Saddle Height/Stopping and Starting

People often ask this question: What height should my saddle be at? If I use the "leg straight onto pedal" idea for correct saddle height, I can't get onto the bike. If I use the "toes should just touch the ground when sitting on the saddle" I end up with cramp in my thighs.

The "leg straight onto pedal" is the right way, as long as it's "leg absolutely straight when heel is on the pedal". That way, when the ball of the foot is on the pedal, your leg should be slightly bent.

My touring bike and MTB both have high bottom brackets, and I also can't touch the ground when I'm sitting on the saddle. However, I've had my touring bike for 10 years, and I've adjusted to it, and so it simply isn't a problem.

Here's what you do to get on. Stand over your top tube, with both feet flat on the ground. Now put one pedal at about the two o'clock position if you're looking at it from the right hand side of the bike. The idea is that the pedal should be near the top of the stroke, but a bit in front of the top. Put your foot on the pedal. When you're ready to take off, put your weight on the pedal. Since you're starting from a standstill, your pedal will take awhile to get to the bottom of the stroke. You'll have plenty of time to lift yourself onto the saddle as this happens. After your foot gets to the bottom and you're seated, catch the other pedal as it comes around and put your foot on it, and then you're pedalling. It may sound difficult, but it's really easy and natural once you get used to it.

Now, to get off. You're coming up to someplace where you want to stop. Stop pedalling with one pedal at the bottom of the stroke (6 o'clock). Put all your weight on this pedal, and lift yourself off the saddle. Now you're standing over the top tube with all your weight on one pedal. Slow the bike down, and when you stop, put down onto the ground the foot that isn't on the pedal. This is a bit tricky, as you have to lean the bike slightly to the right if you're going to put down your right foot, and vice versa. Once you get used to this, you can even do it in emergency situations: when you need to stop quickly, you put your weight on whatever foot is in front, let it fall to the bottom of the stroke while at the same time lifting yourself from the saddle, and then once stopped you put down your other foot.

I was thinking about this recently, when my father was visiting me and trying to ride my bikes. When he stopped he would kind of fall off the bike. It looked awkward and downright dangerous. For some reason he's never gotten the "lift bum off saddle by putting weight on pedal" trick down.

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