Minor Adjustments

Over the past week, I’ve had occasion to make adjustments to the saddles on both my and Pat’s bike. Her bike, of course, needed a replacement saddle after hers fell apart on New Year’s Day. In my case, I got new crank arms, and thought their longer length would require some changes in my saddle position.

Once again I was intrigued by the difference a few millimeters makes. First, my saddle. My crank arms are now 175mm, as opposed to the 172.5mm ones they replaced. So a 2.5mm drop in the seat height was called for, no? I decided not to go quite that far, but did lower the seat by roughly two millimeters.

The first ride after the change left me feeling no real difference. But later that evening, I felt a soreness just above my right knee. Nothing serious, but it was there. I decided I’d have to keep experimenting to get just the right setting.

Pat’s bike had its own issues. I put on the saddle that came as original equipment, and measured the distance from the saddle nose to the center of the headset to make sure they were the same. Then, I made sure the saddle was level. It was ready for her to ride it.

Right off the bat, there were problems. I had not tightened the saddle enough, and Pat worked it loose in just a few pedal strokes. We returned to the house, and I did some more wrenching. We did the nine-mile neighborhood ride she likes to do during the week.

“It feels like my butt is hanging off the back,” she complained.

I checked the level of the saddle. It was off again, the nose pointing slightly up. More tweaking.

On the same ride Saturday, things seemed better for her. She didn’t have the “hanging” sensation, but said she still felt like the nose was pointing up a little. I got out the wrench and the level, and with any luck, it should meet her expectations now.

In my case, I had neglected to move the saddle back to compensate for its lower height. But after two or three rides, I decided it never needed to be lowered in the first place. I raised it to its previous height, and this time, I moved it back two millimeters.

My next ride had some interesting results. I felt most comfortable when I scooted my butt way back on the saddle. It looked like I would have to move it back a lot farther.

But I was leery of doing that. Moving the saddle too far back would affect my reach to the bars, and my arms had a nice bend to them. I remembered how I rode for the first year after buying the bike, with my elbows locked and my arms straight. I didn’t want to experience that again.

On my Saturday ride, I was in a different pair of bibs than I wore the day before. The Friday bibs were by Castelli, with their distinctive thin but dense chamois pad. The Saturday bibs were Sugois, which have a thicker, softer, and larger pad. On the Saturday ride, I was perfectly comfortable riding in a normal position on the saddle. On Sunday, I wore a pair of tights by Performance. No problems.

So, I think I have the adjustment correct now. I’d noted the difference shorts make in the past, and kicked myself for not paying attention to that this time around. I’ve heard Lance Armstrong referred to as “Mr. Millimeter,” because of his ultra-awareness to changes in his bike’s setup. Any more changes in my setup will be in tiny increments, too.


  1. says

    The first time I changed my saddle height, a knowledgeable cyclist explained to me that I should only move it a few millimeters. I thought that was just him trying to be cool. Actually, it was him being right. Millimeters make a big difference on a bike!

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