The bike saddle is one of those parts of the bike that can easily be taken for granted. It's easy to forgo upgrading your saddle in favour of sexier upgrades like wheels and pedals.
Saddle position, however, is one of the most crucial elements to ensure you can ride comfortably and efficiently on your bike - no matter what your discipline.
If your bike saddle isn't positioned correctly it can lead to a number of issues, some of them major like knee and hip problems and some minor like poor pedal efficiency and loss of power.
Getting Saddle Position Wrong Is Easy
It's way easier to get your saddle position wrong than it is to get it right, which is why we would always recommend getting a bike fit when you upgrade your saddle or get a new bike (shameless plug: see our high-tech Guru bike fitting service to get an unrivalled fit!).
There are so many ways to get it wrong mainly due the number of axis that can be adjusted. As well as bike saddle height, there's the angle of tilt and the fore/aft position to consider to create a position that's supportive, efficient and comfortable.
If the nose is pointed too far up this causes bad posture and could lead to hip problems, to far down and there's more pressure on the neck/shoulders which could lead to more problems.
If the bike saddle is too far back then this could lead to knee pain as you don't have enought weight over the pedals - which will lead to you needing to stand out of the saddle to transfer power whilst climbing. To far forward and you will be using your upper body too much which can lead to more shoulder, neck or back issues.
How To Get Saddle-Happy?
There are a few techniques you can use to ensure your saddle is positioned correctly; none of them will be better than a correct bike fitting but they're easy fix solutions to saddle position woes.
The 'Balance Point Method' is a way of judging the correct fore/aft position and involves pedalling at a tempo pace (a pace that could be sustained for an hour) in the drops. It's best to do this on a turbo trainer with a friend present to prevent injury, but once you are pedalling in the zone, remove your hands from the drops and swing them behind you buttocks. If the position is correct you should be able to balance in this position without having to grab the drops again.
The 'Knee Over Spindle Method' is another fore/aft technique which uses geometry to help you find an appropriate position. Sat on the bike with your pedals in a 9 o'clock/3 o'clock position and hold a plumb bomb (or coin on a string, anything that is straight and weighted will do) in front of your forward facing kneecap. The line created downwards should intersect the pedal spindle for a correct position, adjust accordingly.
Tilt position is a little more complicated, but the best advice is to start with a level saddle. If the saddle is flat like a Fabric Scoop Pro then this is easy, but with more profiled saddles like the SMP 4 Forma you need to aim to get the middle third of the saddle level. Once you've got that sorted it's a case of making small, incremental adjustments to fine tune the position and not change it too drastically.
Oh Wait, There's More...
Whilst bike saddle position is important, it goes hand in hand with saddle height and handlebar position. To take a professional example, most pro cyclists 'slam' their stems, meaning they don't use any risers or spacers which allows them to get an aggresive, low profile even when riding on the hoods. This will mean the saddle position needs to change to ensure the rider's weight is supported appropriately.
Your ideal saddle position depends not only on the fore/aft and tilt angle, but the height and how your handlebars are positioned, so to find the absolute perfect saddle position for comfort and efficiency, all these elements need to align.