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I am currently riding a loaner from my brother in-law, and I have set the seat height based upon feel. I was wondering though as to how I can set it to the right height for me to ride more scientifically?

I will also need to set it back to his height when I give the bike back in a weeks time.

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For the setting back part: check the back of the seat post, sometimes there are some height marks (like every millimetres or so). –  Vache Dec 5 '10 at 12:20
    
    
Perhaps this question could be merged with the one freiheit noted, they're very similar. Any objections? (Alternately, this could be a road-bike specific version of that question.) –  Neil Fein Dec 5 '10 at 20:22
    
@neilfein: it's borderline, but I think they're different enough that they should be left alone (except maybe getting the tags to match well enough that they show up in each other's "Related" links). blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/04/handling-duplicate-questions blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/… –  freiheit Dec 6 '10 at 1:08
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2 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

There are a number of ways to determine the seat height for a road bicycle. But you should also pay attention to how you feel while riding your bike at different heights. In addition, it is important to consider your entire position, not only the seat height. Finally, if you are riding a lot, change your seat height in small increments over time to avoid injury.

Here are some of the popular methods for determining seat height:

  1. There should be some bend in your knee at the bottom of the stroke;
    1. your seat is too high if you should have to wobble your hips with each pedal stroke to reach the pedal.
    2. Your seat is too low if your thighs hit your stomach
  2. Sit on the bike, put your heel on the pedal, and your leg should be fully extended. This provides a good starting point
  3. Another good starting point is Greg Lemond's recommendation from "Greg LeMond's complete book of cycling" states that the distance from the top of the seat to the center of the pedal should be 0.833 times the distance from the floor to your crotch, measured with your back and heels against a wall. If you use clipless pedals, subtract 3cm;
  4. if you drop your heels at the bottom of the pedal stroke, decrease the height and if you point your toes, increase the height relative to these recommendations.
  5. When you need more control (crit racing, urban cycling, bicycle polo) lower the seat; for more power (hill climbing, time trialing), increase the seat height.

Again, once you get these starting points, you can adjust until it feels right. I would also suggest getting a professional fit, especially if you ride a lot or are planning to purchase a new bike. Probably the most important attribute of a new bicycle is it's fit. A proper fit will do more for your riding enjoyment, skill, and speed than any component or frame material (excluding department store bikes).

Some good online resources include:

http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm

http://www.caree.org/bike101bikefit.htm

Here is a list of references found in the chapter on Body Position for Cycling from the book "High Tech Cycling" by Ed Burke. The entire book can be read at google books. alt text

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On point 4: lowering the seat does allow the rider to shift their body mass for control, but for power, bike fit varies even within track racing. Riders (even at international level) may use one bike for multiple disciplines. For pursuits their position will be rotated about the BB, so the saddle would seem to be higher, however a more upright position with the saddle moved down and aft would be used for bunch racing. I would recommend a professional fitting service. –  Emyr Aug 30 '13 at 9:36
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Raise the seat until your leg is almost fully extended at the end of a downstroke (i.e., knee bent only a little bit). When you stop you'll be unable to put feet down on both sides, so either lean to one side or come off the seat and straddle the bar.

Or, better yet, go to a bike shop and ask them to do it for you. They'll probably be happy to help.

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