OK, so the saddle for my road bike is presently at just about the same height as my handlebars, so that my leg is perhaps just a hair shy of fully extended when I'm at the bottom of my pedal rotation.

Lately, though, I've been noticing quite a few riders with their seats jacked up well above their handlebars. At first it was the fixie crew, so I was able to write it off as a fashion statement alongside culottes and french cyclist hats. Now, however, it seems like most of the road bikes I see have their seats placed this high.

Can anyone fill me in on how you're supposed to determine the optimal height for your saddle? The advantages of a high seat vs. a lower one? I'm doing a lot of riding these days so if there's an efficiency gain to doing things the high-seat way, please let me know about it.

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Saddle height is independent of handlebar height, and, to my amateur ear, it sounds like your saddle height is about right.

I like my saddle to allow for a slight bend at both the knee and the ankle so my full power is at the bottom of the stroke. I'm older now, so my handlebar height allows me a more upright position. You may be going for speed (certainly sounds like the bikes you're observing are) so you'd want your handlebar height relatively low to reduce wind resistance. Of course you also decrease lung capacity when in to tight a crouch, so bear that in mind.

But, saddle height is NOT dependent on, or directly related to Handlebar height. Longer torsos, shorter torsos, all those individual measurements also bear on the subject.

Keep the shiny side up!
There are many factors that go into determining the best saddle height, including personal preference, frame design, type of biking, etc. One could go on and on here with all the details, but I say, go to the master who has already written of this and so many other things, Sheldon Brown. This page will tell you all you ever wanted to know about saddle height and finding a comfortable ride.

Poking around on the rest of his site always reveals lots of new information for me. Enjoy!

FTR, when I am riding a new bike, I often go for a longer ride with wrenches on hand so I can stop and tinker with various factors. Remember to change only one thing at a time (saddle height, bar height, saddle position, bar angle, etc.) so you are controlling all the variables independently. Otherwise, you will just end up more confused...
You definitely DO NOT want to have your leg fully extended when at the bottom of your pedal stroke. You should have a very slight bend at your knee. To do otherwise will give you serious knee problems. Never judge your bike fit by what others do on their bikes; we each have our own fit to our bikes (or should)---when your fit is good, it should almost be like you and your bike are one complete unit. I'd advise going to a good bike shop in town and getting fit advice if you haven't already. It makes a massive difference.

Ooh, calling out the fixies!

 

Like all that has been said before, there are many different factors coming into play here. For example, I ride a frame that would be a tad to small for someone my height, that is because my torso isn't that long. I have long legs, hence my seat is jacked pretty high (on my tarck bike nonetheless) which allows for a pretty comfortable ride, in my opinion.

 

It has been previously said that aerodynamics play in to these things as well. With drop bars, you have a more aggressive stance, and I find that it is more comfortable with saddle adjustment that is a tad bit higher than for normal flat bars.

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