As I mentioned in ‘Setting the correct saddle position’ saddle tilt is one of the three important measurements a good bicycle saddle fit requires. The other two are seat height and the fore and aft position. Tilt, while not as impactful as height, does have a bearing on how comfortable you are on your perch and how your body moves while pedalling.
As the main contact point between your entire body weight and the bike, the saddle does take a lot of fettling to get just right. Get the nose too high and things can become uncomfortable. Get it too low and you end up sliding forward and having to push yourself back with your arms and/or legs which causes problems at the wrist.
According to the man who knows, Sheldon Brown, a saddle should be almost horizontal. I would agree. While my saddle has a slight up angle at the front, it is almost completely horizontal. As it’s a road bike seat, the shape has an influence over the angle, so it isn’t quite as simple as getting a spirit level out and hitting the bubble. Or is it?
Why saddle tilt is important
As we know, saddle position has a huge influence over muscle fatigue, comfort and control. If it’s set up right, the bike feels right. If it isn’t, you will find it difficult to become comfortable.
If the saddle nose is too high, you can damage your soft parts by putting extra pressure on a narrow focus, causing discomfort, numbness or worse. Too high a nose also tilts the pelvis too far back which can cause lower back pain.
If the saddle nose is too low, you slide forward and will compensate with your hands, wrists and arms, causing them to fatigue and even injure them. You can also put too much pressure on your knees as you’re asking them to push you back into the saddle every time you pedal.
A level saddle creates the foundation for the correct movement of the body on the bike. The frame has been painstakingly designed to be comfortable and offer the best ride possible in this neutral position. It allows your back, legs and arms to work in as natural a motion as possible. That’s why you should begin here even if you have to adjust it to get it completely comfortable.
Saddle tilt adjustment
The saddle tilt is adjusted at the clamp. Loosen the seat carefully and you should see a sawtooth join between the two clamp parts. Loosen the seat bolt enough to be able to lift or lower the nose slightly and re-tighten. If you’re careful, you should hear or feel the saddle move in the desired direction. Tighten to the correct torque and test.
As with any road bike adjustment, unless it immediately feels wrong, give it an hour or a few miles to test before adjusting it again.
It’s a good idea to begin saddle adjustment with the saddle completely horizontal. Use a spirit level and have it so that it rests on both the nose and tail of the saddle. Adjust it until it is level. Then go for a test ride with the tools to adjust while on the ride. Unless it feels completely wrong, give it a few miles before adjusting once more.
Instinct will tell you which way to adjust the saddle. If you’re sliding forward and putting too much weight on your arms, adjust the nose up. If you have uncomfortable pressure in your soft parts, adjust it down. Do it in the smallest possible increments and give it a while before adjusting again.
Like any road bike fitting, adjusting saddle tilt is a case of tweaking until you’re completely comfortable. Or getting a bike fit, whichever you prefer. Either way, the importance of this tilt should not be underestimated!