There’s an interesting article on the Bacchetta website that discusses published versus actual recumbent seat heights. [Note: We're talking recumbent seats as opposed to traditional saddles as on upright bikes. —ed.] For the uninitiated, an important factor in determining whether a recumbent fits a person is seat height measured from the ground. This is not to be confused with saddle height which is the distance from the saddle to the pedals on an upright bike, or seat position which is the distance from the seat to the pedals on a recumbent, both of which determine leg extension while pedaling.
Seat height on a recumbent is critical because it determines whether a person can reach the ground with their feet while seated. Unlike riders on upright bikes, who dismount the saddle while stopped, recumbent riders remain seated while stopped, and must be able to touch the ground to keep from tipping over. If a rider is unable to firmly plant a foot while stopped, they’ll often feel less than fully confident on the bike, particularly in heavy, stop-and-go traffic.
The gist of the Bacchetta article is that there is no one industry standard method of measuring seat height and published seat height numbers are ballpark figures, at best, so it’s important to test ride a recumbent before making a purchase. I couldn’t agree more. Seat height is a critical factor that a person coming from uprights to recumbents might not consider until after the purchase. I can personally attest to the fact that not paying close attention to whether you can comfortably touch the ground, particularly if the bike is to be used for utilitarian riding of any sort, may eventually lead to dissatisfaction with the bike; I have a pile of receipts to prove it. :-)
A lot of this is old news to seasoned recumbent riders, but for ‘bent newbies this is a critical point to remember, particularly if the bike is to be used for utilitarian transportation, a style of riding which invariably involves lots of stops and starts, load carrying, and tight maneuvering.