion of overuse injuries affect the lower extremities. Mountain biking appears to be a high-risk sport for severe spine injuries. New trends of injury patterns are observed with popularity of mountain bike trail parks and freeride cycling. Using protective gear, improving technical proficiency, and physical fitness may somewhat decrease the risk of injuries. Simple modifications in bicycle-rider interface areas and with the bicycle (bike fit) also may decrease some overuse injuries. Bike fit provides the clinician with postural correction during the sport. In this review, we also discuss the importance of race-day management strategies and monitoring the injury trends.
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Abstract The most common bike fitting method to set the seat height is based on the knee angle when the pedal is in its lowest position, i.e. bottom dead centre (BDC). However, there is no consensus on what method should be used to measure the knee angle. Therefore, the first aim of this study was to compare three dynamic methods to each other and against a static method. The second aim was to test the intra-session reliability of the knee angle at BDC measured by dynamic methods. Eleven cyclists performed five 3-min cycling trials; three at different seat heights (25°, 30° and 35° knee angle at BDC according to static measure) and two at preferred seat height. Thirteen infrared cameras (3D), a high-speed camera (2D), and an electrogoniometer were used to measure the knee angle during pedalling, when the pedal was at the BDC. Compared to 3D kinematics, all other methods statistically significantly underestimated the knee angle (P = 0.00; η(2) = 0.73). All three dynamic methods have been found to be substantially different compared to the static measure (effect sizes between 0.4 and 0.6). All dynamic methods achieved good intra-session reliability. 2D kinematics is a valid tool for knee angle assessment during bike fitting. However, for higher precision, one should use correction factor by adding 2.2° to the measured value.
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Incorrect bicycle configuration may predispose athletes to injury and reduce their cycling performance. There is disagreement within scientific and coaching communities regarding optimal configuration of bicycles for athletes. This review summarizes literature on methods for determining bicycle saddle height and the effects of bicycle saddle height on measures of cycling performance and lower limb injury risk. Peer-reviewed journals, books, theses and conference proceedings published since 1960 were searched using MEDLINE, Scopus, ISI Web of Knowledge, EBSCO and Google Scholar databases, resulting in 62 references being reviewed. Keywords searched included 'body positioning', 'saddle', 'posture, 'cycling' and 'injury'. The review revealed that methods for determining optimal saddle height are varied and not well established, and have been based on relationships between saddle height and lower limb length (Hamley and Thomas, trochanteric length, length from ischial tuberosity to floor, LeMond, heel methods) or a reference range of knee joint flexion. There is limited information on the effects of saddle height on lower limb injury risk (lower limb kinematics, knee joint forces and moments and muscle mechanics), but more information on the effects of saddle height on cycling performance (performance time, energy expenditure/oxygen uptake, power output, pedal force application). Increasing saddle height can cause increased shortening of the vastii muscle group, but no change in hamstring length. Length and velocity of contraction in the soleus seems to be more affected by saddle height than that in the gastrocnemius. The majority of evidence suggested that a 5% change in saddle height affected knee joint kinematics by 35% and moments by 16%. Patellofemoral compressive force seems to be inversely related to saddle height but the effects on tibiofemoral forces are uncertain. Changes of less than 4% in trochanteric length do not seem to affect injury risk or performance. The main limitations from the reported studies are that different methods have been employed for determining saddle height, small sample sizes have been used, cyclists with low levels of expertise have mostly been evaluated and different outcome variables have been measured. Given that the occurrence of overuse knee joint pain is 50% in cyclists, future studies may focus on how saddle height can be optimized to improve cycling performance and reduce knee joint forces to reduce lower limb injury risk. On the basis of the conflicting evidence on the effects of saddle height changes on performance and lower limb injury risk in cycling, we suggest the saddle height may be set using the knee flexion angle method (25-30°) to reduce the risk of knee injuries and to minimize oxygen uptake.
In cycling, saddle height adjustment is critical for optimal performance and injury prevention. A 25-35° knee angle is recommended for injury prevention, whereas 109% of inseam, measured from floor to ischium, is recommended for optimal performance. Previous research has demonstrated that these 2 methods produce significantly different saddle heights and may influence cycling performance. This study compared performance between these 2 methods for determining saddle height. Subjects consisted of 11 well-trained (VO2max = 61.55 ± 4.72 ml·kg·min) male cyclists. Subjects completed a total of 8 performance trials consisting of a graded maximal protocol, three 15-minute economy trials, and 4 anaerobic power trials. Dependent measures for economy (VO2, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion) and anaerobic power (peak power and mean power) were compared using repeated measures analysis of variance (α = 0.05). VO2 was significantly lower (reflecting greater economy) at a 25° knee angle (44.77 ± 6.40 ml·kg·min) in comparison to a 35° knee angle (45.22 ± 6.79 ml·kg·min) and 109% of inseam (45.98 ± 5.33 ml·kg·min). Peak power at a 25° knee angle (1,041.55 ± 168.72 W) was significantly higher in relation to 109% of inseam (1,002.05 ± 147.65 W). Mean power at a 25° knee angle (672.37 ± 90.21 W) was significantly higher in relation to a 35° knee angle (654.71 ± 80.67 W). Mean power was significantly higher at 109% of inseam (662.86 ± 79.72 W) in relation to a 35° knee angle (654.71 ± 80.67 W). Use of 109% of inseam fell outside the recommended 25-35° range 73% of the time. Use of 25° knee angle appears to provide optimal performance while keeping knee angle within the recommended range for injury prevention.
Anterior knee pain and patellofemoral pain syndrome are among the most common leg overuse injuries in cyclists. Bicycle fit, recent change in equipment, training distance and intensity, and individual anatomic factors are important evaluation considerations. Clinicians need a basic understanding of bicycle fitting and how anatomic factors and training errors contribute to repetitive stress injuries. After problems are addressed, a gradual return to activity is recommended to avoid further injury and improve performance.
Overuse problems in cycling can be attributed to several factors. First, the symmetric design of the bicycle matched against the asymmetric variants of the human body produce, on occasion, abnormally directed stress loads on tendons and muscles. Second, cycling involves a high number of repetitions compared with other sports, often as high as 5000 revolutions per hour. Last, with the advent of advanced pedal systems, the cyclist has become more "fixed" to the bicycle. It is critically important that these factors be understood and addressed when treating overuse injuries in cyclists. Standard modalities and therapies are essential components of the treatment plan for cycling-related overuse injuries that should not be overlooked. Surgical intervention should only be considered after prolonged nonoperative measures have failed to relieve symptoms.
Correct cycling posture improves performance and may prevent injuries. This article addresses the most important variables that determine cycling posture of road racing cyclists. It focuses not only on 'posture height' but also on 'posture length', an aspect that has as yet received little attention. In order to help cyclists find their optimum posture, reliable anthropometric measuring is of utmost importance. The relevant measurements and the necessary measuring instruments are considered. Special attention is given to gender related posture aspects.
Research has demonstrated that properly adjusting saddle height is important for both performance and injury prevention during cycling. Peer-reviewed literature recommends the use of a 25 degrees to 35 degrees knee angle for injury prevention and 109% of inseam for optimal performance. Previous research has established that these 2 methods do not produce similar saddle heights. Previous research has also compared anaerobic power among a 25 degrees knee angle, a 35 degrees knee angle, and 109% of inseam and found an increase in anaerobic power at a 25 degrees knee angle. While anaerobic power production has been compared between these 2 methods, aerobic power and economy have not been. The purpose of this study was to determine the difference in economy between these 2 methods of adjusting saddle height. Fifteen subjects, consisting of 5 cyclists (all men) and 10 noncyclists (2 men and 8 women), participated in this study. A graded exercise protocol was utilized in order to determine intensity for the remaining trials. On the last 3 trials, subjects rode for 15 minutes at the resistance at which they reached 70% of Vo2max on a cycle ergometer. Vo2, heart rate (HR), and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were compared to detect differences in economy between saddle heights. No significant differences were noted in HR or RPE. Vo2 was found to be significantly lower at a saddle height set with a 25 degrees knee angle when compared to a 35 degrees knee angle and 109% of inseam. Findings from this study support the use of a 25 degrees knee angle for both performance and injury prevention.