bike too big for this kid

Myth #6 You should be concerned with setting the saddle height too high.

If you've taught for any length of time you have probably observed that; left to their own devises, our participants will universally have their saddles set somewhere between just right and too low. I discussed how you should approach these low riders in an earlier post about my 10 Myths.

But should you have any concerns about raising them too high?


Let's start deconstructing this Myth with a visualization exercise.

To begin I'd like you to close your and see if you can call up an image of the last participant whom you observed riding with their saddle set too high.

Can you see one? No?

Well keep trying...

OK, that's enough. You can open your eyes.

There's a good chance that you've never had a student in your class riding with their saddle set too high. I personally can't think of a time when I've seen this and felt I needed to respond / intervene between the rider and the cycle. Even when I thought I saw someone set too high (doing the classic Toe Pointed Peddling) it turned out that when I encouraged them to loosen their ankles and drop their heels, their seat was still set too low.

There's a simple reason for this > peddling with too high a saddle is painful and riders will instinctively choose a lower height where there's no pain. 

I need to credit my Schwinn certification for this one. Schwinn teaches two levels of bike setup; a "Quick Fit" and a "High Performance Fit". While "Quick Fit" is basically "get em close", the "High Performance Fit" version relies on the comfort of the rider to determine saddle height.

From my Schwinn Indoor Cycling Instructor manual:

In the proper riding position, with hands on the handlebars, have the rider place their leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Kneel down beside the pedal, and make sure the rider's heel stays level with the floor.

Check that the knee extends as far as comfortably possible while the rider is pedaling  Raise and lower the seat until the rider finds the highest comfortable adjustment. This should not be determined simply by observing the leg length, but rather by observing leg length AND through trial and error.


The minute I heard this during the certification, my ears perked up and I thought it made perfect sense. Riding with too high a saddle is painful... or riding with a saddle that's at the proper height, but higher than your flexibility allows, isn't comfortable to ride either.

And uncomfortable riders won't sit there in pain for an hour, and they certainly won't come back 🙁

Your focus needs to be on the comfort of the student, not some arbitrary number on a Goniometer or Spinning® Fit System tool.

I'll never forget the guy at the amusement park years ago with the stick he used to measure each rider's height, to see it they were tall enough to ride the Charlie Brown swings. He was so focused on the top of my daughter Carly's head, and if it was over the top of his measuring stick, that he completely missed how Carly was doing her best ballerina impersonation (up on her tip-toes) as she walked past his review station. He gave her an approving nod and she was in, while I watch her lose 6" in height, in her next two steps, as she returned to her heels. Then she turned and smiled back at me about her cleverness - it was priceless.

Schwinn's system is beautiful in it's simplicity and how it's focused on feedback from the student. When you see a Low Rider in class suggest that they will be more efficient / burn more calories or develop more shapely legs if they raised the saddle. Then raise it a notch and ask them; "how does that feel?"

If they answer with anything other than; "it feels too high", suggest they try another notch and ask again. Repeat until they respond with; "that feels too high" and drop them down one hole.

Let me know if this helps.






Originally posted 2013-01-02 18:30:56.


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