Saddle height question (and random ride ramblings)

lulubel

Über Member
Location
Malaga, Spain
I finally managed to get out on the MTB yesterday after 2 weeks of feeling run down with what passes for flu in this part of Spain.

I was working on my attack position before my lay off, so I decided further progress with that would require a lower saddle. I'd changed the saddle at the weekend, from the wide, squishy thing that was on the bike to my preferred SDG Allure that my OH says looks like a razor blade if she's ever seen one, and I was hoping that would make moving about easier. It did.

I left the saddle at full road height until I was at the top of the first climb. After that, it's "undulating" (some flat bits, some sloping bits, some steep bits) until you head back down via a choice of 3 different routes. I then lowered the saddle by about a inch to see how I got on. It was good on the downhill bits. The narrower saddle makes it easier to get my weight back, but having it lower as well put it further out of the way. The problem I had was a total loss of power on the uphill and flat sections, and my right knee started to hurt after about 15 minutes. I put the saddle back up, and normal service (and no knee pain) resumed.

I decided to practice leaning the bike in turns without leaning myself, which is totally alien to me with my road background, and led to a few hairy moments. I still have to break down "attack position" into its component parts, so adding weighting my outside leg, leaning the bike, keeping my body upright, and looking where I was going ended up with too much thinking and not enough speed on several occasions. But I'll get there, and on the one occasion when I actually got it right, it felt good.

My default braking position is 2 fingers on the brake levers, but I moved my hands further out and tried one finger for a while, which felt great, and the improvement in control from having one extra finger on each hand wrapped round the bars was amazing. I had to go back to 2 finger braking for proper descending because I couldn't slow down otherwise, but I'm really looking forward to easy braking when I get my new bike.

Anyway .... saddle height. At the moment, I think I'll have to keep it high unless I'm going to be descending for a while, but I think a dropper seat post might be a good idea for the future.

What does everyone else do?
 

Cubist

Still wavin'
Location
Ovver 'thill
Here are my thoughts. Other opinions are available!

In order to get the most from a decent trail you need to have the seat down in some places and up in others. I have ridden gnarrly stuff on an XC bike with the seatpost all the way up to road position, and let me tell you that there have been a number of occasions where the saddle/clockweight interface has resulted in a swearword inventing session. You can get all the way out of the saddle, and can swing your weight around fore and aft, and occasionally the saddle helps as a point of grip for the thighs, but it's always there, threatening.

Like you I've tried lowering it, but as soon as you need to climb or pedal you need it back at full height. If you ride flat, fire road style MTB that's no problem, it can stay at full height, or just below it. However, if you want a really full-on downhill ride, it's much better out of the way, and on steep techy stuff I always put it right down.

On club rides a couple of riders criticised the fact Cubester and I were always fiddling with the seat height, but I watched one of them go OTB because the saddle smacked his arse for him on a rocky descent, and the other was a knob anyway, so his opinion was of no consequence in any case.

The first time I rode with a dropper I couldn't believe how many times I used the function. In fact I thought I was over using it because of the novelty, but each time I ride now I note that it's the same.

It really, really comes into its own on undulating terrain. When we rode the Marin Trail Cubester moaned like hell after one section, because it rollercoastered so much. He couldn't get his post into a position which was ideal for him. The Reverb however had done exactly what it was meant to do.

So. If your riding has a series of long climbs where you'll ride full post, followed by kilometre after kilometre of descent where you'll want it slammed, then the time spent adjusting seat height will mean a dropper is a luxury, rather than a necessity. If it undulates, changing frequently enough to adjust your seat height every few hundred yards or so, then if you can afford one, get one.

As for type? Giant do their own brand which is highly thought of. KinderShock have several models, the i900 and now the Lev being the most common. Crank Bros have brought out the Kronolog, which looks great but has huge questions around reliability. Fox have brought out the DOSS, which is about £400, but the market leader at the moment is Rockshox Reverb. You can get them from Germany for about £175, and if you go for it make sure your deal includes the bleedkit, which is another 40E or so if bought separately. Look for the 2012 model, and you have choices between 100mm and 125mm travel, 380mm overall length to 420mm, and the remote lever with its matchmaker clamp fits on the left or right side of the bars.

The lever itself is silly expensive to replace, and is suspected to be a bit fragile, so many riders buy a right hand lever and run it upside down on the left.
 

billflat12

Über Member
Location
cheshire
It,s a judgement call , I prefer to just ride rather than faff around with seat adjustments, keep mine midway & carry my speed best i can , get out the seat occasionally on the odd climb , been stuck behind my seat on steep descents though " hovering "over a rear tyre on steep drop offs can be unnerving , sometimes suffer with my knees climbing but blame it on horse riding-rugby-job etc. ( & to mean to pay for any downhill uplifts )
I like to have my brake levers adjusted up & more inboard for 1 finger use, Just be clear though with heavy braking your weight will be thrown forward with greater force going down,.
 

02GF74

Über Member
I never go the point of ;lowering saddle for descent since the technigue is to move back off the saddle when doing a steep decent.

here is a photo of me (yeah right!)
 
OP
lulubel

lulubel

Über Member
Location
Malaga, Spain
I'm definitely going to get a dropper seat post. It sounds like it will make a massive difference to my rides. Until the other day, I'd just been riding with it full height all the time, and there are occasions when I'd like to get lower and can't because the saddle's in the way. I'll probably notice it more on the new bike because the bars will be lower than the bike I've been riding recently (my OH's) due to the shorter head tube.

Since I've just bought a new bike, I'll probably have to smuggle it in as part of an order with some other bits and pieces, then put it on the new bike, and if my beloved notices, I can tell her it came with the bike :biggrin:

On another note, I've just been watching some YouTube videos of people riding the red route at Cannock Chase (now I want a helmet cam so I can make my own videos!), and I think I must be missing something. I know video can be very deceptive, but it looks like a "pleasant Sunday afternoon pootle" along a narrow trail through some woods. I know you can ride it at whatever speed you want, and I can see how it would be fun to ride it as fast as you can without falling off on the turns or hitting a tree, and those rolling up and down bits (don't know what they're called) look like they could go wrong if you're trying to go fast and misjudge it. There's a bit that goes between 2 trees and then steep down over what look like "artificially positioned tree roots" that's quite similar to a bit on one of my rides where you leave the trail to cross over to another one (except on mine the tree roots are at an angle and there are loose rocks as well) but it kind of left me thinking, "Is that it?" Is it designed to be easy enough to ride slowly, and the challenge - the fun part - is in riding it as fast as you can?
 

Motozulu

Über Member
Location
Rugeley, Staffs
A bit disengenous TBH - watching youtube of anything can never really convey the reality - and saying it's just about how fast you ride it otherwise it's a pootle...well yes..is'nt that a bit obvious? Sorry if I appear a bit naive here and perhaps you're going down the side of Spanish mountains whilst posting on here with one hand and adjusting your forks with another but.....I'd never denigrate someone else's ride without doing it first..especially after only watching it on youtube?.
Since starting out I've noticed a little bit of snobbery amongst the MTB illuminati concerning trail centres, that's fine - don't do 'em then.
We all start somewhere and if you don't happen to live half way up a mountain in the Pyrenees and live 2 miles from a trail centre...well, horses fer courses..innit? :becool:

Just my twopennorth worth, loike.
 

GrumpyGregry

Here for rides.
If you come from a road background you knees will simply protest if you run your saddle low and do any real pedalling. Maybe it is my body form but with my saddle set full height and me right off the back my saddle is trying to bust my sternum and occupy my thorax so I've no idea how anyone goes down properly steep stuff without dropping the seat.

Dropper post is the way to go. I've a Gravity dropper on the HT (27.2 seat tube limits options) and will have a reverb on the FS once I get around to fitting it.

cornering, weighting the outside leg, lots of the top boys and girls don't do it, they either pedal neutral (flat 15:00 & 21:00) or weight their chocolate foot. Depends on what you've grown up with and what feels natural. Oddly, I weight the outside on the road but neutral it off road.
 
OP
lulubel

lulubel

Über Member
Location
Malaga, Spain
A bit disengenous TBH - watching youtube of anything can never really convey the reality - and saying it's just about how fast you ride it otherwise it's a pootle...well yes..is'nt that a bit obvious? Sorry if I appear a bit naive here and perhaps you're going down the side of Spanish mountains whilst posting on here with one hand and adjusting your forks with another but.....I'd never denigrate someone else's ride without doing it first..especially after only watching it on youtube?.
Since starting out I've noticed a little bit of snobbery amongst the MTB illuminati concerning trail centres, that's fine - don't do 'em then.
We all start somewhere and if you don't happen to live half way up a mountain in the Pyrenees and live 2 miles from a trail centre...well, horses fer courses..innit? :becool:
You're certainly coming across as over-sensitive, which maybe you wouldn't be if you'd seen more of my posts over the last 2 or 3 months that I've been getting into MTBing. I don't want to put anyone down because they ride at trail centres, regardless of whether that's the only option for them or not. I've posted before that I think access to a trail centre would be a really good thing for me because I could learn in a "safe" environment, where the route colour coding would let me know the kind of difficulty levels I'd be encountering, rather than just having to "wing it" out on the natural trails, and usually ending up falling off.

It wasn't obvious to me before I watched the videos that it's all about how fast you ride. I thought there'd be more technical stuff - artificial rock sections, for example - like in the olympic MTB course, but obviously appropriate for the difficulty level of the course. I was disappointed because I had guessed, from things people have posted on forums, that red routes were probably equivalent to a lot of the stuff I ride, and I was hoping to pick up some technique from watching the videos.

At the same time, I was also quite relieved to find that the trails I ride on are actually quite difficult, and the reason I fall off a lot is probably not because I'm cr@p, but because I'm a beginner on a really poor quality bike, trying to ride stuff that's above my level of ability.

Yes, we all have to start somewhere. I'm unlucky enough that I've had to start with mountains. But I also understand that I'm very lucky because, once I've got more experience, I can really get the most out of those mountains.

And I don't live anywhere near the Pyrenees. I live at the opposite end of the country.
 
OP
lulubel

lulubel

Über Member
Location
Malaga, Spain
If you come from a road background you knees will simply protest if you run your saddle low and do any real pedalling. Maybe it is my body form but with my saddle set full height and me right off the back my saddle is trying to bust my sternum and occupy my thorax so I've no idea how anyone goes down properly steep stuff without dropping the seat.
Someone will probably tell you your legs are too bent - or too short :biggrin: - but I know exactly where you're coming from. Although I think being hit in the stomach by the saddle is probably preferable to being whacked on the backside by it and sent flying over the bars. (I'm yet to try either, and really hope I can get my dropper post before I do!)

cornering, weighting the outside leg, lots of the top boys and girls don't do it, they either pedal neutral (flat 15:00 & 21:00) or weight their chocolate foot. Depends on what you've grown up with and what feels natural. Oddly, I weight the outside on the road but neutral it off road.
I naturally weight the outside on the road bike (after a particularly scary incident years ago on a Post Office bike, when I caught the inside pedal on the tarmac on a roundabout), but I haven't really got any technique for cornering on the MTB yet. I'm still nervously trying to find the point where the front wheel lets go, so I can avoid it in future, and looking for the best way to maintain grip for as long as possible.
 

Motozulu

Über Member
Location
Rugeley, Staffs
Over sensitive? not in the slightest. Do the youtube videos cover every inch of the monkey and dog? doubt it somehow so my point was it's difficult to judge until you've actually ridden a trail - if that's over sensitive then that's what I am then ^_^ I am sure the Cannock red routes are very easy to the more hardcore. I know at the level I am at they are certainly a challenge but fun too - I guess that's what it's all about - we are all at different levels, are'nt we?
The Pyrenees was just an example - I could have said the Alps or the Rockies. You certainly come across as over sensitive about geography. :smile:

Edit - in case you don't 'get' me I am a bit dry - I do understand why some feel trail centres are too 'homogenized' what you do on unmarked trails and natural landscape is pretty impressive - i just have'nt got that terrain local to me.
 
OP
lulubel

lulubel

Über Member
Location
Malaga, Spain
Cornering - one of my more experienced mates told me to put my inside knee into the corner a la motorbiking - must admit it's worked for me so far.
I've been told that too. And I've also been told you shouldn't do that, but should keep your inside knee tucked in close to the bike. That's possibly the cause of much of my confusion!
 

Motozulu

Über Member
Location
Rugeley, Staffs
You're right - there is so much info out there it's a bit baffling, s'pose the rule of thumb is trust yor mate's advice until it's proven wrong - cornering at speed is one of the few things I'm pretty good at just now thanks to his advice but I'm guessing there is no hard and fast rule? it's whatever suits you best.

And Lulu I was'nt calling you hardcore I just meant more experienced riders in gener - oh forget it - we have'nt had the best of starts, have we? ^_^
 

Cubist

Still wavin'
Location
Ovver 'thill
Interesting viewpoints here. @Motozulu, I completely understand your references to what you call "snobbery" re trail centres. especially as you spend some time on STW, where there are the "elder statesmen" who believe that unless you are picking your way down slimy vertical boulder fields in the Pennines you ain't biking. I cannot stand this attitude personally as I love both kinds of riding. I have slimy boulder strewn descents aplenty round here, but I love trail centres where I can let fly, knowing that the surace is generally going to be stable, and there are no really nasty surprises round the corner like local trails can have.

@lulubel, yes the videos are often very deceptive. An experienced rider on a big hitting 160 bike with a chest mount Go-Pro riding fast and flowing over most of the trail centres will make it look smooth and simpler than it actually is. You rarely see videos of novices stuttering to a halt and going OTB on a chute filled with babies heads, or losing traction on a tech climb and toppling sideways 'cos they can't unclip.

That drop you refer to in your questions re Cannock is the Werewolf I think. I asked the same question once, as you see stuff like that at Dalby, and as you point out, a bit of a drop followed by a few roots shouldn't hold much mystery. The Werewolf however is challenging because it is approached via two trees that are about 800mm apart, so you can't carry speed through it. As you drop in you immediately have to change direction to turn into the sharp right hand turn , and as you haven't got any speed this becomes problematic. Most folk make the mistake of braking on the drop.

Of course it doesn't help that the feature is littered with idiots on their bike, cluttering the best lines

View: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xItaExPazYw&feature=fvwrel
 
Top Bottom