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Saddle too low?

If I see someone riding with their knees splayed outward it is often a good indication that their saddle is too low.

It may also be the rider is overweight and has a large belly to contend with, but not always.

Stand with your back to the wall and raise one knee forward and upwards towards your chest.

There is a limit to how high your thigh can go. Once that point is reached, the only way you can make your knee go higher is to move your knee outward and then it can travel an inch or two higher.

Squat with your knees together and you can’t go as low as you can with your knees spread apart. In non-medical terms, it is the limit of travel of the ball at the end of your thigh bone in its socket in the pelvis that restricts your movement beyond a certain point.

It amuses me to see riders with aero bars in a low horizontal tuck position, riding with knees splayed outwards. Any aerodynamic advantage they gain by the low tuck position is lost because the outward knees has increased their frontal area by 20% or more. Not only that, but the outward spread thighs is like an open ended “V” catching air as they travel forward.

In order to achieve a low horizontal position, one must be flexible enough that the pelvis remains near vertical and the back bone or spine bends forward. Three things affect the angle of the thigh bone in relation to the pelvis. The saddle too low, the saddle too far back, and the back too low, but only if it causes the pelvis to rotate forward.

It is rarely I see someone with their saddle too high. One can feel that they are stretching at the bottom of the pedal stroke, or they are rocking side to side on the saddle as they pedal. But a saddle too low may feel fine, but it is not necessarily the most efficient riding position.

If your knees are splaying outwards it should be easy to spot, just look down. Knees should pump straight up and down like two pistons, and should pass an inch or so either side of the top tube. If you suspect your saddle is too low, it rarely does any harm to raise it. Put a piece of masking tape around the seat post to mark the original position. Raise it by a small amount 1/8 in, or 1/4 in. Maximum. (3 mm. to 6mm.)

Ride for a week or so, then possibly you can go up a little more until you find the sweet spot. Saddle height is not a fixed thing. As you lose weight and muscles stretch a saddle needs to be raised. The questions you need to ask yourself after raising the saddle is, does it feel better, do I feel stronger, and am I going faster.

To reiterate, few ride with a saddle to high, but many ride with their saddle too low, because it feels fine. Unless you try raising it a little you will never find out. I feel any person’s ideal saddle height is the point where the saddle is almost too high, then down a tad from there.

The leg needs to reach its full extension at the bottom of the pedal stroke, without stretching to reach that point, in other words the power is on right to the end of the pedal stroke, and definitely not reach its upper limit at the top of the stroke.

Footnote: I couldn’t find a better picture to illustrate this piece, except the exaggerated one at the top. But it did lead me to realize how BMX riders manage to pedal straight with their saddle so low. The saddle nose is positioned up which causes the pelvis to lean back thus increasing the angle in relation to the thigh. I'm not suggesting you try this on your road bike.


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Back from my West Coast Tour

I arrived home on Saturday 17th. October after a three week tour of the West Coast. (Oregon and California.) When my wife Kathy and I left on the 29th. September there was a storm moving into South Carolina.

In the days that followed there were stories on the news of widespread flooding and the state being declared a disaster area. However, we arrived home to find our house completely dry and untouched by the events of nature.

I pride myself in being somewhat of a writer, but since my return, and after writing and re-writing for the last several days, I have failed miserably to capture what I experienced on this trip. It was everything I hoped it would be, and then some on top of that.

I was fortunate enough to build a few good bike frames in the past, but it continues to amaze me when people tell me over and over how much the still enjoy riding these bikes some 25 or 30 or more years later. It is something I still have a hard time getting my head around.

Most of the people my wife and I stayed with on the trip I had never met before, just corresponded by email. Yet without exception, they made us feel so welcome and at ease. And it wasn’t just the bike enthusiasts, but their spouses and members of the family who did not necessarily share the same level of passion for the bicycle.

After a hectic start in Portland, (Previously outlined here.) where we got lost, held up in traffic, and arrived an hour late. The rest of the trip went smoothly. We may have taken the occasional wrong turn, and had to double back but we never got completely lost as we did in Portland.

My previous attempts at writing this read like a boring travelogue, with names of people and places. So I decided to simply post just a few pictures from the events with captions.

My wife Kathy did most of the driving and also was in charge of the camera. So on our last two stops in Hollywood, and Laguna Beach we relaxed and lived the California Dream. After all this was a vacation too.

On these final days we didn’t take many pictures, we didn’t need them. We have the pictures in our mind of the places, the beautiful California sunshine, and the people. Especially the people. Thank you all for making this trip so very special.

Eugene, Oregon. With Bob Zumwalt. Former San Diego bike shop owner. Bob has owned this 1983 John Howard from new. 

Davis, CA. With Brian Sinclair (Left.) Looking at his 63cm. custom Criterium. Brian admits it is a tad big, but custom frames are so rare, one does not always have the luxury of finding one in the right size.

Davis, CA. This quite rare Paris Sport tandem showed up. I built this one around 1979-1980.

Sunnyvale, CA. A tall bike for a tall rider. Neale Barret with his 64cm. FRX.

Talking bikes in Sunnyvale.

San Luis Obispo. An attentive audience at Wally's Bike Shop.

San Luis Obispo. With Kyle Radford, who with his brother Kent commissioned the Recherché frames in 1985.

Chin Hills, CA. With "Wild" Bill Silverman at Empire Bikes.

Chino Hills. With Nick Delia. I co-sponsored Nick on the track when he was twenty-something. This was one of the track bikes I built for him.

A good showing of bikes in Chino Hills.

Chino Hills. Enjoying a "Cold One" with Fuso owners at Empire Bikes.

Footnote: The Tee Shirts were a big success, I still have some for others who are not on the West Coast, or could not make it. The price is $20 each, plus $5 shipping.

If you buy two I will send a FREE signed copy of my book, Prodigal Child.

Email me at davesbikeblog [AT]


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Video from an informal bike store meeting

Dave Moulton from Phil Strong on Vimeo.

The problem with being on a tour like this, so much time is spent traveling that there is little time to do anything else. Also I have not always been in a place with a good Internet connection. There are my hosts to consider, one cannot ignore them to work on the laptop. So forgive me if my reports here have been a little sparse,

Someone asked me, “What has been the best event so far.” All the events have been different, but all have been great. Take last evening at Wally’s Bike Store for example. A small group, but we had a wonderful collection of special bikes so we just stood around and discussed each one.

What made the evening special, was that Kyle Radford showed up, a complete surprise to me. Kyle and his brother Kent were the ones who commissioned the Recherché frame, I hadn't seen him since the late 1980s. I also got to see an old friend Phil Strong who owns the Fuso MAX frame pictured at the top of this blog.   

Phil also video taped the whole proceedings. Initialy there is a lot of traffic noise, but it gets better as we move towards the back of the shop.

Sunday morning early ( Oct 11th.) I will be leaving San Luis Obispo to drive down to the Greater LA area for a meeting at the Fireman's Union Meeting Room, 2026 N Riverside Ave #H Rialto, CA. (Easy access off the 210 Freeway. Behind Carl''s Jr.) 2 pm. Sunday afternoon.

On Monday 12th, Oct. 5:00 pm. I will be at Empire Bikes, in Chino Hills.


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Day 1: Portland

My flight arrived on time in Portland around 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, but after collecting our baggage, then the rental car, driving the wrong direction on the freeway, getting stuck in rush hour traffic, it was almost 5:00 pm, the time I was supposed to be at “Bike Commuter.”

I made a phone call to Maria Schur the event coordinator explaining I was going to be late, I checked into our hotel room, but didn’t even unload our bags, and got back on the road again.

Then after getting lost again, thanks to false information from Google maps, I arrived at the venue an hour late. There was a small group of people, many had apparently wandered off and left, which I understand. After all it was a work  day, and how long are people going to wait for an old guy who used to build bike frames, and one who may or may not show up?

What made the whole thing worthwhile for me was meeting Henry VonJouanne, original owner of #262 John Howard I built in 1983, Henry and his wife drove all the way from Seattle, Washington just to meet me. We went to a restaurant across the street for dinner and had a wonderful evening.

I realized this trip is going to be about meeting with individual owners like Henry, more than anything else. Henry was 24 when he bought the frame, and has ridden it for 32 years.

This bicycle, an inanimate object has helped define who this man is. It has had a profound effect on his life. Meeting him last evening had a profound effect on me.

Top Pictue: Typical shot of me (Left.) talking bike stuff. Henry Von Juanne is center. 


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West Coast Tour: Itinerary 

Here is my itinerary so far for my upcoming West Coast Tour. I fly into Portland, Oregon on the afternoon of Tuesday, the 29th. September. I will hit the ground running with an appearance that evening.

Tuesday 29th September. 5 pm. the  Bike Commuter, 8524 SE 17th Ave, Portland Oregon.

Thursday 1st. October. 7 pm. Greater Eugene Area Riders (G.E.A.Rs.) Washington Park Cottage, 2025, Washington Street, Eugene, Oregon.

Sunday 4th. October, 3 pm US Bicycling Hall of Fame, 303, 3rd. Street, Davis, California.

Wednesday 7th October, 6:30 pm the Sports Basement, 1177 Kern Ave, Sunnyvale. CA.

Saturday 10th. October, Time TBA Wally’s Bicycle Works, 306 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo, CA

Update: New event added, thanks to Nick Delia, at the Fireman's Union Meeting Room, 2026 N Riverside Ave #H Rialto, CA. (Easy access off the 210 Freeway. Behind Carl''s Jr.) 2 pm. Sunday afternoon on the 11th October. Bring your DM bikes along fo a mini bike show. Let me know if you plan to attend so we can get a head count for refreshments.

Monday 12th October, 5 pm. Empire Bikes, 4200 Chino Hills Pkwy, Chino Hills, CA

I was also hoping to meet people in San Diego, and/or Long Beach area. I could possibly squeeze in a couple more meet ups. I need suggestions for a meeting place. Any local bike stores interested?


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