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Whether you’re road cycling, hitting the trails on a mountain bike, or cardio training on one of the best exercise bikes at home, finding the right bike seat height is the key to a safe and smooth ride. If your seat is too high, it can put you at risk for knee injuries, saddle sores, and pain in the hamstrings, calves, sacroiliac (SI) joint, and more. If it’s too low, it can close off your hips, and you’ll generate less power. So you can forget about crushing new PRs.

The right bike seat height for you really comes down to your inseam, but here are some quick ways to measure.

How To Find the Correct Saddle Height

There are four ways to find the correct saddle height: the Heel Method, LeMond Method, Hamley Method, and Holmes Method. Some are more reliable than others, so while we’ve included all of them here, there are also notes about which ones you might want to skip.

Also, when measuring, wear your cycling shoes since this can change your height and measured inseam. And remember: Listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel when you’re actually riding. While these methods can steer you in the right direction, they don’t account for individual differences in anatomy.

Heel Method

The Heel Method is one of the easiest ways to find the correct saddle height because you don’t need any tools or measurements.

First, make sure the crank (or drive train) is in line with the seat post, sit on the saddle, and fully extend your leg with your knee locked. Then, pedal backward.

If your heel loses contact at the bottom of the pedal stroke, you’re not making full contact with the pedal, or you’re tilting your pelvis or rocking side to side, the saddle height is too high. Bring it down a few millimeters and try again. 

Your seat is too low if your knee is bent slightly at the bottom of the pedal stroke

LeMond Method

The LeMond Method is named after Greg LeMond, three-time winner of the Tour de France. He swears by it for measuring the perfect saddle height. 

To do it, measure your inseam (the distance between your crotch and your ankle bone) and multiply it by 0.883. Once you have that measurement, you’ll use a measuring tape to adjust the saddle position so that this is the distance between the top of the saddle to the center of your bottom bracket.

person-measuring-inseam-for-bike-seat-height

Hamley Method

The Hamley method (also called the 109% rule) involves taking your inseam measurement, and multiplying that number by 1.09 (an equivalent of 109%). You then set the saddle height by using a measuring tape to ensure that this is the distance between the top of the saddle and the pedal with the crank arm in the six o’clock position.

However, while straightforward and once popular, this method has fallen out of fashion after studies showed that it resulted in too much variance in knee angle1 and had no advantage in cycling economy or pedaling efficiency.

Holmes Method

While you’re unlikely to try it at home, the Holmes Method is worth mentioning. You’ll need a goniometer (a tool that measures angles) and a friend to help you.

The Holmes Method states that to get the correct riding position, your knee angle should be between 25 and 35 degrees2 when the pedal is dead center at the bottom of the stroke.

Woman riding Bowflex VeloCore bike

To measure, hop on a bike and have someone else use the goniometer to help you adjust the seat height until you achieve this knee angle.

What About Fore-Aft and Saddle Tilt?

While it’s a great starting point, optimal saddle height is only one part of the equation. You’ll likely also need to adjust the fore/aft position of the saddle and the saddle tilt.

The saddle fore-aft adjustment, also called saddle setback, measures how far forward or backward the saddle is on the rails. This position is also tied to the bike saddle height, since adjusting will move the saddle slightly up or down.

The right saddle setback is important because it helps with weight distribution and stabilization. Ideally, you want your knee to sit directly above the spindle with the pedal in the three o’clock position. 

While you can eyeball it, it’s best to use a plumb line (a string with a weight attached to it) for a more accurate measurement. You can buy one on Amazon or just make one at home.

To measure, move your crank into the three o’clock position with your foot on the pedal. Position the plumb line at the front of your kneecap and make sure it drops where the crank arm and the pedal meet. If not, readjust forward or backward accordingly.

plumb-line-measure

The tilt is more straightforward. Most of the time, the saddle should be flat or parallel to the floor. But sometimes, you might want a slight forward tilt (it should rarely tilt backward). Your saddle tilt also depends on your riding style and how comfortable the saddle is for you. You shouldn’t feel any pressure in your perineum or your sit bones. If you do, you’ll want to tilt the saddle down slightly. If you feel yourself sliding forward, tilt it back a little bit.

Keep in mind there are different saddle types, and width, shape, and firmness also come into play. If you’ve gone through all these steps and something still doesn’t feel quite right, it’s possible that you don’t have the right saddle for your anatomy or riding position.

Stationary Bike Vs Road Bike Seat Height

Stationary bikes don’t have the same construction as road bikes, but the basic rules still apply. 

We recommend using the heel method to correctly position the saddle of a stationary bike. It’s straightforward, and you won’t have to whip out a measuring tape at the gym or at home. While you may be able to adjust the fore-aft position on some bikes, it depends on which exercise bike you have. In many cases, you’ll only be moving the height up or down.

RELATED: Best Budget Exercise Bike

How To Know if Your Bike Seat Height Is Correct

As mentioned, while these are general recommendations for getting the right bike seat height, personal factors still play a role. So, how do you know if your bike seat height is correct? 

When all is said and done, your knee should be aligned over your forefoot when your right foot is in the three o’clock position of the pedal stroke. If you dropped a plumb line from the bottom of your kneecap, it should call through the center of the pedal and straight down to the ball of your foot.

Additionally:

  • Your feet should be level—you shouldn’t have to stand on your tiptoes.
  • Your pedal stroke should feel smooth and even; you shouldn’t lose contact with the pedal at the bottom of the stroke.
  • You shouldn’t feel any discomfort, particularly in your knees.

Benefits of Biking

Once you have the right bike fit, you’ll be able to reap the many benefits of cycling without worrying about injuries (at least not those caused by an improperly positioned seat).

Helps Improve Cardio Health and Fitness

When it comes to your heart, the benefits of biking are two-fold. First, it can improve your cardiovascular fitness or your body’s ability to take in oxygen and deliver it to your muscles and organs (like your heart). Cardio fitness, or cardiorespiratory fitness, is measured in VO2 max. According to a 2019 study published in Medicina3, cycling can increase your VO2 max and improve aerobic capacity.

Relatedly, research shows that people who bike have an 11% to 18% lower risk of heart disease4 compared to noncyclists.

Low-Impact Lower-Body Exercise

Your feet don’t leave the pedals, so biking is considered a low-impact cardio exercise. It puts less stress on your joints than higher-impact exercises, like running, but still gives you an efficient cardio and lower-body workout (your quads, hamstrings, and calves will burn after a good bike ride).

An image of a woman riding the Echelon EX-5 bike

And it’s actually good for your joints, too. According to a 2024 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise5, long-term cyclists had less knee pain and incidences of knee osteoarthritis than people who don’t bike.

Helps Burn Calories

Any exercise can help you burn calories, but bicycling has a slight edge over walking. According to Harvard Health Publishing6, cycling at a moderate pace (12 to 13.9 mph) for 30 minutes can burn 240 to 336 calories, depending on your weight. If you speed things up to about 14 to 15.9 mph, then you may burn between 300 and 420 calories. Pedal even faster (over 20 mph), and you’ll scorch between 495 and 693 calories in just 30 minutes.

And this calorie burn can lead to weight loss or help you maintain your current body composition. According to research, people who bike tend to have a lower body mass index7 (BMI) and a lower prevalence of being overweight or obese than their non-cycling counterparts. 

Helps Improve Mental Health and Cognitive Function

When studied separately, both exercise and time spent outdoors were shown to positively affect mental health and cognition. While the two are studied together less often, some recent research shows that exercising outdoors has a largely positive effect on your brain8.

woman riding NordicTrack S22i exercise bike with virtual course on the screen

Not only can it improve your mood, but outdoor bike rides have been shown to improve executive function9, which includes memory and coordination, thought processing, and reaction times in older adults.

Bike Seat Height: Final Thoughts 

Getting the right bike seat height is essential for a comfortable, efficient, and safe ride. While there are general guidelines you can follow to get the right saddle height, make sure you’re also paying attention to your individual characteristics and adjusting based on how the bike and the pedal stroke actually feel. 

And when in doubt, you can always go to a bike shop or a bike fitter to get your saddle adjusted properly. They can also make sure your bike size is right for your frame.

Bike Seat Height: FAQs

What is the correct height for a bike seat?

The correct bike seat height depends on your inseam and the bicycle saddle position. A good clue that your seat is at the right height is that your leg fully extends at the bottom of your pedal stroke without losing contact with the pedal. Riding should feel comfortable, too.

Should you be able to touch the ground when sitting on your bike?

Not necessarily. Even at the correct saddle height, your feet may not touch the ground. If they do, it’s typically just the ball of one foot when you lean slightly to the side.

What is the 109% rule for saddle height?

The 109% rule—aka the Hamley Method—involves taking your seam measurement and multiplying it by 1.09 to find the right saddle height. Once you have this measurement, you’ll use it to adjust your seat: It should be the distance between the top of the saddle and the pedal when the crank arm is in the six o’clock position.

How do I know if my bike seat is too high?

One of the telltale signs that your bike seat is too high is that your hips will rock side to side as you’re riding. Your feet may also lose contact with the pedal at the bottom of the stroke. And over time, you’ll likely develop knee pain if you don’t correct this.

References

  1. Bing, F, Zhang, G, Wang, Y, Zhang, M. Effects of workload and saddle height on muscle activation of the lower limb during cycling. Biomed Eng Online. 2024;23(1):6. doi:10.1186/s12938-024-01199-y
  2. Millour, G, Duc, S, Puel, F, Bertucci, W. Comparison of static and dynamic methods based on knee kinematics to determine optimal saddle height in cycling. Acta Bioeng Biomech. 2019;21(4):93-99.
  3. Chavarrias M, Carlos-Vivas J, Collado-Mateo D, Pérez-Gómez J. Health benefits of indoor cycling: a systematic review. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(8):452. doi:10.3390/medicina55080452
  4. Blond, Kim & Jensen, Majken & Rasmussen, Martin & Overvad, Kim & Tjønneland, Anne & Østergaard, Lars & Grøntved, Anders. (2016). Prospective Study of Bicycling and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Danish Men and Women: Table. Circulation. 134. 1409-1411. 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.116.024651. 
  5. Lo, GH, Richard, MJ, Kriska, AM, et al. Bicycling over a lifetime is associated with less symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: data from the osteoarthritis initiative. Med Sci Sports Exerc. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000003449
  6. Harvard Health Publishing. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Updated March 8, 2021.
  7. Logan, G, Somers, C, Baker, G, et al. Benefits, risks, barriers, and facilitators to cycling: a narrative review. Front Sports Act Living. 2023;5:1168357. doi:10.3389/fspor.2023.1168357
  8. Boere K, Lloyd K, Binsted G, Krigolson OE. Exercising is good for the brain but exercising outside is potentially better. Sci Rep. 2023 Jan 20;13(1):1140. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-26093-2. PMID: 36670116; PMCID: PMC9859790.
  9. Leyland LA, Spencer B, Beale N, Jones T, van Reekum CM. The effect of cycling on cognitive function and well-being in older adults. PLoS One. 2019;14(2):e0211779. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0211779

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