Bike Tip: Don’t forget to adjust your seat height

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A lot of people just bike for leisure so they just start riding a bike they bought a long time ago or just rented at the beach without any tuning or maintenance. It’s understandable that people who don’t bike often won’t want to tune their handlebars or suspension to very specific preferences but there’s no reason to fear adjusting your bike seat height. It’s easy, time efficient, and of extreme benefit to do so.

First, how to do it? Adjusting your seat height is handled by one part; the clamp bolt. Okay well maybe you can say the clamp and bolt are two separate parts (and sometimes it’s just a pinch bolt), but regardless it is very easy to use. The easiest is when there is a quick release clamp that you can simply pull open to adjust and close to set.

It’s the easiest to use and if you want to add this to your bike it would be a great idea especially if multiple people of different body sizes use the same bike. I would recommend the Odier as its very simple set up and well reviewed or try alternatives here.

If you don’t have the quick release feature you’ll have to loosen the clamp bolt to move the seat around. When shopping for a clamp bolt make sure to measure the outer diameter of the frame and not the seat post that goes into the bike frame. Here is a great choice if you need one. Do not over tighten the clamp as it might damage the bike especially if you have an expensive carbon fiber frame. Ouch.

Okay now where should my seat height be? The reason you should do this one simple trick is because it will change your whole riding experience. Let’s start with different heights and how that will affect your riding. If your pedal is too close like this:

Seat and Pedal are too close
Leg stays bent and full range of motion is limited.

Then you’re going to have a few problems. One, it will feel uncomfortable, especially as you ride longer. Your leg will never be able to stretch fully but will be working hard nonetheless. Your legs will get full of blood and be tired quicker. Another problem is that you will not have a full pedal stroke so you won’t be able to push all the way through to the bottom of your leg length leaving a big amount of power on the table. The other alternative is that your pedal is to far from your seat like this:

Pedal is too far and force is lost at the bottom of the pedal.
Pedal is too far and force is lost at the bottom of the pedal.

Here the problem is that if at the bottom of a pedal rotation your knees should not be locked up or having to use your toes to keep in contact with the pedal. Here the problem is that you’re not able to be a part of the whole pedal stroke (the bottom). If your leg locks up you’ll be using your hamstrings a lot more and if you have to extend out to your toes your calves will likely be burning after a riding for a few minutes.

Full range of motion with power throughout pedal stroke.
Full range of motion with power throughout pedal stroke.

So the ideal is to be in between these extremes. Start adjusting the bike seat and find where the seat should be when the ball of your foot is on the pedal at the bottom of its rotation (just like its pictured above). You should have a slight bend at the knee in this position. How much of a bend is different for everyone so see what feels comfortable. If you find the spot then mark the spot or tighten the quick release clamp if you have one. When trying to find the height you may be on a bike that you can’t balance standing so you may need someone to hold the bike in place or if you’re alone lean against the wall while trying to find the right height.

So you can see we have many reasons to adjust the height and it’s something everyone can do. There are other ways to adjust your seat in terms of moving forward/backward and angles. Most bike seats will just need to have a clamp under the seat loosened. If your bike seat can’t do any of this then maybe consider trying another seat.

Now you’re prepared to bike with ease and have loads of fun. Remember to come and check out our other articles on products and cycling education.