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The Curse of Four Millimeters

The Curse of Four Millimeters

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I don’t know how a guy who shows off the better part of a half meter of seat post comes to the conclusion that his saddle is too low, but that precise thought occupies an enormous amount of time. Ever closer looms the minimum insertion point on my seat pin, yet I am irrevocably bound to explore its limits.

I actually wish my legs were shorter; long legs are only useful for the anorexic models who distort our youth’s self-image and for skipping steps on staircases. At the same time, I’ve spent the majority of my life wondering if my seat post was slipping; has my saddle always felt this low? In previous years, I have known better; the question will claw its way into my mind, usually when I’m struggling on a climb, and I will look at the strip of tape I’ve stuck around my seat pin just above the clamp and note that it has not curled up due to the pin sliding through. The saddle is at the right height.

These days, I’m riding a fi'zi:k seat post and fi'zi:k seat posts come with this cool little sleeve to mark the height. It works perfectly, apart from the fact that it doesn’t curl up like the lowly electrical tape does; were the seat pin to slide, the sleeve would simply side with it. Which means I have to judge the distance between height demarcations on the post to decide if it’s slipped or not. It used to be higher; I’m climbing this badly because the saddle slipped down a bit.

These are easy lies we tell ourselves; that the lack of performance is borne of a problem in our setup – our position or our equipment. Merckx was famously obsessive about seat height, why shouldn’t I be? I just make a casually deliberate stop at the roadside, swiftly raise the saddle a bit, and stage a Cyclocross Remount – the only way a Cyclist should ever board their bicycle once the ride has begun.

But then I got better at judging the marks on the fi'zi:k post, and was sure it wasn’t sliding. But still my power was waning and surely it wasn’t my form because I’ve been riding like a thing that’s been riding a lot. Perhaps my position on the bike is evolving, perhaps I should reconsider my stem length and slide my saddle forward to get more over the bottom bracket. Except that I’ve ridden happily in roughly this position for years – and in roughly the same form.

Then came the rains; they had been lacking this Spring, almost to a fault. It had been several weeks or even a few months since I’d been astride my Nine Bike. I set off, and was struck instantly by how comfortable I was, how fluidly the pedals were spinning, and how easily I gobbled up the climbs. Was I peaking today instead of in the usual Two Months, or was there something more sinister going on? There was no question of longer stems and saddles sliding forward; I had the usual sensation that I was in my element, that I was born to be in this position on two wheels and that walking was a locomotion I was leaving behind in my short-lived evolution as a human being.

Knowing the geometries of the two bikes – #1 and The Nine Bike – are virtually identical, I decided to revisit the measurements on #1. I measured the Nine and checked them against #1; the only difference was that the saddle on the #1 had crept up a whopping 4mm. Four millimeters over a saddle height of of 830. I climbed aboard her and set off, amazed at how good she felt. Immediately the power was back, the inherent comfort of riding a bike returned.

All over a lousy 4mm.

Fellow Velominati: we are all students of La Vie Velominatus. We must look to the future and seek to evolve; to experiment with new positions, new techniques, and with new technology. But we must also look to the past and recognize what worked well, when did change affect how well we ride our bikes or how much we loved it? To recognize the boundary between the evolution within us as athletes and to adapt to what feels good over time and those that erode our capacity as riders can be difficult. Sometimes we need a Sensei to help us recognize the difference, other times it will come to us through solitary meditation.

Embrace change, but also keep it at a distance. We should always be ready to return to the past and rediscover what worked before and apply it to the chance we face in the future. Vive la Vie Velomiantus.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // Technique // Technology // Tradition

  1. I thought of you Frank when I saw this for some obscure reason

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151946403112058

  2. …..sorry for embedding something from FB, I am sure there is some relevance here

  3. Slipping carbon post, paste, shims? Could be the seat clamp/collar orientation.

    Found info here

    Before tightening seatposts, pay particular attention to the orientation of the seat collar. When using a carbon post, it’s very important to have the seat collar slot on the opposite side of the seat tube slot. This helps disperse the loads better, reducing the possibility of pinching and crushing the seatpost, as well as reducing frame damage. Diagonally slotted seat collars are highly recommended.

  4. @unversio

    @Mike_P

    Saddles, or rather saddle height, angle and setback are my nemesis. Saddle sores have recently become a painful riding companion and I’m never convinced of my position, even though it’s been checked and rechecked to be where it should be…

    Question your saddle width and shape. More specifically confirm your sit-bones measurement. Ask about a semi-flat shape with 140mm to 150mm in width.

    Yes! The saddle can make all the difference.   I went from an old Selle Italia SLR XP to an SLR “monolink” and discomfort disappeared immediately.  Nearly the same saddle, but an improvement noticeable in a single ride.  My LBS in Seattle has a program that allows you to try out saddles for a specified time.  If you go on a decent ride, you should be able to tell if you get sores etc.  Try them, I think it’s the only way to know…

    I have found that the curvature of the saddle is important, in addition to width.  The flat top kind (e.g. Fi’zi:k Arione) require you to be a bit more flexible, whereas something that flares up a bit toward the back (e.g. Fi’zi:k Aliante) will allow you to sit on the curve a bit to assist in getting in a more horizontal position while in the drops etc.

  5. @frank

    I’m surprized that you even use the saddle when climbing.

  6. @trenchfoot

    @Puffy could be your left glut medius isn’t firing, has gone weak. I’ve found this to be extremely common in cyclists and runners.

    I did look into such a possibility. I did an exercise to test and I could do it happily. Maybe it’s worth looking into it more.

  7. @frank

    @Puffy

    Hrmm. The illusive perfect fit. I felt pretty good 18months ago but wanted to make sure I wasn’t builing up to an RSI so got said Retul witch doctor to check things out. Minor mods, too short and high a stem, seat too far back. Fast forward 18months and I have a case where my left quad & ITB ache/burn when the right is happy. For three or four months now I have not known what to do about it and done nothing. There is a “guru” by the name of Steve Hogg down south but he’ll cost me just over $1k for the flights and fit. I’ve been thinking the cleats are to blame, should I get rid of the red and go back to yellow and I need shims? That’s a lot of coin to drop to be told… “oh, your fit is fine”.

    So here I am, reading this article. I think I will take your advice, pull out the Retul fit chart and check #1 to make sure all is where it should be…

    Also, it could be a stretching thing. I’ve had something similar and using a massage stick on my hammie fixed it for me, in addition to giving me loads of extra power (those things rule).

    Stretching, or massage? I’ve had a massage every week for five weeks now. It was getting better but not I have ramped up the intensity ( lots of short hard efforts), I’m back where I started.

  8. @Mike_P

    @PeakInTwoYears

    @scaler911

    @frank

    For once I’m glad no one reads the articles; my Merckx there were a lot of errors in that damn thing. Probably still are. Sorry about that, someone who can write should get involved with this site.

    Drunk writing again? I noticed a few, but didn’t matter.

    “Overuse of semicolons throughout.” Ha ha ha.

    Will edit for a signed copy of The Rules

    Me too!

    @Mike_P

    @Steve G

    @Puffy tried the blue cleats?

    My Retul fit really only got me in the ballpark, which I found odd considering how expensive it is.

    That’s all Retul or similar systems will ever do IMHO. It seems to define fit based on certain parameters, not on a riders individual morphology. I had one done and was being told things such as “we typeically like to see your leg travel between x and y degrees.” It smelled of snake oil a bit.

    Yeah, there was a lot of talk about degrees and whatnot. I pedal a bit on my toes and he tried to fix that but gave up because it’s just how I am. He did say “Pantani used to pedal on his toes a bit, and he went ok” and gave me a wink; that made my day really.

    The best thing about the fitting was finding that I needed an orthotic innersole thing. I had one made up buy a guy who does them down here and in carbon fibre. That made a huge difference to how my legs tracked and thus my ability to maintain cadence. If a fat mess like me can still maintain 90+rpm going up then no one else has any excuses.

    In the end though, the whole fitting ended with with my saddle too high and me bouncing about combined with a stem 10mm too long and about 10mm too low. Fine on a trainer with sensor dots on me, once on the road there was pain.

    Sometimes you need help getting close to your fit but then need to back yourself with some decisions on comfort versus cool factor (slam the stem? Love too, my sack doesn’t quite enjoy it though).

  9. Frank one way to keep your seat from moving is to have the seat post nicely frozen into the seat tube like some people I know, who shall remain nameless. Assuming you don’t get osteoporosis or any compression fractures, you’re all good. Why should you have to move that bad boy otherwise?

  10. @frank

    You want a seatpost that doesnt move? Get a frame with an integrated seatpost, like a LOOK.

    Allows for adjustment with the various size shims, and once you have your height dialled, there is NO movement.

    Then again, an ISP even with no post removed, isnt going to be long enough for you.

  11. I give mine a little check  every couple weeks to make sure it is right at 68.8cm. 2mm either way is no good at all for me. So yeah 4mm that seams right for a big fella to notice. Maybe it’s in my head sometimes but knowing that # makes me happy and I swear I can feel it in my old f-uped knees if its off.

    Cheers

  12. @Ccos

    Frank one way to keep your seat from moving is to have the seat post nicely frozen into the seat tube like some people I know, who shall remain nameless. Assuming you don’t get osteoporosis or any compression fractures, you’re all good. Why should you have to move that bad boy otherwise?

    Indeed. Old school integrated seat post!

  13. @frank

    @Ron

    I have a question – do you lads always like to be able to go foot down while seated in the saddle? Via some of the equations for seat height, I can barely touch on some of my bikes. Should you always be able to?

    Worry about your extension while pedalling, not when putting your foot down standing still. We’re Cyclists for Merckxs’ sake, not statues!

    In all seriousness, depending your your BB height this will be easier and harder on different bikes with the same bb-saddle distance.

    Why would you want to sit on your saddle when stopped and touch the ground, when you can rest on the top tube all tranquillo like?

    @Teocalli

    My #2 (9 bike) was second hand and did slip but it had grease on the post (??) when I bought it, thorough cleaning and that has not slipped. Though by build I’m more in the Shetland Pony than Shirehorse category.

    The reason for the grease, particularly if it is an alloy bike with alloy to alloy post or alloy to steel post, is to prevent the fucker seizing in there. Best you get some form of lubrication on there stat, as an alloy bike exposed to water will only accelerate the binding, and then you are in for a really fucking good time trying to budge it…

  14. @Ccos I have no idea who your talking to but I in the past was that person. It sucked more than my current old age silliness

  15. @therealpeel

    @Ccos

    Frank one way to keep your seat from moving is to have the seat post nicely frozen into the seat tube like some people I know, who shall remain nameless. Assuming you don’t get osteoporosis or any compression fractures, you’re all good. Why should you have to move that bad boy otherwise?

    Indeed. Old school integrated seat post!

    ISP old school already?!! Or a passing fad? I’m doing ISP with shims to keep saddle where I want it.

  16. @frank

    @frank

    For once I’m glad no one reads the articles; my Merckx there were a lot of errors in that damn thing. Probably still are. Sorry about that, someone who can write should get involved with this site.

    If you’re serious about some editing help, email me.  Undergrad degree in journalism and I edited both my sons’ college essays (they hated the experience:))

  17. @frank   serious question, had to state that, given im Australian and all I generally do is sarcasm.

    You said      “Also, it could be a stretching thing. I’ve had something similar and using a massage stick on my hammie fixed it for me, in addition to giving me loads of extra power (those things rule).  “

    What is this massage stick you speak of?    Im about as flexible as the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  Ill try anything once !

  18. @PeakInTwoYears

    @Raynorbot

    @scaler911

    @frank

    For once I’m glad no one reads the articles; my Merckx there were a lot of errors in that damn thing. Probably still are. Sorry about that, someone who can write should get involved with this site.

    Drunk writing again? I noticed a few, but didn’t matter.

    i believe Hemingway said “write drunk, edit sober”. Quality advice.

    Advice I’ve always striven to follow. (And look at me now. )

    Best advice ever, except when its unrealistic because you wake up still drunk. A situation outside the authors control, that.

    To be precise, though, I woke up sober but had already published because I thought it ruled so hard. Hemingway didn’t have a “Publish” button.

  19. @Nate

    @paolo Yes, that’s what I was alluding to.

    That’s boring. C’mon! Start a fight!

    @paolo

    All things being equal and your hygiene being what it should be, saddle sores can be caused by chaffing from the slight rocking motion of pedaling if your seat is set slightly too high. It ain’t necessarily so, but it could be. Which is what I believe Nate was also alluding to earlier.

    With shammy cream and properly fitting kit, it really shouldn’t happen if all is right – that said, it happens to the best of us, especially when riding lots but normally it will be an isolated incident.

    But Fignon cut a chunk out of his saddle to relieve his saddle sore in (was it) ’89 and Kelly abandoned the Vuelta while in the lead due to one. It’s not a black mark so much as a rite of passage. But precautions like fit and hygiene will keep things in check.

    @Dr C

    I thought of you Frank when I saw this for some obscure reason

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151946403112058

    Your technical skills are outmatched only by your ability to point to a video of leggy anorexic models falling over in high heels. An absolute classic.

  20. @PeakInTwoYears

    @scaler911

    @frank

    For once I’m glad no one reads the articles; my Merckx there were a lot of errors in that damn thing. Probably still are. Sorry about that, someone who can write should get involved with this site.

    Drunk writing again? I noticed a few, but didn’t matter.

    “Overuse of semicolons throughout.” Ha ha ha.

    Will edit for a signed copy of The Rules

    You’ll PAY for a copy of The Rules and then maybe I’ll reimburse you after defacing it if I also call you fat in the inscription.

  21. @geoffrey

    @frank

    I’m surprized that you even use the saddle when climbing.

    Its called artistic license for fucks sake. I also quip about riding the 39 from time to time but we all know the last time I left the 53 Ronald Reagan was still pretending AIDS didn’t exist.

    @Puffy

    @frank

    @Puffy

    Hrmm. The illusive perfect fit. I felt pretty good 18months ago but wanted to make sure I wasn’t builing up to an RSI so got said Retul witch doctor to check things out. Minor mods, too short and high a stem, seat too far back. Fast forward 18months and I have a case where my left quad & ITB ache/burn when the right is happy. For three or four months now I have not known what to do about it and done nothing. There is a “guru” by the name of Steve Hogg down south but he’ll cost me just over $1k for the flights and fit. I’ve been thinking the cleats are to blame, should I get rid of the red and go back to yellow and I need shims? That’s a lot of coin to drop to be told… “oh, your fit is fine”.

    So here I am, reading this article. I think I will take your advice, pull out the Retul fit chart and check #1 to make sure all is where it should be…

    Also, it could be a stretching thing. I’ve had something similar and using a massage stick on my hammie fixed it for me, in addition to giving me loads of extra power (those things rule).

    Stretching, or massage? I’ve had a massage every week for five weeks now. It was getting better but not I have ramped up the intensity ( lots of short hard efforts), I’m back where I started.

    I mean stretching but I can’t stretch properly unless I get rid of some of the knots cause by crushing it so hard…or also possibly by trying to beat the VMH to the car from the store and pulling a hammy.

  22. @frank

    @Nate

    @paolo Yes, that’s what I was alluding to.

    That’s boring. C’mon! Start a fight!

    OK:  Get away from my taint, you besotted, low-country ape.

  23. @anthony

    I give mine a little check every couple weeks to make sure it is right at 68.8cm. 2mm either way is no good at all for me. So yeah 4mm that seams right for a big fella to notice. Maybe it’s in my head sometimes but knowing that # makes me happy and I swear I can feel it in my old f-uped knees if its off.

    Cheers

    It amazes me that @brett has no clue what the number is for his saddle height. He rides, he feels it, he adjusts it. Amazing.

    I think we all get there through his process of feel but some of us need a number to put our minds to rest; he just sets it and tweaks it if he doesn’t feel right.

    Admittedly, his saddle is too low from my taste but then again he’s only 4% away from being a chimp.

  24. @Barracuda

    @frank serious question, had to state that, given im Australian and all I generally do is sarcasm.

    You said “Also, it could be a stretching thing. I’ve had something similar and using a massage stick on my hammie fixed it for me, in addition to giving me loads of extra power (those things rule). ”

    What is this massage stick you speak of? Im about as flexible as the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Ill try anything once !

    Well, the VMH always raises an eyebrow when I suggest I “stick” myself, but I’m talking about these.

  25. @frank

    @Barracuda

    @frank serious question, had to state that, given im Australian and all I generally do is sarcasm.

    You said “Also, it could be a stretching thing. I’ve had something similar and using a massage stick on my hammie fixed it for me, in addition to giving me loads of extra power (those things rule). ”

    What is this massage stick you speak of? Im about as flexible as the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Ill try anything once !

    Well, the VMH always raises an eyebrow when I suggest I “stick” myself, but I’m talking about these.

    Sure, looks the right size for a big Dutchman.

  26. @Ron That would have been genius mate if we did not have the irony of your typo in your last sentence! (insert relevant cheeky emoticon)….

  27. @unversio

    @Mike_P

    Saddles, or rather saddle height, angle and setback are my nemesis. Saddle sores have recently become a painful riding companion and I’m never convinced of my position, even though it’s been checked and rechecked to be where it should be…

    Question your saddle width and shape. More specifically confirm your sit-bones measurement. Ask about a semi-flat shape with 140mm to 150mm in width.

    All part of my quest.  I think I’ve got enough virtually unused saddles in my garage to start a LBS.

  28. @Teocalli

    @Mike_P Consider the possibility of a skin fungal infection if the rawness is right up in your groin. Easily treated just ask for some cream at the Chemists but might want to consider a doctor’s opinion.

    Ta.  Why do I have a feeling of having bared my soul? ha.

  29. Long since forgotten seat post slippage, as mine on my steel Italian has welded itself into place after 100,000 km. Ain’t going nowhere.

    Will link you and new book on my ongoing Bicycling Culture website (revived in 2008), supporting the velorution since 1990. Read Bike&Chain and Companion Reader for free, an experiment in freeganism.

  30. Time for a bigger frame Frank? Or a frame with a normal ( straight) top tube?

  31. @GogglesPizano

    @Owen

    @Sam

    I can’t find my ideal height, up and down like a yo-yo on a weekly basis. Changing between MTB and road bike doesn’t help either, as I prefer a lower saddle on MTB for heel drop and control.

    Yeah see I think I’ve found your problem.

    In all seriousness, I always feel awkward on the commuter, especially after riding #1 in the morning before work. I just can’t bring myself to slam the stem on the commuter. Area of personal growth maybe

    Slam it … dropped mine last year and haven’t looked back. I have found that the more completely -badass I look the less grief I get from drivers… also I made an interesting observation this winter that on Rule #9 days I have never had anyone chirp / honk / swerve at me in fact I get more room and courtesy … maybe it is simply Rule #9 effect, where a guy drives by and goes holy Fuck that dude is hard as nails, and if he is out here in the sleet and snow 20km from downtown I best not Fuck around with him …

    Might be worth it. It can only help with looking fantastic.

  32. @Nik Can I ask what your shop is (in Seattle)?  West Seattle/Burien here, possibly looking for a new saddle.  Although I should probably just stick with the Flite classics that I’ve amassed…

  33. @Mike_P

    @Teocalli

    @Mike_P Consider the possibility of a skin fungal infection if the rawness is right up in your groin. Easily treated just ask for some cream at the Chemists but might want to consider a doctor’s opinion.

    Ta. Why do I have a feeling of having bared my soul? ha.

    Ha – though apparently it is surprisingly common amongst athletes and is just one of those things that can happen.

  34. @Labann Weld, I thought that was rust from mismaintainance

  35. @Fausto Crapiz Or riding in the rain… seems I ride so much half the time I get soaked and hardly notice.

    Somebody say “saddle”? Not giving up my Brooks. Even when the adjuster post snapped, bought one from factory and installed at LBS. But you’re supposed to carry you carcass with your thighs, not your butt. Funny, never stand anymore except on the steepest of hills.

    Linked this site in latest blog entry at…

    http://bike-n-chain.blogspot.com

  36. My new #1 is a larger bike than my old #1… It’s also got longer cranks. The first time I was out on the new #2 after riding the new #1 for a while, the saddle felt far too short. I raised the thing up a full CM before it felt right… but then it started feeling wrong. Lowered 5mm and everything seemed right with the world again. Still not sure what to think of the difference in crank-arm lengths though.

  37. Tape on your seat post?!

    I’m sorry, Frank, that’s amateur hour and should be forbidden per Rule #29. I hereby propose an amendment to said rule  – no man-satchels and no carved notches or tape rings on your seat post.

    I’ll also submit Rule #96 – Know your measurements. One should commit to memory their correct saddle height ( in mm, measured from centre of spindle to top of saddle at the centre of the saddle clamp), the distance from centre of said saddle clamp to the centre of the handlebars (also in mm)  in case the opportunity arises to ride a unique or rare machine.  Further, the Rouleur should always have a soft (tailor’s) tape in their gear bag to check these critical dimensions before any epic ride.

  38. And, if your post continues to slip, get some Carbon Paste from Vision or another manufacturer to stop that right now.  But, no tape rings!

  39. @Durishin

    Know your measurements.

    Specifically: Discern accurate measurements from No.1 — write it down.

  40. @Xyverz

    My new #1 is a larger bike than my old #1… It’s also got longer cranks. The first time I was out on the new #2 after riding the new #1 for a while, the saddle felt far too short. I raised the thing up a full CM before it felt right… but then it started feeling wrong. Lowered 5mm and everything seemed right with the world again. Still not sure what to think of the difference in crank-arm lengths though.

    I ride 177.5mm cranks throughout; the other curse unspoken here is getting your fit right across bikes. For me at least, I’ll spend most of the ride adjusting to a new position before I’m happy riding in it, and then the ride is over and I’m back on another bike. If the position is identical, you can get right to loving the different feel of the bike itself.

  41. @Durishin

    Tape on your seat post?!

    I’m sorry, Frank, that’s amateur hour and should be forbidden per Rule #29. I hereby propose an amendment to said rule – no man-satchels and no carved notches or tape rings on your seat post.

    I reject this on the basis that its idiotic. Not so much for slippage although it happens, but moreso for removing and re-inserting seat posts. When I drive with my bike, I usually have it on a fork mount in the car and the saddle comes off because I’m half ape and half horse. The strip of tape makes it easy to put it back in its right place, same thing with bike cases, which are used much more than I’d like to believe.

    Have a look through the bikes in the pro bunch – they all have tape around the pin because they get pulled out so much. Interesting sidenote; pros generally have a stable of bikes around in their most common residences but will travel with their favorite saddle and post and pop it in to keep their backsides happy.

    I’ll also submit Rule #96 – Know your measurements. One should commit to memory their correct saddle height ( in mm, measured from centre of spindle to top of saddle at the centre of the saddle clamp), the distance from centre of said saddle clamp to the centre of the handlebars (also in mm) in case the opportunity arises to ride a unique or rare machine. Further, the Rouleur should always have a soft (tailor’s) tape in their gear bag to check these critical dimensions before any epic ride.

    All these things I agree with wholeheartedly (the tailors tape is a classic, I have them all over the house, and in both permanent and travelling tool kits) apart from the various ways you can make it more precise, based on the assumptions:

    1. Always ride the same saddle on all bikes. If you are borrowing a bike, take your own saddle and mount it. The boys and girls should always play in the same field.
    2. Always ride the same length crank
    3. Always ride the same shoes or at least shoes with the same stack height
    4. Always ride the same pedals or at least pedals with the same q-factor and spindle height
    5. This fifth bullet is added for symmetry

    This allows you to measure more precisely the distances – with the same saddle you can use the center of the saddle rails for crank height, which means there’s less error in how high or low your head is relative to the “center of the saddle” which can amount to a few centimeters easily. Add or subtract for crank length difference and stack/spindle height.

    Also, using the same saddle means you can use the tip of the saddle, not the center to measure BB setback (a measurement you missed in your list) and saddle-bar distance.

    Another measurement you missed is saddle to bar drop. Also bar reach and bar depth are two measurements to be aware of, at least. I ride the same bars on all bikes to remove any doubt because all bars are off from the others by at least a few mils.

  42. @frank

    1. This fifth bullet is added for symmetry

    The fifth bullet. For symmetry. Genius.

  43. @frank

    This fifth bullet is added for symmetry

    You’ve almost out-Strack’d yourself.  That’s gold right there.

  44. @frank

    @Durishin

    Tape on your seat post?!

    I’m sorry, Frank, that’s amateur hour and should be forbidden per Rule #29. I hereby propose an amendment to said rule – no man-satchels and no carved notches or tape rings on your seat post.

    I reject this on the basis that its idiotic. Not so much for slippage although it happens, but moreso for removing and re-inserting seat posts. When I drive with my bike, I usually have it on a fork mount in the car and the saddle comes off because I’m half ape and half horse. The strip of tape makes it easy to put it back in its right place, same thing with bike cases, which are used much more than I’d like to believe.

    Have a look through the bikes in the pro bunch – they all have tape around the pin because they get pulled out so much. Interesting sidenote; pros generally have a stable of bikes around in their most common residences but will travel with their favorite saddle and post and pop it in to keep their backsides happy.

    I’ll also submit Rule #96 – Know your measurements. One should commit to memory their correct saddle height ( in mm, measured from centre of spindle to top of saddle at the centre of the saddle clamp), the distance from centre of said saddle clamp to the centre of the handlebars (also in mm) in case the opportunity arises to ride a unique or rare machine. Further, the Rouleur should always have a soft (tailor’s) tape in their gear bag to check these critical dimensions before any epic ride.

    All these things I agree with wholeheartedly (the tailors tape is a classic, I have them all over the house, and in both permanent and travelling tool kits) apart from the various ways you can make it more precise, based on the assumptions:

    1. Always ride the same saddle on all bikes. If you are borrowing a bike, take your own saddle and mount it. The boys and girls should always play in the same field.
    2. Always ride the same length crank
    3. Always ride the same shoes or at least shoes with the same stack height
    4. Always ride the same pedals or at least pedals with the same q-factor and spindle height
    5. This fifth bullet is added for symmetry

    This allows you to measure more precisely the distances – with the same saddle you can use the center of the saddle rails for crank height, which means there’s less error in how high or low your head is relative to the “center of the saddle” which can amount to a few centimeters easily. Add or subtract for crank length difference and stack/spindle height.

    Also, using the same saddle means you can use the tip of the saddle, not the center to measure BB setback (a measurement you missed in your list) and saddle-bar distance.

    Another measurement you missed is saddle to bar drop. Also bar reach and bar depth are two measurements to be aware of, at least. I ride the same bars on all bikes to remove any doubt because all bars are off from the others by at least a few mils.

    Agreed on all this. I have the same saddle on all my road bikes and have a couple spare in case they stop making them. I do the same with bars as far as I can. My #2 felt odd despite the saddle to BB/tip of saddle to center of stem/Saddle setback from BB being the same. Bar width was the same. What was different was the drop and reach of the bars. Replaced them with bars as close to the others as possible and I’m a much happier camper.

    This article has also made me recheck all measurements compared to #1. I thought they were the same, but just a few mms off in a couple of cases. Changes made and one more thing to worry about eliminated. .

  45. Apologies if I’m repeating anything, but bike fitter Steve Hogg talks about a DIY of  finding a hill that takes a few minutes to ride, warming up, then riding under load to see whether you feel like you are on a stair stepper or not. You then either raise or lower your saddle in 3mm increments until you get to a sweet spot. He then says to drop it 3 more mm, because “not every day is a good day on the bike.

  46. @frank I don’t disagree, though the conversation is about saddle height, not the rest and, obviously, your insertion of  “basic” in my proposed prose for Rule #96 would have saved the now wasted electrons.

    I’ve a friend who is a chief mechanic for one of those Pro Tour team thingies. I’ve queried him as to the  prevalence of taped posts. I will report his response.

    So, good on you for the tape, then (its colorway matches your saddle and top tube, I will assume) – though it does lose its accuracy when the post slides. Try the carbon paste.

    Continued good luck.

    Cheers!

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  50. When my steel tourer/everyday/wet-weather bike was new, it had a real problem with a slipping seat post. Never mind 4mm, this was slipping down about 4 inches every time I rode it. However hard I tightened the seat bolt, it made no difference. I completely chewed up two alloy seatpins before I discovered the allen bolt was too long. It didn’t matter how much it was tightened, it didn’t pull the seat tube together around the seatpin. Doh!

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