Saddle Adjustment Question

Hi Everyone,

I am doing research on saddle position as I am suddenly (with increased mileage and intensity) having elbow and lower leg pain on my right side. It’s all hugely complicated as I also have massive forefoot tilt on that side, and that leg, likely mostly the femur, is a good centimeter or more longer than on the left. Lots of stuff has already been tweaked with the bike fit and things were better until I started riding more. So one thing that I notice is that in spite of the fact that my seat is measurably level while on the trainer, I slip forward over time and/or during more intense efforts. This has led me to look into saddle placement. Everything I read and the videos I have watched indicate that I need to move my seat BACK. I do, indeed fail the test on the Bike Fit Advisor site that says I should be able to lift my hands off of the handlebars and sit up without either overly clenching my abdominals, or pedaling wildly faster, or having my hips slide forward. These things do happen, so it appears that the fix may be to move the saddle back.

My question is: Why does it help to move the saddle back? That is so counterintuitive to me. It seems like that should make it worse instead of better…

I can’t wait to have the “ah-ha” moment when someone explains this :smiley:
Thanks!
Beth

A lot of things going on here but it can also be the drop from your saddle to your bars. Racers want to get low and get aero but they train their core muscles to support that. You might try leaving your saddle where it is but raising your bars just a tad, maybe 10mm? You can go higher or lower depending on what feels right TO YOU. On a trainer there is no reason to be aero unless you are using it as road training. Anyway, just some thoughts to consider.

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I strongly recommend a bike fir, from a professional bike fitter (not just a bike shop with a tape measure). It’ll be the best money you ever spend on your bike.

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Hi @Bob_Gorman_Splunk_65 and @Steve_Hammatt ,

Thanks for your thoughts on this! I will have a look to see whether my bars can be raised any farther. I already have a shorter stem installed and have spacers that raise the whole thing up higher. But maybe there’s a bit more room to tweak things there.

I have been a total of 4 times for bike fitting. The first one was not at all worth the money, but I also didn’t know any better at the time. I have read a ton of stuff and watched all kinds of videos over the last two years, so I might be in a better position to look for a qualified bike fitter than ever before. The last two times I went to a guy who seems pretty good, but I have so much stuff going (leg length, foot tilt, short torso etc) on apparently that not too much stuff can get changed all at once any more. My last trip to see him was December of 2019 and I probably won’t make the trip again (several hours away) until the vaccine rollout is a bit further along in this area.

Which leaves me to my own devices for the time being… Sadly. On the other hand, it is all very interesting and one is confronted with such quandaries as why moving a saddle back would keep someone from sliding forward. Very mysterious to me! Maybe I should just try it and see what happens.

First off, the reasoning behind moving the saddle back is that it shifts your center of mass such that more of your weight is placed onto the saddle than onto your upper body/arms. I can’t say that this will prevent you from moving forward on the saddle, as this tends to a a natural movement as we put out more force to the pedals (hence the phrase ‘on the rivet’, as old-school saddles had a rivet on the tip to hold the leather down). One thing to keep in mind, though, is that as you move your saddle back you also need to move it down (a bit) in order to keep the distance from your pedal to the hip the same (think of it as having to move along the arc of a circle).

I definitely agree with the other posters that a quality bike fit is key, especially with the issues you have enumerated. The really hard thing about bike fitters, though, is that it’s really not good enough that they know what they are doing, they also have to be able to communicate with you in a manner that makes sense. It’s sort of like finding a good doctor, and it might take a few tries. So, if you have a selection of bike fitters in your area I would suggest seeing if you can set up some time to talk to each of them for a bit and go with the one that make the ‘most sense’ to you. In the end, you want to find someone who, when you leave their studio, has not only given you a great bike fit, but has been able to explain their process to you such that you fully understand why they positioned you the way they did. This will then help you to better diagnose any further issues on your own, before having to go back for some tweaks.

Good luck! Having a great bike fit definitely increases the enjoyment of the sport!

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I’m not a big believer in bike fitters unless you have a very specific goal, like a pro that needs to be as aero as possible while still generating as much power as possible or a climber who needs a position to be able to sit and spin or something like that. For the average recreational rider I think it is a lot of money for not much return on investment. As you point out everyone is so unique biomechanically that you are best to find a good starting point and then tweak from there.
To your point about moving the saddle back to keep you from sliding forward; It would place your pelvis slightly further back and encourage more of a forward push on the pedals, You will be a little more behind the pedal so you motion will be slightly different. This may be enough to keep your torso from wanting to slide forward and get “on top” of the pedal. The further back you move your saddle the less flex you will have in your knee and the more forward your pedal stroke will be. Just some additional thoughts.

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You can also tip the seat back a bit to take some pressure off your arms.

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