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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10 replies
  1. MW says:

    Riding Tunnel at only 5/8 under your xc height????? Did he duck tape his junk to his stomach? That just hurts thinking about it 🙂

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    Classic huh? We rode up the road from town and hit the descent sight unseen. We had no idea what to expect.

    This is Jim’s first pass — it’s rare to see him tense!

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    >> On a side note, is their a correlation between high seats and clipless pedals?


    Some recreational riders rock high seats and flats.

    Definite correlation between low seats and flat pedals. Unless you’re at a 4X/DS/BMX race …

  4. hugo aguiar says:

    i agree whith you lee in all aspects,i run on flats pedals and sometimes my seat feels low but most of the times i think its just perfect even in hard and tecnical downhill´s cause i don´t think that a too lower seat as any beneficts cause it might put you wheight too back and your front is almost that has a live off it´s on.great and wise answer lee that´s real life experience.

  5. jnormal says:

    In hindsight, taking a first run ever down Tunnel on 5″ travel bikes was bringing knives to a gunfight. Definitely a pucker-fest. Lower saddle height wasn’t an option because our posts were bottomed out against the seat tube stops. We had no choice but to dive in and try to keep the boys as low profile as possible. Duct tape would have helped! Whose idea was it to ride up anyway?

  6. MW says:

    Come on Lee, get the band back togeather and do a reunion tour before the twins come. I will drive you both to the top of Tunnel and save the jewels.

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