Question: While watching pro races on TV, I noticed that many riders move forward to the tip of the saddle during intense efforts such as time trials. If this forward position is better for producing power, why don’t professionals use a steeper seat angle than the typical 72-74 degrees? — Greg P.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Good question! Moving forward on the saddle is great for short, all-out efforts. It’s called being “on the rivet” because in the old days everyone used leather saddles that had a big brass rivet on the tip.
Unfortunately, you can’t stay there long while cranking hard. When you see riders on the nose of the saddle, they’re usually going extremely hard up a short hill or into a windy section. They’ll soon have to move back and reduce intensity or they’ll blow.
A forward position isn’t so good for climbing, either. You need to have the center of your knee directly above the pedal axle or slightly behind for maximum leverage and power at lower cadences.
As a result, road bikes have seat angles around 73 degrees so you can climb, as well as go hard on the flats.
Bikes designed especially for time trials and triathlons do have steeper seat angles (75-78 degrees). But this doesn’t have much to do with a forward position per se. Instead, it’s used because these riders want their upper bodies low for aerodynamics. The steep seat angle lets them pedal in this position without their quads hitting their chests.