Benefits of a high seat?

Hey Lee,
Is better climbing efficiency the only benefit of having a high seat? I’m asking because I ride in a place with climbs that typically require riders to stand on their bikes, defeating the purpose of a high seat.


With my seat 5/8 inch lower than my full XC height, I feel like I can pedal and braaap equally well. Back in 2002, when I was still a dirt roadie.

Hey Alex,

The way I see it, your seat serves three functions:

1) It’s a platform from which to pedal efficiently. Key for long, sitting climbs.

2) It’s a point of control. You can use it to aid cornering, and to apply your weight to the rear suspension.

3) It’s a place to rest and save energy. Most of us don’t want to stand for an entire XC ride.

Your ideal seat height changes with each moment. All the way up for a fire road climb, all the way down for a big double, somewhere in the middle for technical corners. That’s why I’m such a fan of on-the-fly adjustable seatposts.

Compromises, compromises

If you have to select one seat height for an entire ride, you must compromise. Ask yourself these questions:

– Do you do a lot of seated climbing? If so, you have to run the seat pretty high. If not, you can run the seat lower.

– Are your climbs technical? If so, you might benefit from a slightly lower seat. Climbing rocks, roots and ledges is a lot like descending them. You need room to move; even 1/4 inch helps.

– Are their long flat sections? If so, you’ll want the seat high enough to pedal comfortably. If you’re a “dirt roadie,” you can only pedal at one height. Real mountain bikers learn to pedal powerfully with their seats lower. The more hard core you are, the lower your seat can be! That’s how you can tell; it’s not the tattoos!

– Are the descents crazy-technical? If so, you’ll want to lower your seat a lot. If they’re moderate (or if you’re good at moving around your saddle), you can settle for a middle position.

It sounds like you’re riding on steep, rolling terrain. In that case, try the International Super D standard, which is 3/8 to 5/8 inch off your full XC height.

The Mighty and Esteemed Jim Norman rallies Santa Barbara’s Tunnel Trail at the International Super D standard seat height.

This is getting complicated

There are endless variables, and, in the end, it’s all about what works for you. But I’m all about specifics, so here, for the first time ever, is the official Lee Likes Bikes International Seat Height Standard ™.

Long seated climbing: Full XC height

Technical climbing: Minus 1/4 to 1/2 inch

Moderately technical descending: Minus 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch.

More technical descending: Minus 1 1/2 inch to 3 inches.

Full on braaap: Minus 3 inches or more.

A skilled rider can rip with a high seat, and a strong rider can pedal with a low seat. Run some experiments. See what feels right.


— Lee

This question inspired by: Cornering with a high seat

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