Explained: ITU vs. UCI saddle positioning

How the official rules for saddle positioning differ


With many triathletes confused by the different saddle requirements of our sport’s worldwide governing body the ITU and its cycling counterpart the UCI, Nik Cook explains how they differ.


In short, you should just be thankful that, as a triathlete, you don’t have to race under the draconian, occasionally mind-boggling rulings of the UCI. 

I should probably confess I’m personally a little bitter about this subject at the moment, as I’ve just had to ditch a set of £250 carbon bars on my track bike because the UCI deemed them illegal!

Anyway, here are the exact rulings from the respective governing bodies:

UCI: “The rider’s position for time trial on the road and for the pursuit on the track is defined by two measurements of the bicycle: [the first is] the position of the tip of the saddle behind the bottom bracket (5cm minimum).”

ITU: “A vertical line touching the front-most point of the saddle will be no more than 5cm in front of and no more than 15cm behind a vertical line passing through the centre of the chain wheel axle.”

Although bike positioning is very personal, in general a more forward position will be more powerful and, key to triathlon performance, will allow a more open hip position, which is beneficial for running of the bike. 

You could easily drive yourself mad trying to figure out the logic behind why the UCI have set this guideline. 

Many positional rulings stem back to the war of extreme aero positions during the great rivalry between Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman around the world one-hour record. 

Obree famously sawed the nose off his saddle before being forced to use a saddle from a child’s BMX to comply with ever-changing rules. 

To complicate things further, if you decide to enter some time trials you may or may not be able to ride your tri bike, depending on the event and the country it’s held in. 

In England and Wales all time trials, aside from National and British Championships, are overseen by the CTT, who aren’t affiliated to the UCI and so don’t use their regulations. 


However, in Scotland, time trials are governed by the SCU, which is UCI-affiliated so their rules do apply.