I commute ~20 km a day and decided to give clipless pedals a try. I installed my cleats following a guide on the web: under the ball of the foot, very slightly behind to relieve the toes, especially since I am just commuting and touring, so not focused on pure speed. I loved it from the start!

Still, I was feeling like I was my saddle got suddenly too low. Probably I was pedaling too much "with my heels" when riding flat (which maybe explains even more how the performance gain is spectacular).

I have considered the saddle height from a few different perspectives:

  • I moved my saddle up and it felt way better while riding. Still, at the height where it "feels" the best, my knee is slightly bent which seems fine.

  • With the general rule-of-thumb of having the barefoot heel just touch the pedal with the leg completely straight when the pedal is completely down, my barefoot foot is a little under an inch hovering over the pedal.

  • I know that Master Sheldon also stated another rule-of-thumb being that the proper saddle height is: the highest possible without wobbling the hips down to reach for pedals. So I would be fine from that point of view.

Which rule of thumb is most important? Is it a problem that my heel can't touch the pedal?

This leads me to my other problem which is an obvious leak in a bike maneuvering/driving having learnt on my own at the age of 20+ ... : I cannot start without sitting on the saddle already. I have no trouble getting up from the saddle for some power pedaling, even just a second after starting, but I cannot get to start outside of the saddle.

Until now it was fine since I have quite a low bottom bracket and I could stand on my tip toe on one side and be sitting, but with the height increase, this is becoming a very painful option since I am on my very tip-tip-toe and a stop over 20 seconds is very uncomfortable.

I know it is a leak on my side. But it just freaks me out. It is probably that as much the fact of starting out of the saddle as much as it is starting with a position way more in the front of the bike than usual, it just does not feel right, I feel I will lose balance (since the "usual comfort position" is way more in the back).

I feel like an idiot but just can't seem to overcome that "fear" (yep, ridiculous, I know...)

Same goes for stopping, feels weird to have to brake and get one's butt so much in front and so low at the same time,...

Any tips?

  • I made an edit to focus the question a little bit more. Feel free to change anything if I was overaggressive.
    – amcnabb
    Jan 2, 2013 at 19:49
  • Thanks, it was perfect... Especially for what might look like a whiner question...
    – ptpdlc
    Jan 2, 2013 at 21:31

2 Answers 2


The rule of thumb of "the highest possible without wobbling the hips down to reach for pedals" seems like a better rule than "having the barefoot heel just touch the pedal with the leg completely straight when the pedal is completely down".

If your saddle is at the right height, it should be difficult to place a foot on the ground while seated. Now that your saddle is at what seems to be a more appropriate height, you may have to change any habits that developed during the time that you had a lower saddle.

Remaining seated on the saddle at a stop is uncomfortable on a well fitted bike. You should find stops much more comfortable if you stand over your top tube with one foot flat on the ground. With a bit of practice, you should be able to use a single push with your foot to simultaneously begin to pedal forward while lifting yourself onto the saddle. Clipless pedals make this easier because you can easily position the crank by "pedaling backwards" to the desired position. With a little bit of practice, this will become perfectly natural.


The "rule of thumb" (which as you stated is slightly different from the one I know) is only that. The geometry of the shoe and pedal can easily make a half inch to an inch of difference from one pedal/shoe combo to the next.

(I learned you place the heels of your SHOES on the pedal and pedal backwards to check seat height -- the legs should go fully extended.)

Not clear why you have trouble starting. I always start with one foot clipped in and clip the other foot once I'm going, and I suppose that makes one a little less stable standing. But a lot depends on how much momentum you get from that first quarter rotation of the clipped-in foot.

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