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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About time someone said it. Schwinn was my first certification.
On January 1 I did 90 minute new year starter. We had quite the crowd. Since it was the first day of the new year I thought I’d take a page out of ICI and offer to check ‘bike fit’ after class. I held up my goniometer and plumb bob and said stay on your bike if you want me to check you out.
Well I was shocked at how many riders took me up on my offer. Your proposition was correct of course, no one was riding to high. I did 11 bike fits and each one ended with the rider in the ‘most comfortable position for them. Two of my fits were with ‘outdoor’ riders. It was interesting to note that their set up was spot on relative to suggested angles, knee position and – for them – handle bar position, for both height as well as fore/aft.
40 people in class. 11 chose to have me check them. Two were out door riders… I have taken the goniometer and that heavy plumb bob out of my bag. I’m going with the ‘you look great, are you comfortable now’ bike fit…
Nailed it as usual, John….the “too high” position tends to be self correcting by about the 20-25 minute mark, in my experience.
However, I can honestly say that I’ve had one member who was totally resistant to lowering his saddle (by what I imagined to be at least 2 pop-pin holes)……primarily, I think, because it was my suggestion that he might be more comfy.
It was so painful to watch him week after week……him bound and determined not to fix the issue……that I finally had to approach him with my Serious Hat on. Now, I know that he’d had bilateral knee replacements (another reason for my concern) and that was his reason/excuse for carrying on like this. When I asked him if he’d given any thought to the long term effects on his bionic knees, he replied that his orthopedist was happy with this set-up (like his orthopedist had actually come into the cycle studio and set him up……riiiight!!) My response was that, while his orthopedist might be….. his urologist probably wouldn’t.
You know what…….dude was off that bike and fixing the saddle height in under 10 minutes. Manifestly, bionic knees take second place to the health of Other Parts!!
Ha Ha Ha – Vivienne I’m wiping the coffee off my key board.
Agreed, care and feeding of our “Man Parts” is a powerful motivator!
This goes to the power of suggestion by those in authority, doesn’t it.