Here are a few tips that can help you find your ideal position on your brand new MTB.
SADDLE HEIGHT (SH)
Like road bikes, the saddle height depends on your inseam measurement. You can calculate it with the following formula:
SH = IM x 0.875
For road cycling, the saddle height is an approximate value of your ideal position, but for MTB’s, it is the maximum value, and you will be able to lower your saddle if it feels more comfortable. However, never exceed this value as it would affect the bike’s handling, which may result in injury.
Tip: MTBing is extremely technical, much more than road cycling. Beginners may want to lower their saddle a little for easier handling of the bike. It is also advisable to lower your saddle before going down a very steep slope. It will make it easier to transfer the pelvis backwards in order to retain control of your bike in steep descent situations.
Note: The tiptoe technique explained for road cycling still applies. To check this height, you can also place your feet on the pedals, sitting on the saddle and pedal backwards. When your foot is in the lower position, the hip movement should be minimum.
HORIZONTAL SADDLE POSITION
The rule is the same as for road bikes:
Position the cranks horizontally, feet on the pedals. With a plumb line, check that when you position the top of the line in the outer front hollow of your knee, the line falls on the pedal axis.
If the plumb line falls in front of the bottom bracket, move the saddle backwards; if it falls behind, move the saddle forward.
Note: The saddle must be horizontal – check with a level.
Although certain competitors, who want more aero dynamism, prefer their handlebar low, for most MTBikers, two to five centimetres below the saddle will be enough.
Note: A lower handlebar will increase your power, but you need to find the right balance between power and comfort depending on your practice.
One of the specificities of an MTB is the flat handlebar that provides better bike’s handling in technical trail sections. Contrary to road cycling, the handlebar width is not only determined by your shoulder width. The type of practice should also be taken into account.
For example, a large handlebar may be a handicap in the woods as it will not allow you to go everywhere. However, it is a definite asset to ride your way through sections that require handling and steering accuracy at low speed.
Note: A slant, upward stem makes for proper positioning without tilting it too much.
CHOOSING A STEM
This adjustment takes your practice into account. Take the plumb line that you used to adjust the horizontal saddle position, and place it in front of the stem. The wheel axis must be between 15 and 20 centimetres ahead of the plumb line (based on the perpendicular).
Note: Competitors will adjust it between 10 and 15 centimetres.
Tip: In order to be properly positioned on your MTB, your elbows should be slightly bent and your back arched.
These few postural rules are a good working base, to avoid trial and error adjustment. However, what you feel is the ultimate truth when it comes to finding your ideal position. So, feel free to customize these tips!
Your MTB probably features a quick-release system for easy adjustment of your saddle height. Remember to bring a set of hex wrenches on your rides as long as you are not fully satisfied so that you can fine-tune your setup!