How High Should a Mountain Bike Seat Be? (Explained)


How High Should a Mountain Bike Seat Be

The seat height is one of the most important measurements when it comes to having a fitting bike. Finding the right saddle height will not only give you more comfort but you will also transfer more power to the bike while making the bike feel lighter and faster.

When it comes to how high a mountain bike seat should be, it is mostly subjective. However, generally speaking, when you sit straight on your bike with the cranks either straight up or straight down, your heel should touch the lower pedal while keeping your leg straight. With this position, you are going to get maximum efficiency from your pedal strokes. If you need to lean towards one side of the saddle, this is a sign that your seat is too high.

This article will outline everything you need to know about getting a mountain bike that properly fits you, especially one with a seat height that is perfect for you.

Why are Mountain Bike Seats So High?

One of the things that would help you spot a mountain bike from a team of road bikes is the high seats. There are a few reasons why riders choose to have their seats so high:

With high seats, you can fully stretch out your legs as you pedal. This way, downward strokes use less energy and exert less force on your knees. This keeps your knees safe since they are aligned with the pedal spindle. When you pedal downwards, there is less risk of you getting hurt.

Having a higher seat also increases your cadence. Since your knees will not bend as much, your leg muscles won’t need to pedal as hard and in turn, you won’t get tired as fast.

On a high saddle, you have more control over your bike. This is because it is easier for you to shift your weight from side to side. Your range of movement is also increased since your back is not rounded and you can maneuver the trail more easily.

When riding slow, you can handle your bike more effectively on a higher seat since the back tire gains more traction. This is made possible by the weight exerted on the saddle, which is transferred to the rear wheel.

Should Your Feet Touch the Ground On a Mountain Bike?

If your bike is properly fitted, it should be hard to plant your feet on the ground while seated. If more than the tips of your toes can reach the ground, this is a sign that your saddle is too low.

When riding in the city, you might need to make several stops at traffic lights. It may, therefore, be convenient for you to keep your seat low. 

What is the Correct Riding Position on a Mountain Bike?

Having the correct posture while riding will not only optimize your performance on the trail but it will also prevent you from having pain and discomfort. However, the ideal riding posture varies from person to person depending on factors like the riding style, the discipline, and the cyclist’s physique.

When determining the correct posture, the three points where your body is in contact with the bike (your hands, feet, and bottom) are taken into account. There are 2 body positions that you can adapt on a mountain bike, neutral and ready.

Neutral Position

As you ride on a less challenging part of your trail, you can stay in a neutral stance. This makes it easier for you to shift into the ready position when you get to the technical terrain.

Here is a description of the neutral stance.

  • Your pedals should be level and evenly weighted.
  • Bend your knees and elbows a bit. When your elbows are bent it is easier for you to manipulate your bike.
  • Keep your index fingers on the brake levers at all times. If you have rim brakes, you might need to use two fingers.
  • Your eyes should be focused forward, around 20 feet ahead. Fix your eyes on where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go.

Ready Position

Riders assume this position when the trail gets a little challenging. This stance prepares both the rider’s mind and body for the steeper and rockier parts of the trail. ou can take up the ready position by doing the following:

  • Keep the pedals level and evenly weighted.
  • Bend your knees and elbows deeply. Your arms should make the shape chicken wings have.
  • Your backside should be off the seat and your hips shifted backward.
  • Keep your back low and flat. It should be almost parallel to the ground.
  • Just like in the neutral position, you should always keep a finger or two on the brakes and your eyes forward.

Maintaining the correct riding position can only do so much if your bike is not a proper fit for you. To get your bike fitted, you can pop in at your local bike shop or go for a biomechanical screening. There are also a few mobile apps that can get the job done.

How Do I Know if My Bike Seat is Too High?

Having a high bike seat is as uncomfortable as it is inefficient. If you aren’t sure whether your seat is too high, here are some signs.

  • During downward pedal strokes, check for the position of your knee. if your leg is straight then the seat is too high. Your knee should be slightly bent if you are riding on a correctly fitted bike seat.
  • If you feel your hips moving from side to side on the saddle as you ride, then the seat needs to be lowered.
  • Knee pain is one sing and result of seat height. If your seat is too high, you will feel pain behind your knee. If the pain is under your kneecap, this is a sign that the seat is low.

Why are Mountain Bike Seats So Uncomfortable?

MTB seats are really hard and this has earned the manufacturers complaints from multiple cyclists. Despite the rants, the trend doesn’t seem to change. Here are a few reasons why mountain bike seats are so uncomfortable and why it is necessary.

Mountain bike seats are hard so that they can give support to the soft tissue and bones on your backside. A cushioned seat has more padding which acts against the soft tissue and compresses the nerves. This results in your bottom getting numb, especially during long rides.

In addition to the annoying feeling and reduced efficiency, you might have to keep stopping to give your butt a break.

The terrain used by mountain bikers is more aggressive and you might need to adapt an upright sitting position. As you ride through it, you might also need to lean forward, and this means the part of your body between the crotch and the anus will need support.

or women, this part is the pubic bone arch and it is the perineal area for men. Hard saddles have less insulation so these parts are less likely to get heated and transfer sweat to the seat, causing uneasiness.

Although the hard seat has its perks, they don’t completely cancel out the discomfort that they come with. Here are a few things that you can do to make the seat feel a bit more bearable:

  • Make sure the seat is level. Do this by tilting the front either upwards or downwards, while testing it out each time you change it.
  • You can control where your weight lies by adjusting the seat nose. While going downhill, point the seat nose up. This will give you more control. While going uphill, point the nose down. This transfers your weight to the back of the seat, giving the rear tire more traction.
  • If you are a new rider, your discomfort might mainly be because your gluteus muscles aren’t used to the strain. With time, you will get more accustomed to the saddle and so will your muscles.

How High Should Your Handlebars Be on a Mountain Bike?

Just like with any other parts of the mountain bike, having properly fitted handlebars prevents injury, discomfort, and gives you more steering control. If your handlebars are correctly placed, you will have a relaxed neck and shoulders, a straight back, and support.

Handlebar height has a hand in how your weight is shared by the wheels. With lower handlebars, you have to lean forward more, shifting your weight to the front wheel. This gives it more traction.

The perfect handlebar height is relative to the cyclist. However, most riders have the handlebar at the same height as the saddle. This is mostly for comfort. Riders who want to build on speed usually have the handlebars lower to get a streamlined posture and lower the center of gravity.

What Size Mountain Bike Should I Get?

Just like clothes, bikes also have sizes and they are unique to the rider. There are 2 vital measurements when it comes to sizing- reach and standover.

Reach is the distance between the bottom bracket axle and the center of the head tube. This distance decides whether the bike is too long or too short and it can’t be adjusted.

Standover is the distance between the top tube and the ground at the point where you stand in front of your saddle. You should compare this distance with your inseam do you don’t get a bike that is too high for you.

Luckily, the internet is filled with bike sizing charts that you can make use of to determine your bike size. You can also consult your local bike shop for pointers before you buy a bike.

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