Selecting a Bicycle Saddle

By Shular Scudamore

Ischial tuberosity - animation02-1

You Body Structure and Your Saddle

Have you ever experienced numbness riding on your current bicycle saddle? Or do you suffer from painful saddle sores? Perhaps you just can't sit on your saddle long enough to complete your ride. If so, this article is for you. Selecting the correct saddle is fundamental to your riding comfort. Riding with the wrong saddle can lead to nerve damage or worse. With many brands, shapes, cut-outs, grooves and even split halves you choices are almost staggering. This article discusses a few thoughts to consider when selecting a new bicycle saddle. I have tried many saddle over the decades, including many, many thousands of miles on a various Brooks saddles. I started with a Brooks Professional. Currently my adventure bike is fitted with a Brooks B17. When friends who don't ride see that patch of leather stretched over a frame they can't image that it would be comfortable. They want to find a big cushy seat. Actually, those don't help.

Don't ignore the fit and adjustment of your bicycle in this equation. Remember saddle selection is important. As a touring cyclist I have spent 8 to 10 hours in the saddle many days. Be sure to adequately test you saddle and its position before your tour. Your body structure will dictate the saddle that fits you best. The rotating pelvic bone shows the bones you sit on in red. They are know as ischial tuberosity. Or "sits bones" for short. The tilt of your pelvis on your saddle and the diameter of your thighs also influence the size and shape of a good saddle fit.

Width of the bicycle saddle

Bicycle saddle manufactures sell their seats by width. Narrow saddles are for people with "sits" bones spaced 100mm or less. Narrow saddles are about 130mm wide. One thing for sure about the old leather Brooks Pro saddle is you can see exactly where your Ischial Tuberosity rest on the surface. The distance between these points on your pelvis are key to the width of the saddle you should use. There are numerous articles about measuring the spacing of "sits" bones. If the saddle is too narrow, your weight will be on the soft tissue in between. This area is called the perineum. Compressing the blood vessels and the penile nerves in this area causes the unwanted genital numbness. Women generally have wider spacing between the sits bones than men. If your saddle is too wide, you will suffer from unnecessary chaffing. One size does not fit all. You really have to ride on a saddle to see if it will be comfortable for you.

A view from the back

Brooks Pro Saddle back view

Take a look at the picture of the back of a Brooks Pro saddle. It has a slight curvature. This is good for a comfortable ride without pinching. When the saddle has too much curvature, you are riding on the soft tissue compressing the nerves and blood vessels. Take a look at the back of your saddle. What do you see?

Is your saddle flat

Selle Italia Turbmataic Saddle The shape of your saddle from the nose to the tail will also make a difference in your comfort. Note that this Selle Itallia turbomatic rises toward the rear. This too can cause discomfort or problems in positioning yourself on the saddle. Try to find one that is nearly flat. A small dip is okay.

Is it padded

You probably know someone who wants to find a really soft padded seat for their bike. Padding is a place where less is more. If you have too much padding, then your sits bones sink down and are not supported. This will put pressure right where it does not belong in the perineal area. This can lead to unwanted numbness.

Riding Position

Other factors to review include your saddle height, tilt and fore-aft position. Also take a look at your handle bar height in relation to your saddle height. Remember to make your changes gradually. It is best to make one change at a time so you can tell which adjustments are helping. Move around on the saddle from time to time. Stand on the pedals once in a while.

One more thing. Wearing padded bicycle shorts also may make a difference. Not everyone agrees that cyclist should wear padded shorts. Grant Petersen owner and founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, in his book Just Ride, extols the virtues of wool. Petersen also rights about cycling clothing driven by bicycle racers and the wannabes. When I was a boy we rode in our blue jeans or cut-off shorts. While I still have some lycra for road biking, I am always looking for better options for bicycle travel. After all, I am not a racer. What you wear is up to you. Take a look at Petersen's article that tells why wool is the best all around fabric in the universe. All You Need Is Wool.

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