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  1. #1
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    Discussion: Saddle position / Angle - whats your take?

    So in the spirit of having a good discussion about this I figured I'd start a thread. This has been discussed a few times in other 'bike setup' threads but thought it may deserve it's own.

    I've been experimenting with saddle positions (fore/aft) along with angle and how that intersects bar height. Pretty much tried it all.

    Stem slammed -17 flat bar - check
    Riser bars with +17 stem - check
    Saddle flat and back - check
    Saddle angle down and forward - check
    List goes on and on.....

    The more I started to think about the positions of some of the pros, Kulhavy being an extreme example, the more it started to make sense that a forward saddle with nose angled down made a lot of sense. Logic being, if we ASSUME (dangerous) that a flat saddle on flat ground is the best for power production....then it stands to reason, when climbing say a 6% grade, it would make sense to angle the saddle down that same 6% AND forward (since it does move back) to compensate, all else being equal.

    This gets exacerbated on a full suspension bike, assuming you don't lockout the shock or set up the bike with sag in mind, since the rear influences the angle of your saddle. A flat saddle in the garage off the bike is already angle UP once you sit on it and induce sag.

    So, I tried it, made some measurements and angle my saddle down a good 10 degrees, and moved it forward...from 100mm BB to Saddle tip to 50mm. This required my getting a new non-offset seatpost for my XL Scalpel, which came with an offset post. If I set it up with 100mm BB to Saddle static, when I was climbing the seat was angle up 3-4% and almost 200mm back, not surprisingly I had a lot of issues with keeping front down. It really seemed to have made a difference in the ability to climb, keep pelvis rotated forward and less upper body strain keeping myself up on the front of the saddle, all positive things.

    There was a lot of debate in a couple other threads about how very few pros do this, no roadies do this, etc....but came across this youtube video, titled "why do riders slam their stems" but gets into the seat issue too. Obviously they are focused more on Aero, but think some of the same logic apply. Also, I didn't realize, up until this year, there was rule that indicated riders couldn't have more than 3 degree slop on seats...that was changed to 9 and we are seeing lots of road pros using a more nose down position.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69OzE3KB2IY

    Lengthy post, but been giving this a lot of thought lately.

  2. #2
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    I love how the first pro interviewed "Luka Mezgec" says "I don't know" when asked to explain his new position. If he doesn't know, mortals won't know either.

    One of the problems with bike fitting is that there is so much bro science in it and so far we haven't really found the holy grail of bike fitting. This makes it confusing for everyone, as even pros sometimes differ radically on their bike fits. In road, UCI rules have somewhat dictated fit, but in MTB there still is a ongoing experiment for the ultimate fit.

    I personally also experimenting with changes similar to what you describe, started with front end and now I want to move the saddle forward as well. Looking forward to everyone else input.

  3. #3
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    Discussion: Saddle position / Angle - whats your take?

    Every time I moved my stem down I got faster, even going down hills. My stem is slammed and my seat is jammed forward. Been that way for a couple of years now. Seat is still level though, maybe I'll tinker with the angle.


    Quote Originally Posted by TDLover View Post
    I love how the first pro interviewed "Luka Mezgec" says "I don't know" when asked to explain his new position. If he doesn't know, mortals won't know either.
    Part of this might be gamesmanship. GCN recently asked the pros what tire pressure they ran. They basically all said 125psi or something similarly high. There was a podcast (mtbpodcast?) with the guy who started Silca and used to be an engineer with zipp. He said that years ago, like 5+ they knew lower pressures were faster and had done a lot of testing with a lot of pros to determine the correct pressure to run. He said they thought of this information as top secret because it was so impactful on performance. Riders move teams all the time, I bet all the recent roadie revelations about tire pressures are old news to the pros. Why would they be subjecting themselves to pressures they have helped conclude are slower, and less comfortable, with less grip (so more likely to crash!)? Only reason is fear of pinch flats, right?

    So yeah, his "I don't know" answer may be just a deflection.

  4. #4
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    Maybe the pro's don't know because the pro's don't pump up their own tyres?
    I think they're at the level of "a little more front pressure, it's a bit squirmy on the descents" rather than absolute numbers.

  5. #5
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    Being on the shorter side, I have slammed stems to keep the bars level with the saddle. Developed back issues about 5 years back due to a missing disc. Moved the saddle forward a lot, went to shorter cranks - made a huge difference for the back. The saddle is angled nose down a bit too, which helps me keep the lower back flat, feels way better on climbs.

  6. #6
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    I am becoming more of the mind that saddle position might be adjusted for particular course characteristics.

    For instance the Albstadt WC course is marked by very steep climbs, and non-technical descents. Catharine's hardtail we are current setting up to give a position that is optimal for steep climbs; saddle further forward and higher, and we might try moving the nose down a bit. Where as for the Olympic course which had low grade climbs she used a more traditional position.
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  7. #7
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    I'm about 6'3" (slowing shrinking...) and my bars have always been a little lower than the seat. My neck is less happy with low bars the more I get rear-ended in my car by other cars, - which happened again just a few weeks ago.

    I used to always keep my saddle level, but when I started doing really steep climbs as part of my regular training rides I found that I have to slide forward and sit more on the nose of the saddle for 2 of my climbs, and having the nose slightly tilted downward allows that. My steep climbing technique has improved and I can now sit more normally on one of the climbs, but the other is a side hill 'goat trail' style steep climb, and I still have to really focus and commit, and sit forward. It's tough to sit forward on a level saddle, and nose up would not work at all. I've been happy with slightly nose-down for a couple of years now. I'm used to it now, and since I race on unfamiliar courses pretty often I just leave the nose down and don't mess with it.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArizRider View Post
    Logic being, if we ASSUME (dangerous) that a flat saddle on flat ground is the best for power production....then it stands to reason, when climbing say a 6% grade, it would make sense to angle the saddle down that same 6% AND forward (since it does move back) to compensate, all else being equal.
    You meant to say "logic aside" Saddle flat to the ground on bike flat to the ground is best for power transmission (no idea if it really is, but let's say I believe you with this statement), has nothing really to do with level of saddle compared to ground level but with position of your leg toward pedal, as you transmit your power to pedal not to ground.
    Now when you go to 6% climb, your position from saddle to pedal remains the same, unless you have some very weird bike, which automatically reduces your fork height or front wheel size to compensate for height difference between front and rear wheel So with logic ON, your saddle angle shouldn't change for a little bit if you want to maintain best position for power transmission.
    But thing is, there's few other forces coming to play when you get your front wheel "lifted", so all of a sudden what works on flat might not be best anymore on hill, and that's reason why you might actually want to lower nose of a saddle and not having it flat.
    Primoz

  9. #9
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    I'm sorry, maybe because this is the XC Racing forum where the goal is always wining, it might apply, but for me, for general trail riding, if my saddle is titled down in the least I instantly feel all my weight transferred to my shoulders and arms as they try to support my weight instead of my sit bones. Have never understood this logic, have a couple (literally) down here who go by this logic for the benefits climbing, I normally laugh a little inside when they finally catch up at the top of the climbs
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by LyNx View Post
    I'm sorry, maybe because this is the XC Racing forum where the goal is always wining, it might apply, but for me, for general trail riding, if my saddle is titled down in the least I instantly feel all my weight transferred to my shoulders and arms as they try to support my weight instead of my sit bones. Have never understood this logic, have a couple (literally) down here who go by this logic for the benefits climbing, I normally laugh a little inside when they finally catch up at the top of the climbs
    On a flat route I'd agree, I did a longer flatter route the other day and my shoulders and hands were not happy....but that's not really 'mountain' biking is it? Most of my MTB rides, ones that I'd consider using a MTB over a buffed gravel bike, have substantially climbing up, where this nose down concept comes into play.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by primoz View Post
    You meant to say "logic aside" Saddle flat to the ground on bike flat to the ground is best for power transmission (no idea if it really is, but let's say I believe you with this statement), has nothing really to do with level of saddle compared to ground level but with position of your leg toward pedal, as you transmit your power to pedal not to ground.
    Now when you go to 6% climb, your position from saddle to pedal remains the same, unless you have some very weird bike, which automatically reduces your fork height or front wheel size to compensate for height difference between front and rear wheel So with logic ON, your saddle angle shouldn't change for a little bit if you want to maintain best position for power transmission.
    But thing is, there's few other forces coming to play when you get your front wheel "lifted", so all of a sudden what works on flat might not be best anymore on hill, and that's reason why you might actually want to lower nose of a saddle and not having it flat.
    I definitely see your logic! But I gather that what your are really saying is saddle setback doesn't matter as long as the other measurements are the same. Aka, using the 6% example, you'd just start pedaling 6% sooner. I think it's a fair point on very shallow to moderate climbs (on roads) but once you start hitting any reasonable climb on a MTB, you move your hips forward on the saddle and torso down, both effect the relationship you speak of....which we are trying to compensate for.

  12. #12
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    My take on the saddle nose tilted down is this (from my own experimentation and riding style, and only from my opinion) -you can push yourself back into the saddle for leverage. Think about it - we pull on the bars to create leverage or increase our rigidity to pedal harder. If you tilt your palms slightly downward on the grips, and push yourself back into the saddle, you can use more / some different muscles and create an additional position to gain strength and reduce fatigue.

  13. #13
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    Interesting and I can't offer much since I leave my saddle alone (roughly level at sag) but I do occasionally change stems depending on the course.

  14. #14
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    If I feel myself sliding back on the saddle at all, the nose gets tilted down a little more.

    With a Selle Italia SLR XC Gel Flow, that was REALLY pointed down.
    I've settled on the Fizik Aliante as my saddle of choice nowadays and it's shape means it's pointed down much less but still has support at the back.

  15. #15
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    Another benefit of the nose slightly down for me is that when I'm really getting pounded on my hardtail or cx on rough terrain; the more aft parts (sit bones) are going to take more of the hits than the more tender stuff forward of the sit bones.
    Saddles are pretty varied, everyone has their favorites. Long ago I used to race on a rock hard Flite copy, ouch. Now I spend 90% of my time on older Specialized Riva(s)?, - like would be oem on better specialized from '05-'09 ish, which have a little bit of curve and some cushion too, WTB makes a similar model. 2 road bikes I've got Prologo (Phorma and Kappa) on, I like those too, both level for road. I've got the nose slightly down on the cx bike, I think the pounding is easier to deal with, prior to last season I switched from a harder Phenom to the more padded Rival, I wasn't any faster but I felt a little less beat up.

  16. #16
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    My saddle position pretty much comes from my road bike fit. The BB to saddle is pretty much the same across my MTB's and road bike. My trail bike has the dropper and at full extension...its roughly the same as the XC and road bike. My saddles on all bikes are level and pushed forward of center. I'm not a tall guy so my stems are all slammed. XC: 66mm Flatforce/Enve SWP, Trail: 50mm Megaforce/Enve RSR, and road: 110mm Pro Vibe 7s/38cm ZIPP Service Course SL.

  17. #17
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    Highly depends on terrain and style.

    I slammed saddle forward and stem pretty much slammed down on my Trek Superfly, but that's also because I now run a dropper seatpost.

    Gives me power during steep climbs and yet the slammed position doesn't hinder my descends due to the use of a dropper.

  18. #18
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    I tried running my seat slightly nose down this weekend to account for the change in seat post angle with sag on a full suspension bike and it definitely helped. I'm still relatively new at this stuff so this is all really interesting and ArizRider you bring up some really good points.

    When you guys move your seats forward do you move it forward to account for the sag in the suspension so it puts you in the correct "bike fit" numbers/geometry. I'd like to make this adjustment too but wanted to only change one thing at a time so I know what's happening with the changes.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by MNSnoPro View Post
    I tried running my seat slightly nose down this weekend to account for the change in seat post angle with sag on a full suspension bike and it definitely helped. I'm still relatively new at this stuff so this is all really interesting and ArizRider you bring up some really good points.

    When you guys move your seats forward do you move it forward to account for the sag in the suspension so it puts you in the correct "bike fit" numbers/geometry. I'd like to make this adjustment too but wanted to only change one thing at a time so I know what's happening with the changes.
    Well, that's the theory dude. At a bare minimum, set your seat to offset your sag....but I went a step further to *try* and offset climbing angle as well. Obviously it's different for different courses, but generally speaking, I ride up steep slopes a lot, why shouldn't saddle reflect this?

  20. #20
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    I have the saddle tilted just slightly downward, like 2 degrees. The reason for this being, if I get back down on the saddle from standing up, into a steep descent, my shorts might otherwise catch on the nose of my SLR.

    Uphill on steep technical climbs, I might have to sit near the nose of the saddle. In this case I don't want the nose too low because I want good leg extension.

    Kulhavy is an odd case. Great racer, one of my favorites, but his setup doesn't really work for anyone but him.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by chomxxo View Post
    I have the saddle tilted just slightly downward, like 2 degrees. The reason for this being, if I get back down on the saddle from standing up, into a steep descent, my shorts might otherwise catch on the nose of my SLR.

    Uphill on steep technical climbs, I might have to sit near the nose of the saddle. In this case I don't want the nose too low because I want good leg extension.

    Kulhavy is an odd case. Great racer, one of my favorites, but his setup doesn't really work for anyone but him.
    So to play into the theory of angling saddle down though...why wouldn't you set up your saddle to sit in the sweet spot on climbs, rather on the nose and raise it a bit to account. Non-optimal for flats sections of course.

    I've taken a middle ground between what Kulhavy has done and my road setup, still pretty extreme, but I'm getting used to it. My BB to Saddle distance is same as it is on the road.

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    Slight correction: Kulhavy runs his seat angled down, but it is all the way back, not pushed forward. I run a similar position, with a long low stem so that I can more effectively hinge at the hips and engage my glutes. Definitely a slightly angled down saddle is best for climbing (which is a common activity for most mtbers), so a little downward tilt is probably good (in my experience at least).


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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandyf View Post
    Slight correction: Kulhavy runs his seat angled down, but it is all the way back, not pushed forward. I run a similar position, with a long low stem so that I can more effectively hinge at the hips and engage my glutes. Definitely a slightly angled down saddle is best for climbing (which is a common activity for most mtbers), so a little downward tilt is probably good (in my experience at least).


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    I thought that was, at least in part, because he runs a smaller frame than he should.

  24. #24
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    Pointed towards the grips, with fore/aft set to put you into natural-feeling pedal stroke.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sandyf View Post
    Slight correction: Kulhavy runs his seat angled down, but it is all the way back, not pushed forward. I run a similar position, with a long low stem so that I can more effectively hinge at the hips and engage my glutes. Definitely a slightly angled down saddle is best for climbing (which is a common activity for most mtbers), so a little downward tilt is probably good (in my experience at least).


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    I like the position of a long (for mtb) stem and slammed for climbing and flats, not so much for steeper descending when i feel Iím about to go OTB. Have settled on 90mm stem and about 40-50mm bar- saddle drop. I use the power saddle, nose flat but it kicks up at the rear to keep you planted on climbs.


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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArizRider View Post
    I thought that was, at least in part, because he runs a smaller frame than he should.
    If you look at most bike maker's geometry from a small frame to large the change in seatpost angle at most is 1 degree, generally it's more like a half degree, running a smaller than normal frame for mtb would rarely necessitate that a rider would need a setback seatpost if on the proper size they used zero offset. Also, Kulhavey is not an example of somebody that runs a forward position. His saddle might sit at approximately a 45 degree angle but it's slid all the way back on the rails of a setback post. The angled nose does push him forward some, but he's not a position forward rider. Contrast him to Johnny O' Mara (former MX pro that races Expert mtb in Socal)-he rides for Specialized and takes their 20mm offset seatpost and reverses it and and also slides his saddle forward on the rails. That is position forward, his setback from the bottom bracket is probably 0mm.

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