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How do you tune your saddle?

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How do you tune your saddle?

Old 08-15-22, 03:39 PM
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scottfsmith
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How do you tune your saddle?

How do you personally fine-tune your saddle fit? I got a bike fit a year ago and while the fit there helped with many things I would still have to stand for relief after about an hour. In retrospect I should have tweaked the saddle it a bit to see if it would improve, or gone back to the fitter to see what could be done, but I didn't. What I did do was get a new saddle (old: Specialized Power, new: Power Mirror) after hearing some friends rave about the Mirror saddles. I had it set at the same setback/tilt as the old one and it was better but still I would get this one spot pinching badly in the inner thigh. So I decided it would not hurt to actually adjust it a bit myself, and after several tries I found if I made it significantly more level (the fitter had it -8.4 degrees, nose-down, I made it more like -2 degrees) there was no more pinch in that spot on a short test ride. I found this video very helpful to understand some basics of saddle fitting:
but it didn't really say how to go about tuning the fit.

So.. what do you do to tune the fit?? I thought about going back to my fitter but he already gave it a shot and it seems like I just need to keep tweaking and riding the thing. So my plan is to put my hex in my jersey pocket and ride til it hurts and then adjust til it doesn't hurt, and repeat til no more improvement. Good approach?
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Old 08-15-22, 04:23 PM
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Mark your seat rails with a magic marker at the clamp. Seatpost with a piece of tape 1/4" above the top of the seattube. Lay a ruler yardstick on the seat and measure how far it is above the handlebars. Now go for a ride carrying the seat pin wrench and wrench for the saddle clamp bolts. Stop and adjust whenever you feel things aren't perfect. Keep it up until you can go for entire rides and simply feel the bike is "right". (This may bring you to realize the seat simply isn't and start the search for a new one.)

A big help here is using a seat post with two fore and aft clamp bolts, not just one. With one, you risk losing all reference whenever you loosen it to either slide the seat forward or back or adjust the tilt. With two, you loosen one, slide the eat and tighten or adjust the other exactly (say) 1/8 turn, then tighten the rear. Don't like it? Going back exactly is easy. Or go further (again, say) half that distance or wrench turn.

Thompson and Nitto both make excellent two bolt posts. A framebuilder with machining tools and skills can make you a custom using the excellent Thompson parts. (I have two big setback posts made by TiCycles with that hardware. Joys to adjust.

Every bike I get goes through this routine, Also gets ridden without handlebar tape until I have the brake levers right.
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Old 08-15-22, 11:30 PM
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Fine tuning my saddle... hmmm
well I sortta, over time, have come to what seems the optimum saddle setup for me, on a road bike (still playing with mtb a bit... depends a lot on the bike... TT position - think I've not yet found 'IT'...)
see, I know my setback - BB center to where my sitzbones would be on a saddle, and my extension - as combined with setback. I know what happens when I might vary my setback and extension in any combination...
I've never had Big Guads - nor big Glutes... I have a quite long femur - 44.5 cm, and the muskels tend to be long and stringy, not bulky and flexible... My hamstrings might even be larger than the Quads...visually.
so for long riding time motoring I favor a setup which involves the hamstring & glute a bit more (with strong calf involvement) - over quads... But If I don;t balance that properly, then the quad power for quick burst/sprints is lost.
So - general start setup for a new saddle - depending on the shape/longitudinal profile - the saddle setback starts with sitzbones placement at 31 cm behind BB Center. For a Specialized Toupe or Phenom saddle that means the saddle nose is 8.5 cm behind BB. For a San Marco Strada that would be 8 cm. With the Saddle extension of 78 cm from BB center, for a 172.5 crank.
Saddle starts visual 'level', I only use a level to get visually close, but will vary very slightly if the saddle has a significant tail turnup (those saddles I avoid, so usually not a consideration).
Then I ride... Being very aware of my posture, especially hip/back tilt. I don;t force a strong hip tilt forward, but also make sure I'm not 'hunchbacked' ('kyphosis' is a medical condition, often used by fitters as a fancy term to WOW, for forward bend of back - I prefer not to confuse others..). But I do have some hip forward tilt.
Also make sure I'm not having 'Lordosis' (that fancy fitter's WOW term for forward bend of the central and upper back with a more vertical hip angle - 'Lordosis' is also being a medical condition...). BS & WOW (Shock & Awe)
It's all about 'posture'... I'm almost never in a very upright posture - usually highest is about 45-50 deg up from horizontal - at most. If I'm in my 'neutral', balanced space, then I have most of my 'weight' on the sitzbones; not much pressure anywhere else. Then I go into an 'aero hoods' position, and check for up front pressure - if it's too much, I might rotate the saddle just a hair, and then do the whole testing again.
done.
Setback and extension does all the heavy lifting... I've recently started riding in faster groups again, now that I seem to be feeling much better. And realizing my chicken leg quads need more development - so I've gone, in early May from 8.5 setback to 8 and 7.8, and just this past week to 7.5 cm. The quads are complaining a bit - but it's good for them - Shut Legs !!! LOL!
Happy to notice that my power to bridge a sizable gap at speed has improved tremendously in the past 2 months... Now the big challenge - climbing...

I have to ask, did the Fitter explain why he set you up with so a dramatic down saddle tilt ? I See it a lot these days... I don;t think it's good or effective, except in some very special cases...
AS for the cockpit - too much to go into here... but pretty straightforward.... I groove with a good reach...
Ride On
Yuri
EDIT - Oh, and like 79pmooney noted - 2 screw clamp adjustment for my seatposts !!! best !!! very easy to get the tilt set - number of screw turns noted, allows you to make the right adjustments either way from where you started. You can get there with a one screw - but it's a much longer process of fiddling...
also, if you wanna change setback and not screw up tilt - count turns as you loosen one screw, until you can slide saddle on rails/lower clamp - then tighten again same number turns in reverse... - done !

Last edited by cyclezen; 08-15-22 at 11:45 PM.
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Old 08-16-22, 03:46 AM
  #4  
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
I have to ask, did the Fitter explain why he set you up with so a dramatic down saddle tilt ? I See it a lot these days... I don;t think it's good or effective, except in some very special cases...
YUP! Very special cases - riders who drop heel quite a bit. I'm one of them.

If you drop heel by a large degree, you have a tendency be pushed back by the pedaling action. Tilting the saddle down helps prevent your butt sliding backward on the saddle.

Bike fit with huge amount of setback may also need tilt down also to prevent backward slide.

Another special case is for hill climb racers who race steep climbs. The downward tilt as been said before will help prevent backward slide on the saddle caused by the steep gradients.

Else, if your butt is not sliding backward on the saddle during tempo effort in the flats, with level saddle setting and you're not surrounded in all directions by steep climbs, then level saddle setting is probably the best for you.
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Old 08-16-22, 06:23 AM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
I have to ask, did the Fitter explain why he set you up with so a dramatic down saddle tilt ?
Good question! I went back and re-read the report I got and it looks like I mis-read it, argh!!! It had data for field "Saddle (Fore-Aft/Angle)" and just had "-8.4", but in reading the report it should have been "-8.4/0".. he set the saddle flat but didn't put a /0 and then I mis-read it. Later on in the written part of the report it states, "Saddle tilt mildly nose up causing excessive pressure on soft tissue .. saddle leveled and lowered".

OK, I think I see why the saddle was not working so well with that downward tilt. With the -2 it actually looks completely level in the middle of the saddle due to the curve up in the very back of the saddle.

Anyway I now know what the root of my problem was. Thanks for bringing that up Yuri. Now that I came up with more or less what my fitter had I will tweak it.

BTW on a mostly unrelated topic, in reading up on saddle tilt measurements I am surprised how putting a big flat thing on top is the standard. Some saddles have a big rise in the very back, some don't, and that totally throws off the measurement. I think you want to get a piece of flat stuff about 4" wide and just put that on the middle part of the saddle so you are not including the front or rear.
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Old 08-16-22, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by scottfsmith View Post
Good question! I went back and re-read the report I got and it looks like I mis-read it, argh!!! It had data for field "Saddle (Fore-Aft/Angle)" and just had "-8.4", but in reading the report it should have been "-8.4/0".. he set the saddle flat but didn't put a /0 and then I mis-read it. Later on in the written part of the report it states, "Saddle tilt mildly nose up causing excessive pressure on soft tissue .. saddle leveled and lowered".
OK, I think I see why the saddle was not working so well with that downward tilt. With the -2 it actually looks completely level in the middle of the saddle due to the curve up in the very back of the saddle.
Anyway I now know what the root of my problem was. Thanks for bringing that up Yuri. Now that I came up with more or less what my fitter had I will tweak it.

BTW on a mostly unrelated topic, in reading up on saddle tilt measurements I am surprised how putting a big flat thing on top is the standard. Some saddles have a big rise in the very back, some don't, and that totally throws off the measurement. I think you want to get a piece of flat stuff about 4" wide and just put that on the middle part of the saddle so you are not including the front or rear.
Yeah, I can understand the confusion you had. If the fitter was going to give some written 'guidance' (which is of course, 'The Point') , then that document needs to be real clear on each point. It's not like there's a huge number of variables - setback, extension, tilt and saddle considerations/construction/profile. Cockpit being absolutely related and should also reference to and for any future saddle adjustments... Nothing stands alone - one adjustment affects all, to some extent.

And there are quite a few more variations of saddles these days. Many with significant variations of saddle profile and DIMS. One has to consider the profile, when applying an adjustment, the 'level' thing might work on a flatter profile, like a Toupe, but likely not so much on a saddle with a strong 'sway' or strong tail kick, like a Concors...
For many of us, we come to a 'setup' which works for our riding and bodies.
I'll be interested to hear your comparison of the Power and Mirror saddles, after you've had some saddle time on the new one.
Ride On
Yuri
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Old 08-16-22, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
I'll be interested to hear your comparison of the Power and Mirror saddles, after you've had some saddle time on the new one.
Sure, I will come back here and add a report. So far now that it is set level it is doing well, I did an hour today with zero discomfort. It will be on the three-hour ride this weekend that I will know for sure if it is good or not.. my Power non-Mirror was good for an hour but then I had to take standing breaks.
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Old 08-20-22, 08:15 AM
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To "tune" my saddle fit, I start with it level, and where the fore/aft position feels right. For the next couple of weeks, I carry a wrench so I can make adjustments if it doesn't feel just right. And about a year ago, the saddle which I had been riding for years was feeling less than ideal. Still in fine shape and support was still there, figured it was not wear. Tilted the front up a very small amount--did the trick. Should add--once I get saddle height and fore/aft where it feels best relative to position on pedal, that's where it stays. Only tilt will be adjusted after that. This is regarding my road bike, mtn bike saddle height may change depending on the trail (don't have a dropper post). On the road bike, if the above doesn't work for me, time to try a different saddle.
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Old 08-20-22, 11:38 AM
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I stand with my backside quartered to the bike with the side bulge of the saddle at my hip. It will fit just below the bottom of the hip bone and above the greater trochantor near the head of the femur. The angle points the slightest bit above level if adjustment allows for it, and will aim to just about an inch or two over the handlebar. An inch when level mostly, and a couple with a tilt. Tilt often depends on saddle flex and comfort.
I keep a string hung nearby with knots that define seat height from the center of the b/b, and distance from seat back to bars.
That gives a good starting point for later refinements if/as needed.
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Old 08-20-22, 12:14 PM
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Note that I am not a competitive rider: Saddle position, bike size, geometry, handle bars, brakes, crank really did not make a big difference when I was ridding in my 20s. In my 30s and 40s bike size and type became a allot more important. Now, soon to be in my 70s, everything is embarrassingly critical. Just moving my saddle or stem a few millimeters is noticeable. And to tell ya the truth my current set up is laughable with my bars up, and seat actually nosed down about 2. But I am ridding...

Luckily I have an old ChroMo UNIVEGA that over the years has become my most comfortable bike. I took very close measurements of the position of my saddle in relation to my bars and pedals. I then transferred those dimensions to my other bikes and WOW! What a difference! Now all my bikes are set up the same and it has really helped with my ride and my proprioception when ridding. I think it was 10wheels who posted that getting old was not for the weak... Ha

OK... So here is what I measured on my most comfortably ridding bike.

Pedal at the lowest position to the top of the seat
Front nose of the seat to the bars
Rear of the seat to the bars
Center of the sit position on my seat to my normal hand position on my bars (I spend most of my time on the hoods)
Seat level position to the bars (up or down)

If you do not have a most comfortable bike then you are going to need to experiment. If starting from scratch I would not make more then a centimeter or two of change on any one component. And then ride a considerable number miles before deciding another change. Probably the most beneficial measurement is to find your seat position to your most used hand position. That means your seat post and handle bar stem are also critical to a comfortable ride.
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Old 08-30-22, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
I'll be interested to hear your comparison of the Power and Mirror saddles, after you've had some saddle time on the new one.
I promised an update so here it is. It took me awhile to get the fit right, it turns out this saddle sits ~1cm higher than the non-mirror Power. I should have checked that but I blithely assumed that they were going to be the same on that front as they eyeballed similarly. So I rode with it too high for a while. Even at 1cm too high it was more comfortable than the non-mirror version. Now that I have it fit properly (I went to my fitter since I kept screwing it up on my own) it is very impressive, the comfort is a dream and I am getting no urge to stand up to relieve the pressure. On the non-mirror I had about an hour of good riding before I needed regular stand-up sessions, and this was after a professional bike fit. So I think I am done messing with saddles for a good long while.

In terms of the ride, it feels softer but also a bit different, like sitting on one of those exercise balls a bit. It is a bit harder to move back and forth on it but that cuts both ways, it is easier to put big power down without wasting energy holding your saddle position. I didn't really think I was trying to hold position on my old saddle, but with the new one I can tell I was constrained a bit by that. You can still move around but it requires a bit more un-weighting. Overall I prefer the more locked-in position. Anyway the main advantage is not this, it is the comfort on longer rides.

Hopefully the price will keep coming down on these, that is the main downside at this point. I never would have gotten it if I was doing OK on my existing saddle, or if I was sticking to shorter rides.
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Old 08-31-22, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Mark your seat rails with a magic marker at the clamp. Seatpost with a piece of tape 1/4" above the top of the seattube. Lay a ruler yardstick on the seat and measure how far it is above the handlebars. Now go for a ride carrying the seat pin wrench and wrench for the saddle clamp bolts. Stop and adjust whenever you feel things aren't perfect. Keep it up until you can go for entire rides and simply feel the bike is "right". (This may bring you to realize the seat simply isn't and start the search for a new one.)

A big help here is using a seat post with two fore and aft clamp bolts, not just one. With one, you risk losing all reference whenever you loosen it to either slide the seat forward or back or adjust the tilt. With two, you loosen one, slide the eat and tighten or adjust the other exactly (say) 1/8 turn, then tighten the rear. Don't like it? Going back exactly is easy. Or go further (again, say) half that distance or wrench turn.

Thompson and Nitto both make excellent two bolt posts. A framebuilder with machining tools and skills can make you a custom using the excellent Thompson parts. (I have two big setback posts made by TiCycles with that hardware. Joys to adjust.

Every bike I get goes through this routine, Also gets ridden without handlebar tape until I have the brake levers right.
This is all great advice.
The other thing I like to do with my bikes is take a small stick of wood (something like a paint stir stick), hold it vertically against the top tube, and mark where the saddle nose touches. If you have more than one bike, be sure to label it, and also include a stem-nose measurement. I generally mark the stick at the bottom of the nose. This is useful to have as a record on a bike that's dialed in, in case the seatpost clamp loosens, you need to remove the saddle for some reason, etc. It would also be useful during your adjustment process as a reference baseline.
Generally speaking, I like to have the nose as low as possible without creating the feeling of sliding forward when the bike is ridden hands-free. In other words, essentially level, but a few mil either way can make a significant difference, as you have discovered.
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