Bicycle Saddles: The Rundown

We’ve reached that time in our friendship. It’s time to talk about our butts. Chances are, if you have been riding any length of time your arse has had some complaints from time to time (if we are being honest…more than just time to time). There is a reason for bike shorts and numerous amounts of creams and lotions to help alleviate chaffing, saddle soreness, bruising, and even worse…aggravation of the tender parts, for both men and women.  This isn’t anything to shy away from, but we simply tend to seek remedies quietly and discreetly. 

I am going to bet that when you bought your most recent bike (because there is always a first bike…but never a “LAST” bike), you spent little or no time considering the saddle.  We are all guilty.  The shiny new stuff, fancy components, wheel sets galore, they all command our attention and we forget to consider that the saddle bears the brunt of our riding. Literally. Half our weight perches upon this tiny little piece of equipment.  It gets scuffed, scraped, bumped, and sweat covered.  Used and abused, for sure. 

I contend, this really is a very personal item, one of, if not, the most important pieces of equipment you will invest in.  Time should be spent selecting and trying out all kinds of saddles before you decide.   It will without a doubt determine how comfortable you are at the end of the day.  Most people take what the bike has on it. I urge you, however, to think first…your tenders will thank you (and me, so you’re welcome ahead of time).

So, what do we look at?  How do we choose?   How and what you ride will be the first determining factor.  Time Trial bikes have different geometry than Road bikes.  Then your body type comes into play.  Women generally have wider sit bones, or ischial tuberosities, than men.  What???  Ya, if you have every had a little kid sit on your lap and their tiny little bony butts dig into your thighs…ischial tuberosities.   Some shops have tools to help measure the sit bones and that can help narrow your search and shorten your saddle journey. 

Riding a bike with an uncomfortable saddle can be, for the lack of a better term, a real pain in the ass.  Like I mentioned before, chafing, sores, tingling (the bad kind), and numbness (there is no good kind) can be a result of poor saddle choices.  In very worst case scenarios, some suggest infertility or impotence can be a drastic result. No Bueno.

So, if that isn’t enough to muddy the water, there are currently an innumerable amount of saddles to choose from and just as many “experts” to help you.  Find someone you trust.  Most of us have a shop we swear by.  Stick with that and you should be fine.  It is important that your saddle fully supports your sit bones.  A saddle that is perfect for your wife probably won’t be perfect for you and vice versa. 

Just as important is the issue with the soft tissues…the tenders.  We do not want them unduly squished in any way.  Different saddles attack this challenge in different ways and ultimately the best way to find the right saddle is to ride them.  If your shop has a demo program for its saddles, take advantage of it. It’s probably not free, but it will be worth the money and you will be a happier, more comfortable rider.  It must be comfortable at 10 miles and 100 miles, when you get on and when you get off.

I ride an ISM Adamo Road saddle on my TT bike, but I have rider friends that have the stock saddle still on theirs.  Everyone is different.  Your riding style, goals, and physical make-up will determine the saddle you need…and maybe not necessarily want.  Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it will work for you. 

And when you get your next bike (not your last bike) pay attention to that little forgotten piece of equipment that should become your best friend, not your nemesis.  Saddle journeys don’t have to be long and difficult, but they should be thorough.

If I were to recommend a saddle, I think ISM and Cobb Cycling make some of the best saddles out there.  But that’s my butt talking.  You must deal with your own butt and determine the best fit for you.


Previously Fat Guy 

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