At the time, I thought Grant's recommendation of PBH minus 10 or 11cm
seemed like a nice simplification of the mainstream performance saddle
height method that became a widespread standard in the 80s. Even though
Grant's advice on frame height and bar height were/are way out of industry
standard and invite people to re-think the way a bike fits, I think his
"rule" for saddle height was more a descriptive observation of what most
avid cyclists were using.
According to that 70s standard my own ~87cm PBH multiplied by .889 is 77cm
and that's the saddle height I rode for 30 years. The standard advice for
saddle height in the 80s in the US was based on Greg Lemond's book and
Bernard Hinault's book before that. It was assumed back then top racers
would have the best advice on saddle height. Hinault's book recommended
measuring PBH the way we do now and then multiplying by .889 (IIRC/exactly)
to get bb center to saddle top distance, assuming a 170 crank. Lemond's
book used a different multiplier for a pedal spindle center to saddle top
height which was a way of taking into account crank length and foot length
better. Hinault's and Lemond's numbers tended to result in the same saddle
height for most riders. Grant's subtraction method matches closely this
multiplier method in the mid-size bike sizes but would result in
proportionately lower saddle heights for smaller riders and proportionally
higher saddle heights for taller riders. *That's one reason I assumed his
"rule" was more descriptive. I think it was not so much a method of
arriving at saddle height but more a way to estimate frame size--a way to
prevent getting too small a frame.*
The 80s .889 saddle height method represented a significant rise in
standard saddle height from the previous generations of racers/riders
(continent, Britain, N.America) mid-70s and earlier, who used lower saddles
at least 2cm lower. You seen this in older photos of racers and riders with
much more knee bend at bottom than this new standard allowed.
This would have been or become the dominant saddle height theory during the
period Grant P was racing and was pretty standard for N.Americans by
mid-80s even before Lemond's book came out. Eddy B. (Polish emigre) was a
top US coach/guru in the mid 80s and recommended even higher seat heights
if you could manage them without too much hip rocking. He based this on
VOmax studies, which I won't go into, but suffice it to say the
Hinault/Lemond method was considered by comparison a fairly conservative
method in the 80s.
To my surprise, this mainstream N.American method wasn't the accepted
wisdom among racers/riders in Britain when I lived and raced there
beginning in the late 80s. To my team mates my saddle was a little high.
But I persisted because continental riders were using the same method
N.Americans were using, including the French, Swiss, and Flemish clubs we
partnered with for Velodrome events. Also all the Six Day pros used this
same saddle height. I assumed British club racers were just more
traditional and would eventually adopt the new method.
In the last 10 years though, out of boredom and wanting to tinker, and
because various experiences had made me wonder whether all those previous
generations knew better than we did in the 80s, I decided to experiment
with lowering my saddle to the heights they were using in the 60s. Lowering
a few mm at a time over a month, my saddle height has now been 2cm lower
for years now. I've found no drawback whatsoever that I can tell and have
enjoyed several advantages of a lower saddle height. My 80s/90s London
club-mates were right. So I my own rule now is saddle height 12cm less than
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