Step 3: The correct gripping position
From the seat height, you determine your horizontal sitting position between "upright" and "outstretched", i.e. the distance between handlebar and saddle. Only you can say how outstretched you would want to sit. Competitive road cyclists usually prefer an outstretched riding position because of better aerodynamics and power transfer. The longer the distances or the more important comfort and bike control are to you, the more upright the riding position becomes. There are two fairly simple correlations to this:
- The further away from the saddle your grip position, the more outstretched your seated posture is on the bike.
- The lower your grip level compared to the saddle level, the more outstretched you’ll sit. This is also referred to as saddle cant. You can influence this not just by adjusting the seatpost extension (see Step 1: Seat Height), but also by making adjustments to the saddle or handlebars.
First and foremost, the frame determines the seat position with its length. Therefore, when buying a bike, pay attention not only to the frame height, but also to the frame length values. These are top tube length (determines the sitting position) and reach (determines the standing position). To change the horizontal or vertical distance between handlebar and saddle, you have several options. Some of these you will want to exclude so as not to change the character of the bike too much (such as a particularly long stem on a modern mountain bike):
A) You can influence the horizontal distance between the saddle and the grips:
- the stem length (longer = more elongated)
- the seatpost, where you can choose whether it comes with or without horizontal angle, also called "setback" or "offset" (more offset = more elongated)
- the horizontal position of the saddle within the clamping range of the seatpost (saddle further back = more outstretched)
- the shape of the handlebars: for MTBs the backsweep is the decisive value, for road or gravel bikes the reach is the decisive value (less backsweep or more reach = more outstretched)
B) You can influence the vertical distance between the saddle and the grips:
- the stem position, stem pitch and steerer tube spacers (lower or less = more outstretched)
- the shape of the handlebars: rise or, in the case of road or gravel bikes, above all the drop (less rise or more drop = more elongated)
Tip: You can also measure your handlebar or grip position. The best starting point here is again the distance to the bottom bracket as a fixed point. If you measure vertically from the ground, you also measure changes that do not affect the seat position, such as tyre diameter or bottom bracket height.