I am trying to determine if my saddle is setup right.

In the picture below, my feet is at 9 o'clock and the improvised plum line that starts under my knee cap (hard to see, spot the white line against the bottom tube) is not going through the ball of my foot or near the pedal.

IIRC, the line should go through the ball of my foot and pedal spindle right? In this case, I need to back up my seat?

Plumb line with feet at 3 o'clock

Edit #1

In the hopes of adding and clearing this post up a little, here's the other screenshot that I had taken with my heel on the pedal, to show the height component of my saddle:

Heel on pedals I thought the height was ok.

I'm trying to solve an issue and wanted to tackle each bit individually starting with my saddle setup.

The issue that I'm trying to solve crops up after some time on the bike. It seems to be related to the amount of cranking going up hills. It varies in time and distance. If I concentrate on being in a lower gear than I want, and patiently go up hills, I can delay the pain from appearing.

The pain will start on the back and outer side of the knee, at the very top of the right calf. It first starts off with a warning, a dull pain. Then, I need to push the bike up the hill due to the pain when I crank on the bike. I can do flats and downhills ok.

IIRC, this is entirely related to my cleat positioning.

So far, I have been moving the seat around a bit to test to see if it made any difference. It doesn't. This post was to take the seat out of the equation so that I can move on to other things.

Edit #2

For the sake of completeness, I'm adding new snaps featuring more legs :)

Feet at 3 oclock Heel on pedal Feet at 6 oclock

Edit #3

IMO, it seems highly likely a cleat issue. However, wondering out loud, could my issue be related to lack of mobility perhaps due to some muscle groups not firing properly? (Glutes maybe?)

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    Its a trail or enduro MTB, far more important things to focus on the the plumb line theory out of Road cycling. Consider moving your foot forward an cm or two. You loos a bit of power, but gain stability and control which more than makes up for it as you can carry speed better though technical bits.
    – mattnz
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 3:30
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    Afaik the plum line method has no scientific/engineering basis and is merely a very rough rule of thumb.
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 8:26
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    @Michael the plum line method has no scientific/engineering basis But think of all those poor recumbent riders, knees exploding constantly, consigned to a crippled life because their knees weren't over the pedals! ;-) Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 9:19
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    1). The ball of the foot being a reference point is complete tripe, and born from an idea that during running/walking, the energy from the foot comes from the ball. This is not the case with cycling, especially when hard soles of bike shoes are factored in. Your cleats look a little far forward to me. They should be closer to the arch of your foot to reduce the amount of work your calf muscles need to do. 2). You could also try trialing a dropper post to give you some mid ride adjustment certainly of saddle height to see if you can mange the onset of the pain.
    – Lucero79
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:28
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    I'd look at my cleat alignment before my seat height. Personally I found I could tolerate a fairly wide range of seat heights without knee pain, however, I had a very narrow range of acceptable cleat alignments before my knees complained. I need to ride with little/no float to keep everything aligned. Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 14:40

3 Answers 3


Not enough information can be seen in your picture.

What you are looking for currently is a red herring. Whether a line from your knee cap does or does not cross any point on the shoe or on the pedal is strongly affected by the seat tube angle (and also the crank length). In the extreme case of a recumbent bike there is no way those could intersect - but the position setup is no less important there.

And not just the (for some to far-fetched) recumbent bike example, check this racer

enter image description here

(from https://www.slowtwitch.com/Photos/Products/Winners_and_Losers_Helmets_4712.html)

Due to his seat-tube angle the guy cannot ever fulfil the rule.

What you should look for are the smallest and the greatest angle your knee makes. For that you need the pictures of you pedalling made from higher point, best completely perpendicular to the knee. That's what bike fitters are looking for (among other stuff). A bike fitter can do that for you or you can try to do that yourself, there are instructions available on the internet (e.g., https://www.ludd.ltu.se/~torger/bikefit/ - the site also discusses the KOPS method you have used, for most common bikes and average riders it works quite well but the site does also offer better methods).

enter image description here

(from https://www.ludd.ltu.se/~torger/bikefit/)

To answer your actual question about your own position, taking your edit into account: I cannot see any obvious problem in your seat height and I would indeed try to search a problem in the cleat position. You can also try flat pedals for a while and check whether they change your situations. The may help to narrow down the problem. It is less easy to assess your forward-back seat position but considering the KOPS method it is not way off but may be slighly forward. Or it may not, I would still try to measure your min and max knee angles, it is more accurate and considers the actual piece of your body that hurts.

Ad Edit 3: It can and it can be due to many various gate issues. For example, I have problems with my hip and knee orientation and resulting duck feet which is worse on the right leg. Some issues are more obvious and some less. A professional eye will know better (a physiotherapist or bike fitter, but not just any, but some that actively deal with similar problems). Consider cleats that allow some float and try to find out what Q-factor may be the right one for you.

  • Thanks. Added "Edit #1" with a tad more info, if it helps.
    – TechFanDan
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 10:25
  • You should not compare a TT setup (first picture) to a MTB setup. You wouldn't even compare a TT setup to a normal road setup, so I can only assume the 4 up votes are from people who have no real clue, but think this is a great answer. It isn't.
    – Lucero79
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 12:22
  • @Lucero79 I don't think it's the point of this answer to compare this TT setup with an MTB setup. The point is rather, it doesn't make much sense to apply a criterium such as the OP was talking about without considering the context. — I daresay a very steep seat-tube angle can make more sense for MTB than for road cycling, if whenever you're pedalling is steep uphill and the rest of riding is with the dropper post down so that the saddle is completely out of the equation. Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:16
  • @Lucero79 The TT ride is just an illustratration how the mentioned rule of thumb is only a coincidence. However, you can actually compare those positions. Not that much the upper body, but you can compare the knee angles between a TT bike a road bike a mountain bike and a recumbent bike. They should not differ drastically. If you have are overstressing your knees in some way, it can happen on any bike. Road bikers are more sensitive to such problems than downhill riders, but XC bikers can have the same problem. This channel advises on both youtube.com/watch?v=XBLMidr4dps Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:17
  • If you bother to click on the video, notice the marks on the riders knee, hip and ankle. They are used to track the angles the lags make. Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:21

The photograph you have provided indicates a saddle height that is roughly correct. But there is no rule set in stone about saddle height or any other aspect of bike fit. Saddle height is a particularly sensitive adjustment, however, and it pays to get it just right. Set it too low and you're wasting power. In extreme cases of setting it too low, you could even be setting yourself up for knee injury. If you set it too high, however, you will know about it after an hour or two of riding.

When I'm getting used to a new bike with a new geometry (or even a new saddle, cycling shoes, or pedals on an old bike) what I do is that first I set it about where it feels right, and then on subsequent longer rides, I raise the saddle just a hair each time until I start noticing slight discomfort on the soft tissues of my groin after a couple of hours. At that precise point, I know I need to set it back down to where it was before the last adjustment. These adjustments are very small, by the way--on the order of 2mm or 1/8 of an inch increments. It may seem surprising, but even an adjustment that small can make the difference between riding with comfort and power or suffering in some way.

  • Actually, I think the OPs saddle is a bit too low, he's able to reach the pedal with his heel all the way through the stroke. I know I don't stand a ghost of a chance to do that on my bike, but I also have quite large feet. Anyways, your method of raising the saddle bit by bit until it starts getting uncomfortable sounds perfectly right to me :-) Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 21:17

My understanding is that the perfect theoretical position is just a starting point that you then tweak until the position feels comfortable and sustainable for you. So, tweak your position then test ride it to decide if it's right for you.

Edit to address the question of mobility/flexibility. I've read articles that put forward the idea that lots of cycling can lead to shortened, tight muscles. So, I have a 'routine' of doing stretches (Not necessarily before or after a ride, just whenever's convenient during my day.) and I make sure I go for regular walks and occasional short runs, to add a bit of impact exercise to promote bone density.

The stretching I mentioned is kinda yoga based. Here's an example.

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    However good bike fits saved many people from a lot of pain and suffering - they were not able to come up with those adjustments themselves just by riding the bike. Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 9:32
  • That's a good point actually, which no-one else mentioned. If really in doubt and struggling, go to a LBS and get a bike fit done! Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 9:34
  • Thanks. I added an edit to my post indicating the issue that I'm facing, which explains my initial post.
    – TechFanDan
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 10:27

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