One of the most significant settings on a mountain bike is seat height. While it seems simple, the proper seat height allows you to have a comfortable sitting position and pedaling pattern. It can even optimize your leg power, allowing you to increase the speed of your mountain bike significantly.
But if your bike’s seat height is too high or too low, it could make your movements uncomfortable. During long rides, you may even feel pain in your legs and lower back, as your bike’s seat prevents your lower muscles from resting in a comfortable position.
However, what is the right seat height for your mountain bike?
This article will discuss the following:
- The proper mountain bike seat height (should your feet touch the ground?)
- Adjusting a mountain bike’s seat height
- Why an improper saddle height is bad for mountain bikers
- The benefits of a proper MTB seat height
A good mountain bike seat height should allow only the balls of your feet to touch the ground. This height provides comfort and riding efficiency. If your feet are touching the ground flatly, the seat is too low; if you cannot touch the ground, it is too high.
Finding your ideal seat height can be complicated. For this reason, this article will teach you three methods for adjusting a mountain bike’s saddle.
🚴♀️ DIY MTB Pro Tip: Learn how to make your MTB more comfortable in this article 👉 10 Ways to Make a Mountain Bike More Comfortable
Have you ever ridden your mountain bike and felt something was wrong? That is probably the saddle height telling you that it needs some adjustments.
An incorrect mountain bike seat height can cause your ride to feel uncomfortable. On top of that, it also affects how you pedal or stand up when stopping your bike.
When talking about proper seat height, should your feet touch the ground on a mountain bike?
Only the balls of your feet should touch the ground when sitting on a mountain bike, so your toes are pointed downwards and your ankles are flexed. Your seat height is too high if your feet cannot touch the ground. However, your feet should not touch the ground flat, which would mean the seat is too low.
When mountain biking, allowing the tip of your feet to touch the ground allows you to brake safely. Your foot will help you balance once your bike comes to a complete stop, preventing you from losing balance. Such is especially essential if you need to brake quickly.
Finding your optimal seat height when riding a mountain bike can make a huge difference. If you feel uncomfortable riding or the MTB’s saddle is putting strain on you, then you need to adjust the seat height (or possibly the seat’s pitch).
Finding The Right Mountain Bike Saddle Height
An improper seat height can lead to mountain biking problems, such as discomfort, saddle sores, and joint pain. Fortunately, there are a couple of methods you can do to adjust the seat height of your mountain bike.
One of the easiest ways to adjust your mountain bike’s seat height is using the heel-to-pedal method. This method requires you to sit on your bike while leaning on a wall to stay upright.
Once in position, you need to position your heel on the pedal and propel it until one of your knees is just about straight. You must increase your seat height if you pedaled and your knee is still bent. But your saddle is too high if your foot is no longer touching the pedal once you straighten it.
This method commonly requires setting up your mountain bike on a turbo trainer. But if you do not have access to that, you can think of other ways to keep your bike upright.
When measuring seat height using the Holmes method, you must ride your mountain bike while someone is filming you. You may also opt to set your phone up on a tripod if you do not have someone to record you.
Once you have your phone set up, record yourself pedaling for at least a minute. Next, watch the recording and pause it once the pedals reach the lowest position. The angle of your knees should be anywhere between 25 and 35 degrees.
Adjust your saddle height higher if the angle is lower than 25 degrees. If it is more than 35 degrees, you need to reduce the height of your mountain bike seat.
The good thing about the Holmes method is that it considers your riding position. For this reason, this method may be the most accurate way of measuring the ideal mountain bike seat height.
According to the research posted in the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, the Holmes method is ideal for injury prevention caused by an improperly set saddle height.
There are various ways to measure the correct saddle height on a mountain bike, but the LeMond method is the most popular. According to a study posted by the Journal For Exercise Physiology, former American road racing cyclist Gregory James LeMond and his coach popularized this seat measuring method. It involves using any flat object, such as a book or a meter ruler.
Take your shoes off and place the object between your legs as if that object is your mountain bike’s saddle. You may need to ask someone to measure the distance between the floor and the object you use to imitate sitting on a bike seat. This measurement is your inseam. I use a broom handle held in a horizontal position, so the person helping doesn’t need to stick their hands where the sun doesn’t shine if you know what I’m saying. Now, take the inseam measurement and multiply it by 0.833. The resulting figure is your ideal saddle height.
Benefits Of Proper Seat Height
As simple as it may sound, adjusting your mountain bike’s seat height can change the way you ride. For one, it helps prevent losing balance, as your foot can easily touch the ground.
Below are the benefits you can get from adequately adjusting your bike’s saddle height:
According to the Current Sports Medicine Reports, a mountain bike seat that is too high or low can cause your joints, muscles, and hips to become sore. If you are on a long ride, this soreness could bring discomfort and hinder your optimal riding performance. It will also over-extend your ankles, which can cause pain and foot problems.
On the other hand, a proper seat height is a total game changer. It can bring comfort to your entire adventure, regardless of how long it is. It will also prevent your hips from moving side to side while pedaling. A correctly set saddle height can even prevent injuries, particularly on the lower half of your body.
🚴♀️ DIY MTB Tip: Is your MTB Seat High? Find out the proper fit in this article. 👉 Why are MTB Seats So High?
Proper seat height allows you to deliver full power to the pedals. You will be able to produce a good amount of leverage when pushing the pedals while still keeping your knees and leg muscles in a comfortable pedaling position.
A higher seat equals increased speed.
Extending your feet to their maximum angle will allow you to increase the pedals’ number of rotations. As a result, you can improve your bike’s speed without tiring your legs too much.
According to a study by Lusis A. Martinez-Lemus et al., prolonged bending of the knees can disturb blood flow. For this reason, you need to allow your legs to fully extend whenever you are mountain biking. You can achieve good blood flow in the legs through a proper saddle height, where your legs and knees have room to stretch.
Moreover, disturbed blood flow can cause muscle pain, so you want to avoid keeping your knees bent for an extended period.
MTB Tools I Love and Recommend
I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.
- Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand. Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential. I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it. This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur. Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
- A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit. Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained. The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider. Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
- Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure. A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not. Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use. An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
- Carry a multitool with you on every ride. I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool. I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works. Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19
You may think a mountain bike seat height that is either too high or too low cannot affect you significantly. However, there is more disadvantage to improper seat height than discomfort.
🚴♀️ DIY MTB Pro Tip: Do your knees ache after a ride? I’ve got some suggestions in this article. 👉 How to Reduce Knee Pain Mountain Biking
If your mountain bike’s seat is too high, reaching for the pedals will be difficult, as you need to over-stretch your legs. If it is too low, your leg will remain bent throughout the rise, as there will be no room for them to stretch.
These problems result in muscle pain, proper form when pedaling should be an objective. To dig in deeper to about pedaling form read this resources. Read https://rideemtb.com/pedaling-with-correct-technique-for-more-comfort/
When a mountain bike’s seat is too low, you will not have room to shift your weight. As a result, you cannot control your bike’s speed by either moving your weight forward or backward.
Your weight will remain in one spot, preventing you from increasing your bike’s speed. So, instead of helping your bike to propel forward, your weight will serve as a drag that slows it down.
As a result, you will have to exert more effort in pedaling to keep your bike going.
Keep Your Bike Moving
To conclude, your mountain bike’s saddle height can make or break your ride. The proper height can bring you comfort and pedaling efficiency, while a seat that is too high or low will cause joint and muscle pain. A lousy saddle height can even cause your bike’s speed to slow down, as you will not be able to exert your full pedaling power.
What do you think about this article? If you have comments, questions, or seat height adjustment tips I could learn from, feel free to drop them in the comments!
When setting up a mountain bike’s seat height, only the balls of your feet should touch the ground. This seat height will allow your knees to stretch when the pedals are in their lowest position.
- Peveler, Will W. Effects of Saddle Height on Economy in Cycling. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22. no. 4 (2008). doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318173dac6. Accessed January 27, 2023.
- Peveler, W., P. Bishop, J. Smith, M. Richardson, and E. Whitehorn. “Comparing Methods For Setting Saddle Height In Trained Cyclists.” Journal of Exercise Physiology Online 8, no. 1 (2005). https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/document?repid=rep1&type=pdf&doi=77f5f8a6c41e309281d602019454488118fcd1e8. Accessed January 28, 2023.
- Leavitt, Trevor G., and Heather K. Vincent. “Simple Seat Height Adjustment In Bike Fitting Can Reduce Injury Risk.” Current Sports Medicine Reports 15, no. 3 (2016). doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000254. Accessed January 27, 2023.
- Walsh, Lauren K., Robert M. Restaino, Luis A. Martinez‐Lemus, and Jaume Padilla. “Prolonged Leg Bending Impairs Endothelial Function In The Popliteal Artery.” Physiological Reports 5, no. 20 (2017). DOIi: 10.14814/phy2.13478. Accessed January 27, 2023.