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Having the right seat height makes riding more comfortable, your legs more powerful, and can prevent muscle fatigue and cramps, saddle sores, back pain, and joint injuries – so it’s really, really important that you get it right. It also affects how your bike handles on the trail. 

Generally people have their saddle set too low. A low saddle can lead to burning quads on the climbs and over-stressed joints. Raising the saddle to the right height gives you more extension out of your leg muscles, and your knee joints aren’t forced to bend as sharply. 

Less common, but still bad is a saddle that’s too high. That can produce pulled hamstring muscles, and hyper-extended knee and ankle tendons. Added to that is your bike handling and agility suffers as your centre of gravity is higher. Which can make riding technical terrain much harder than it needs to be.

Mountain bike seat height is important in technical terrain

How do you know if your seat height is wrong? 

Enlist a friend to watch you ride your bike.  

  • Rolling side to side in your saddle - your saddle is either too high or much too low 
  • Pointing your toes to keep the pedals going round - your saddle is too high. 
  • A lot of the saddle visible behind your butt - your saddle is too high. 
  • Your legs are not extending to nearly straight - your saddle is too low. 
How to set your mountain bike saddle to the right height. 

It’s best to come into Outside Sports at Queenstown and Wanaka and have our professional bike fitters help you get it exactly right. We’ll take into account your flexibility and leg and foot length. 

But in the meantime here’s a quick and easy way to find the approximate right saddle height until you can make it in to see us. 

Stand beside your bike wearing your biking shoes and make the top of the saddle even with the top of your hip bone.  

Seat post length 

When setting seat height, you also need to consider the seat post insertion into your bike frame.  

You should have 8 - 10cm of the seat post slotted inside the frame. It’s possible you might need to buy a longer seat post to get the right seat height and avoid damaging the bike by having too little post inside the frame. 

If your seat post is too long to get it at the right height, it can sometimes be trimmed to allow the seat to sit lower in the frame. Some dropper posts are trimmable, though it’s best to check with us first - mistakes are expensive.

Dropper Posts 

One of the drawbacks of a mountain bike saddle that’s too high is reduced cornering control and stability on downhill trails. Dropper posts let you drop your seat on the fly at the press of a lever mounted on the handlebars near the brake levers. 

For the steepest and most technical descents, you want your dropper post as low as possible so that you can move your body down and back on your bike to maintain a comfortable centre of gravity. 

When you’re riding on a relatively flat, but technical trail that requires some pedalling, but is also filled with small, uneven rock gardens, a lower seat is also beneficial. A dropper post lets you set the best seat height for the terrain you’re on at that instant. 

Using seat dropper posts

So now we hope you understand why having your mountain bike seat at the right height is so important. It’s one of the simplest things you can do with your bike to get more out of every ride.

If you have any questions the bike team at Outside Sports are here to help. See us at our Queenstown store in Shotover Street or a Bikes by Outside Sports in Helwick Street Wanaka. Happy riding!

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