KOPS Method – A Complete Guide To Knee Over Pedal Spindle
Cycling should be a comfortable sport no matter if your riding for one or six hours. But to be comfortable, you need to be set up correctly on your bike. Even though bike fitting has been around for years many people still follow the KOPS method to set saddle fore-aft. But what is the KOPS method?
In this article, we are going to explain the method and whether it is still relevant in the bike fitting world today.
KOPS Method – A Complete Guide
The KOPS method is a simple way to establish the correct fore-aft saddle position on a bicycle. To set the correct position of the saddle (forward or backward) the KOPS method requires you to hang a plumb line from the tibial tuberosity (bump below the kneecap) when the crank arm is at three o’clock.
The plumb line should then fall directly over the pedal spindle. Hence why the name is called Knee Over Pedal Spindle (KOPS).
However, contrary to cyclists around the world, the KOPS rule offers no biomechanical justification, even though it has been pushed for years by bike fitters around the world.
You also need to take into account that the KOPS method only works with conventional road bikes that have around a 72-74° seat tube angle. That means the KOPS method won’t work when setting up bike position on a triathlon or time trial bike.
While we don’t advocate the KOPS method, if you want to set up your basic fore-aft position by using KOPS, do the following:
1. Sit on the bike with the pedals at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock
2. Hold a plumb line at the tibial tuberosity (bump below the kneecap).
3. The line should intersect the pedal spindle/axel.
If the plumb line falls in front of the pedal spindle, move the saddle back slightly. If the opposite happens (plumb line falls behind the spindle), move the saddle forward slightly.
Knee Over Pedal Spindle
Many cyclists focus their entire fit around the knee over pedal spindle theory. While this may set up a beginner in a relatively comfortable position to get them started, the balance of the rider is often too far forward. This forward position often places excessive weight on the hands, arms, and shoulders. Often resulting in numb hands, sore neck, and fatigued arms.
So instead of using the knee over pedal spindle method to set fore-aft, use it as a guide and then fine-tune it through distributing balance.
Once you have set KOPS and saddle height correctly, test your balance on the bike. You can do this by sitting on an indoor trainer and placing your hands in the drops. As you pedal try to remove your hands from the drops without falling forward.
If you fall forward, try shifting your saddle further back. This will shift more of the weight to the back of the bike. Alternatively, if you have no problem holding your hands off the drops, shift your saddle forward slightly.
A good goal would be able to hold your hands off the drop for around 5 secs before you feel that you are falling forward. This is called on the tether of balance.
One thing to understand is when the pedaling power is increased more weight will be shifted to the saddle. That means as you pedal harder more weight will be moved from the hands. So it is important to test the load on the hands are various intensities.
A simple test is to try to hover your hands above the hoods (on a turbo trainer). If you can’t do this without falling forwards, either your core strength is very poor or the saddle fore-aft location is wrong.
Knee Behind Pedal Spindle
Generally speaking most elite or professional cyclists will be positioned pretty close to having their knee over the pedal spindle. However, most amateur and beginner cyclists should be positioned with the knee behind the pedal spindle slightly. This will help to offset the weight from the front of the bike and take away excess stress placed on the core muscles of the rider.
As the rider becomes more flexible, and their core becomes stronger, they can start to position the saddle further forward or follow the KOPS method.
Understanding Knee Position On Bike
Having the correct knee position on the bike is crucial for comfort, power, and efficiency when riding. Having an incorrect setup that affects your knee position can result in pain and discomfort around the knee and other areas of the body.
If you are struggling with a sore knee or don’t know if your knee position on the bike is wrong, below is a guide to some changes that can be made.
Pain side of the knee
Cause: Incorrect cleat position or saddle too high
Solution: Check alignment of cleats and check saddle height.
Pain bottom of the knee:
Cause: Saddle too high
Solution: Check saddle height. You may be sliding forward on the saddle constantly. This is the body trying to naturally lower the saddle height.
Pain front of the knee:
Cause: The saddle position is too low or too far forward.
Solution: Lift saddle a small amount or move the saddle further back. If you are constantly pushing yourself to the back of the seat, most likely you are sitting too low. This is the body’s way to naturally extend the leg more.
While these are simple guidelines, we do recommend you to book in with a qualified bike fitter if you are experiencing knee pain or don’t know how to set up your saddle height and fore-aft position.
Common Knee Over Pedal Spindle Myths
A good bike fit revolves around three general parameters: Saddle height, saddle fore-aft, and saddle-to-bar measurement. While there is much more involved in setting up a correct position, these are the basic fundamentals of a good position on the bike.
However, as we have discussed in this article, the KOPS is not without its flaws. It is however a starting point for people that have no understanding of bike fitting.
So what are some knee over pedal spindle myths and why you should not live by the KOPS method.
– There is no biomechanical justification for the reason behind it.
– Does not center your balance on a bike
– Does not take into account flexibility and pedaling style
– Does not take into account movement under load.
– Saddle height and cleat position can affect KOPS measurement.
So before you go adjusting your saddle fore-aft make sure you only use KOPS as a guideline to get you going, then fine tune your position from there. If you are still stuck with your fore-aft position, contact a qualified bike fitter.