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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Curious if I should be setting up the saddle position or handlebar position first?

I understand that there is an optimal saddle position in terms of efficiency (knee over pedal spindle?) but I wonder how often actually stick using that 'most efficient' saddle position.
 

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Handlebar! The position of your hands relative to your feet is crucial because that is how you maneuver the bike over terrain. Especially with modern dropper posts, the position of the saddle is irrelevant when you're standing and throwing the bike up and over a ledge, sending a jump, scrambling over a rock garden, dropping a ledge, etc. In other words, most of the really fun and risky stuff is done standing up, so optimize the bike for that aspect of handling first.

IMO, most people end up with an overall reach/stack that is longer than would be ideal. This occurs because they set up the bike for maximum efficiency and comfort from a seated position. That's great if you're fitting a road bike, but we're not talking about road bikes here. The result is stable and confidence-inspiring at speed in the trainer or on a parking lot test ride but it zaps power from the ability to wrangle the bike around on climbs and technical terrain that is not flat and even.

After that, saddle height (distance from the BB to the saddle, or more specifically, to the top of the pedal at it's lowest position) is critical and really a non-negotiable constant for you on any bike you ride. Getting the saddle in the right position is about seated reach and optimizing distribution of your weight between the wheels. Depending on the seat tube angle on the bike, this might be hard to do on some bikes. This is why understanding stack and reach of a bike is more important than ETT and seat tube angles. You need to understand both to make a bike handle well from more than one position.

You can set the saddle height first so you have a pedalable position to start out, just don't fool yourself by basing your handlebar position solely on what is comfortable from a seated pedaling position, unless you are setting up the bike for riding that is mostly sitting like touring, commuting to work, maybe bike packing, etc.

in this regard, saddle position and handlebar position are two separate things. find out the best way to set up feet/hand relationship, then find your saddle height, then tweak each until you can find a compromise that is good for seated pedaling and stand-up wrangling.

Don't waste time chasing KOPS. It can be a useful point of reference to start out but it really has no scientific justification.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Handlebar! The position of your hands relative to your feet is crucial because that is how you maneuver the bike over terrain. Especially with modern dropper posts, the position of the saddle is irrelevant when you're standing and throwing the bike up and over a ledge, sending a jump, scrambling over a rock garden, dropping a ledge, etc. In other words, most of the really fun and risky stuff is done standing up, so optimize the bike for that aspect of handling first.

IMO, most people end up with an overall reach/stack that is longer than would be ideal. This occurrs because they set up the bike for maximum efficiency and comfort from a seated position. That's great if you're fitting a road bike, but we're not talking about road bikes here. The result is stable and confidence-inspiring at speed in the trainer or on a parking lot test ride but it zaps power from the ability to wrangle the bike around on climbs and technical terrain that is not flat and even.

After that, saddle height (distance from the BB to the saddle, or more specifically, to the top of the pedal at it's lowest position) is critical and really a non-negotiable constant for you on any bike you ride. Getting the saddle in the right position is about seated reach and optimizing distribution of your weight between the wheels. Depending on the seat tube angle on the bike, this might be hard to do on some bikes. This is why understanding stack and reach of a bike is more important than ETT and seat tube angles. You need to understand both to make a bike handle well from more than one position.

You can set the saddle height first so you have a pedalable position to start out, just don't fool yourself by basing your handlebar position solely on what is comfortable from a seated pedaling position, unless you are setting up the bike for riding that is mostly sitting like touring, commuting to work, maybe bike packing, etc.

Don't waste time chasing KOPS. It can be a useful point of reference to start out but it really has no scientific justification.
Do you set up your handlebars whilst seated or standing over, or a combination of both?
 

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I originally set up my handlebar by installing it roughly where I want it, pedaling the bike around the block doing wheelies and hopping over stuff, then experimenting with the handlebar at differ heights until it feels right. Setting the handlebar up while standing over the bike would be pointless. Or did you mean standing on the pedals?

Once you have a handlebar position that works for you, measure the distance from the center of the BB to the midpoint between the grips. The sweet spot for me is about 77cm. Knowing that, I can probably set up any bike to fit me well by the same method.

Further reading:
Have we got sizing on bikes right, shouldn't we be measuring bikes in a different way? For instance from pedals to grips?
I hundred per cent agree with that. I think that it's tricky as there are so many elements to geometry. One of the things we haven't talked about is designing frames where every size has a different rear-centre length (chainstay). From an engineering and manufacture point of view, it's very difficult to do, and the factories don't like it, but I think that feet-to-bars measurements are key.

That's how Sam Hill measures his bike, he gets on any bike, no point telling him any numbers, he just gets a tape measure out and measures feet to bars, and if it makes sense, then he's happy, and away he goes. I do think that's the only true measurement you can work off.

It's trial and error for a lot of people as well, such as how much stack height can affect things. Stack height can make a big difference to the reach of a bike. On extra large sizes, with slack head angles, by the time they've got the bar height up, the reach is often reduced. Then I looked into back-sweep on handlebars, where one degree could put your handles 15mm back! At the same time, numbers on a website, are one thing, it gets you reasonably close, but there is still no replacement for swinging a leg over a bike and testing it.
https://www.imbikemag.com/articles/issue56/the-architect/
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
For those who choose to do the saddle first, how do you know if the saddle position is too far forward or backwards, since the handlebar is in a roughly set position? I read the K.O.P.S method is not the best method.
 

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For those who choose to do the saddle first, how do you know if the saddle position is too far forward or backwards, since the handlebar is in a roughly set position? I read the K.O.P.S method is not the best method.
trial and error. look up Bike Fit Advisor on YouTube, he has some good ideas that might clarify saddle position.

KOPS was kind of useful for road bikes in the '70s. it can serve as a point of reference but it's really, really hard to measure anyways. no one agrees on what part of the knee to use as a reference point, so it's mostly magical thinking. KOPS means nothing when you ride a bike up or down a hill because KOPS is based on the bike being level. it's just silly.

to clarify my position, I don't think you should do one before the other. it does not matter. dial in the feet/hands position to optimize handling, dial in the saddle position to optimize pedaling efficiency, then find a butt/ hand relationship that strikes a compromise between the two that is comfortable, efficient, confidence-inspiring.
 

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Put the saddle and bars on the bike. Sit in the saddle (handlebar position won't initially effect saddle position). Adjust the saddle where you want it. If you need to, adjust the handlebars.

You can do it the other way as well, but after adjusting seat position, you may then want to go back and adjust the bars.

It isn't rocket surgery....either way will get you the same result.

It's like the decision to put on sock/sock then shoe/shoe (the correct way!) Vs. sock/shoe then sock/shoe. As long as you don't go shoe/sock, you're probably okay.

This should be in the over fifty forum
;)
 

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Put the saddle and bars on the bike. Sit in the saddle (handlebar position won't initially effect saddle position). Adjust the saddle where you want it. If you need to, adjust the handlebars.

You can do it the other way as well, but after adjusting seat position, you may then want to go back and adjust the bars.

It isn't rocket surgery....either way will get you the same result.

It's like the decision to put on sock/sock then shoe/shoe (the correct way!) Vs. sock/shoe then sock/shoe. As long as you don't go shoe/sock, you're probably okay.

This should be in the over fifty forum
;)
I'll go along with that, and you beat me by....3 hours.
 

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For those who choose to do the saddle first, how do you know if the saddle position is too far forward or backwards, since the handlebar is in a roughly set position? I read the K.O.P.S method is not the best method.
What you're aiming for is to balance the amount of work that your quadriceps do verses what your glutes & hamstrings do. A sign that your saddle is too far forward is getting knee pain (though you can also get that from having your saddle too high or low).

I'd suggest going to see a bike fitter. If you're not able to, then keep doing research, and find an assistant to help you. 1st step is to get the seat height approximately correct (if it's too high your hips will rock), then once that's ok'ish, then get the saddle fore-aft sorted, noting that chaning fore-aft changes up-down...I think I read that moving 10mm forwards means needing to move 3 mm upwards, and moving 10mm rewards means moving 3mm downwards.

This article is heavy on detail, and is roadie-base, but has some key messages re: muscle-usage balance.
https://neillsbikefit.com.au/?page_id=364
 

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What you're aiming for is to balance the amount of work that your quadriceps do verses what your glutes & hamstrings do. A sign that your saddle is too far forward is getting knee pain (though you can also get that from having your saddle too high or low).
I agree with this.

The biggest limiting piece for many skilled bike handlers is how much horsepower one can put out on the bike. Bars a bit too high/low, a stem plus or minus 10mm, reach a bit long or short - all have pluses and minuses that an experienced bike can make the most of. But a saddle position that robs you of your relatively small amount of horsepower will wear you down fast. It will effect you on the ups, downs, and all arounds, in or out of the saddle.

The amount of power I can put down over the long haul on a properly positioned seat far outweighs a few millimeters of change on a bar's height or reach.

Seat position that properly recruits the posterior chain, vs super steep STAs/forward seats that are quad heavy, allow much more horsepower over the long haul.

I'm not a "roadie in the woods" either. I'm likely out of the saddle more than in the saddle on our extremely techy trails. But, those times I'm laying down the miles in the saddle need me in the right spot. I also DH/lift assist a lot so I get the value of proper bar position and reach without factoring in saddle position much. Still, when it comes to trail riding the biggest limiting reagent in this reaction is putting down the power over the long haul.

No way do I advocate roadie geo on a mtb but roadie bikes are all about putting down the power and look where their seats are relative to the BB and look at their STAs.

Furthermore, a properly positioned seat makes riding more comfortable. Go for a few 6 hours rides and you will quickly learn the hard way how much an improperly positioned saddle affects performance.
 

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Quote: A sign that your saddle is too far forward is getting knee pain (though you can also get that from having your saddle too high or low).

I would not advocate this statement. Perhaps an isolated situation may lead to this conclusion but like K.O.P.S, more of a red herring than helpful.

Some good thoughts expressed on the differences between Balance riding vrs Saddle grinding. As usual, it's set-up to what suits your ride conditions and this is personal to you.

Time to digest the concepts into what fits you.

Good experimenting. Tweeking your bike is all part of riding.

Eric
 

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Put the saddle and bars on the bike. Sit in the saddle (handlebar position won't initially effect saddle position). Adjust the saddle where you want it. If you need to, adjust the handlebars.

You can do it the other way as well, but after adjusting seat position, you may then want to go back and adjust the bars.

It isn't rocket surgery....either way will get you the same result.

It's like the decision to put on sock/sock then shoe/shoe (the correct way!) Vs. sock/shoe then sock/shoe. As long as you don't go shoe/sock, you're probably okay.

This should be in the over fifty forum
;)
Agreed with this. You can either do saddle-bars-saddle, or bars-saddle-bars (and then repeat as many times as needed). You can't get a perfect saddle position if your reach/stack isn't perfected, and vice versa.

What I do is use the geometry and size charts to see if I'm in the middle, lower end, or higher end of what the bike was designed for. If I'm in the middle, I'll set the saddle in the middle of the rails, use the OEM stem, bars at 0 degrees (if they have rotation markings). Then make sure the reach feels comfortable. Then adjust saddle position to support this. I set it up in the middle, because if you take a Pole bike with 79 degree STA (or whatever it actually is), and set the saddle like you're used to on your 2003 XC bike (so it'll be pushed back a bunch), you'd end up with a seated reach (saddle to bars) that's huge, and that's not how the bike is supposed to be set up. I want to see what the bike is supposed to feel like first, then adjust to fit me.

Tuning the saddle position for KOPS worked well for road bikes with a 73 degree STA, then you'd use reach to adjust your back angle. On MTB's with steep seat tube angles, it's tough because you sacrifice a bit of flat trail comfort for climbing comfort. You're essentially taking your whole body, keeping leg/back angles consistent, and rotating forward. So the saddle moves forward (due to STA) and reach gets longer.
 

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Handlebar! The position of your hands relative to your feet is crucial because that is how you maneuver the bike over terrain. Especially with modern dropper posts, the position of the saddle is irrelevant when you're standing and throwing the bike up and over a ledge, sending a jump, scrambling over a rock garden, dropping a ledge, etc. In other words, most of the really fun and risky stuff is done standing up, so optimize the bike for that aspect of handling first.
Yep, I set up my bike to optimize handling so the bars are setup based on the out of the saddle riding position. This probably won't work if you bought the wrong size bike. I don't setup the saddle fore/aft position the same on every bike.

IMO, most people end up with an overall reach/stack that is longer than would be ideal. This occurs because they set up the bike for maximum efficiency and comfort from a seated position. That's great if you're fitting a road bike, but we're not talking about road bikes here. The result is stable and confidence-inspiring at speed in the trainer or on a parking lot test ride but it zaps power from the ability to wrangle the bike around on climbs and technical terrain that is not flat and even.
I only find this true when riding slow technical terrain. Trails where I'm moving 3 mph through endless chunk sucks on a long bike. On any other type of trail where I'm able to use momentum and not rely on trials type techniques (most trails I ride), I find with a longer reach and wheelbase I don't have to wrangle the bike as much. On shorter bikes I have to put in more work to counteract weights shifts (I have to move around more because I feel like I'm always in the wrong position). I'm 6'5" though so a bike that's a bit on the short side for me might have a much more profound effect than it would for someone else.
 

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Set up your bike for what is comfortable for you and for your type of riding. If you are a pedaler, then seat position will take the priority. If you are a coaster, then handlebar.
 
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