As one of the few areas where your body and bicycle come in contact, your bicycle seat, also known as a saddle, can have a large impact on your comfort while riding. The angle of your seat is an often overlooked aspect of the bicycle fitting process, being passed over for things such as seat height and handlebar adjustments. Adjusting your seat angle is a quick process that can save you a major pain in the butt down the road.
The correct angle of your saddle should be almost no angle at all, according to cycling experts Sheldon Brown and Peter Jon White. The theoretically ideal saddle angle is perfectly parallel to the ground, thus ensuring that you do not slide forward or backward on the seat and can comfortably reach all of the bicycle’s controls. In practice, however, most cyclists ride with the nose of the saddle slightly raised or lowered to improve their comfort.
To change the angle of your bicycle saddle, you need to loosen the clamp under the seat and then push the seat into the desired position. The seat clamp is loosened with a hex wrench, but be careful not to remove the bolt. If the bolt comes out completely, the clamp assembly may fall apart and will be difficult to reassemble. Male cyclists may prefer the nose of the seat slightly raised, while female cyclists may prefer it slightly lowered so the seat does not create pressure on the pubic bone. Fully tighten the seat clamp bolt when your adjustments are completed.
According to Sheldon Brown, if the angle of the seat is too far down, you will slide forward while riding. This will result in you putting too much pressure on your handlebars to stay in the seat and can result in wrist, shoulder and neck pain. Peter Jon White states that the closer you are to having your seat level while riding, the easier it will be for you to find a balance between your saddle and handlebars that is comfortable.
According to a 1999 study published in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine," cyclists tend to hyperextend their pelvis and spine while riding due to improper seat angle. The study, carried out in Tel Hashomer, Israel, found that more than 70 percent of cyclists with back pain noticed "major improvement" when their seat angles were corrected to a more level position.
Your handlebar height and the shape of the saddle you are using are additional factors that may contribute to the angle you need while riding. If your handlebars are too high, you are more likely to need the seat tilted slightly back to compensate. Additionally, a wide saddle is better able to accommodate the bones that you sit on, allowing you more play in the seat’s angle. Finding the correct seat angle is an individual process that depends on a number of factors, but as a general rule you should try to keep it as level as possible.