The number of saddles available has rapidly increased in recent years. Manufacturers are keen to cater for all different shapes and sizes of riders and their sit bones, as well as different disciplines of riding The wrong shaped saddle for you, can cause pain or make you not want to ride. Even worse, using the wrong saddle can cause injury to your genital region. So how do you find the perfect saddle?
Ladies & Gentlemen
Men’s sit bones (‘Ischial Tuberosity’ protruding down at the base of the pelvis) tend to be closer together than women’s, that’s why women’s saddles tend to be a bit wider and shorter, while men’s tend to be longer and thinner. If your sit bones are not cradled correctly or if your saddle selection is not appropriate for you, issues will arise; pressure points, poor circulation and eventual soft tissue breakdown and damage. In short, you will get a sore rear. Having the lower part of the sit bones cradled on the wide padded section of the rear should provide the most comfort. It is important to get the correct width of saddle for you as a starting point for finding comfort on your bike.
The intended use of the saddle is also very important. Riders who race tend to sit further forward on the saddle while adopting a more aggressive riding position, manufacturers add padding towards the front on race saddles to help this. Sportive and touring riders though, tend to be sat more upright for longer periods and demand more comfort in the centre and rear of the saddle.
Pad it Out
The next element to consider is the amount of padding on the saddle. While new riders might be attracted to the saddle with the most padding, this is not always the comfiest option. In real life the over-padded saddle when combined with the padding in your shorts / tights can be too much. Too much padding or padding which is too soft, will push padding to the sides or centre of the saddle, putting more pressure on the perineum area.
Cut it Out
Potential long-term side effects from added pressure on the perineum and genitals has led to manufacturers taking drastic action. Cutting out a section of saddle to create a channel to hole to relieve pressure on the perineum area. Women’s cut-outs tend to be further forward and men’s are usually towards the centre of the saddle. As well as improving comfort through the cut outs, weight can also be shaved and materials saved, making a win, win situation for riders and saddle makers.
Saddle rails are made from steel or aluminium on entry-level models. Higher price point saddles utilise titanium or carbon fibre rails, which can offer more vibration damping to the seat. Carbon and titanium rails are also lighter. The shell or base of the saddle sits under the padding and above the rails. Saddle shells tend to be made from plastic on most saddles or carbon fibre on top end models.
Picky ‘bout ya Perch
Saddles are the most individual thing you can choose for a bike. Once choices are narrowed down it could be worth trying out a saddle before you commit to a purchase. Some manufacturers have test saddles in shops (including Merlin) for evaluation purposes. You could always ask a friend of a similar build if you can give theirs a try. Be wary of recommendations though, just because a saddle suits one person, doesn’t mean it will be comfortable for you.
Still a bit sore?
If you are still getting a sore rear, it could be down to under use. The answer could well be to use it more often, and get used to it – a bit like the way a new pair of shoes ‘give’ and become as comfy as your slippers. Regular rides over two hours should toughen up your sitting area. Treat yourself to a long hot bath after longer rides to compensate your undercarriage and surrounding area for all that rubbing and bashing around. On longer rides try to get out of the saddle every half hour or so – this should relieve the pressure from constant sitting and also stretch and activate other muscle groups.
Still can’t get comfy? It could well be worth getting a professional bike fitting to help rectify the issue. It could be bike fit related, sitting very upright on your bike, for example, can cause too much of your body weight to be pressing down on the saddle. Professional bike fitters usually have several saddles for testing and they will look at all aspects of your riding. Bike fitters pay attention to how you and your bike connect together and look at ways to increase comfort as well as efficiency and power.
Anti-friction cream can work like dream, stopping the painful wearing away of your skin in key intimate areas. Used sparingly the cream will act as a barrier and soothe the effected area.
I was right about that saddle though…
Merlin’s Recommended Saddles
Pro Vulture MTB Ti Rail £62.99
SDG Duster P RL Ti-Alloy £34.99
Pro Falcon Ladies Ti Rail £39.95
See the full range of saddles at Merlin Cycles here.