Are you having trouble finding the right saddle? You're not alone! Sure, you know that first ride or two can leave you a little sore but, after a few weeks, you should be able to find a sweet spot that lets you ride in comfort. How do you find that perfect saddle? As much as we'd all like to find the surefire, short cut answer but if it were that easy, you probably wouldn't still be looking for answers. Here are some of the things to consider when looking for your new happy saddle.
Yes, saddles do come in different widths. Reference to saddle width commonly refers to how wide the saddle is at its widest, near the back of the saddle. This where you will spend a lot of time if you aren't riding in the aero position or are cruising on your road bike. Some of us find that, when we start riding aero or ramping up the intensity on our road bike, we start riding further forward on the saddle. So, the saddle width at the back of the saddle, while important when we're sitting back, doesn't address all of our potential issues. So, another critical consideration is the width of the saddle at the front. Take a look at a few different saddles and you'll notice that they're not all the same width at the front either.
Another thing worth noting here that there are some “saddle fit systems” (or are they really marketing materials or gimmicks?), out there that have you sit on something that measures the width of yours sit bones. But, from the section and video above, you’ve probably realized that these tools won’t give you all the answers. Since you are moving forward on the saddle and pressure is off your sit bones and has moved elsewhere, those kind of measurement tools are only going to suggest the correct saddle almost accidentally.
Riding in the aero position like you would on a triathlon bikes will shift more of your weight to the front of the saddle. As well, the angle of you pelvis relative to the saddle and where the saddle is supporting most of your body weight will be completely different. the saddle will be different. The Adamo saddle is a good example of this. The Adamo is now the #1 saddle in the Ironman Hawaii saddle count yet it is not even close to getting that level of acceptance in road cycling. This might be in part due to triathlete's being early adopters but it could also be that the benefits of a twin rail saddle like an Adamo are more keenly noticed in the aero position.
The shape of the side of the saddle can be relatively straight or curvier. Take a look at how the saddles goes from side to narrow: is it a relatively straight line like the Fizik Arione or is it a noticeable curve, more like the Selle Italia SLR? How sharply the saddle transitions from wide to narrow is important. A narrower saddle point won't put pressure on the inside thighs of a person with narrower hips. A wider saddle point will provide more support for someone with wider hips. Another factor in saddle shape is how much you move back and forward on the saddle. If you use most of the saddle at different times during your riding, a saddle that is relatively uniform shape from front to back is better and this shape should be on the narrow end.
A saddle can be relatively flat with little curve from front to back or back to front. The Fizik Arione is a good example of this. Other saddles have a slight upward curve at the back. The Selle Italia SLK is like this. Then, there is Profile TriStryke Saddle which curves slightly but distinctly upward at the tip. This saddle is also slightly wider at the front that many. To make up for more bulk at the front or nose of the saddle, the Profile , you'll notice it has significantly more cushioning than others. Then, there are saddles that have a distinct upward curve at the back. This can be useful if you are climbing a lot and want something to anchor your weight against when you are climbing and sitting more towards the back of the saddle. Then there is the distinct drop off of the front part of the saddle like the SMP series. These might not work well for riding in the aero position but they can work well when you spend most of your time in the saddle with your weight centered on the saddle.
Some saddles are relatively flat from side to side. Others are distinctly curved. If you are spending a lot of time in the aero position, also take note of the shape of the nose of the saddle from side to side.
6. Saddle cutouts
Some saddles have cutout sections for relief of body weight and the shape and width of the cutouts vary a lot. An extreme example of a cutout is the SMP saddle which has a cutout the entire length of the nose of the saddle. For triathlon, a cutout can be helpful in allowing your tri short to dry quicker which can help prevent chafing and saddle sores. For general riding, a cutout can serve to remove potential pressure points from the saddle while still providing structural support for your body weight by the saddle rails and the cushioning on them.
Hopefully this will help you consider what things about your current saddle aren't making you happy and what things to look for in your new one. Saddle selection can end up being a little trial and error but hopefully something you've read here will fast track your search. And just to illustrate some of the points above, here are a few images. This first one shows four very different saddle shapes. I know from experience that only one of these saddles is a candidate for me. Do you know if one of saddles might work for you? If so, which one(s)?
And this second image shows the side view of two saddles with different slope profiles. Again, I will ride a saddle like the first one on my road bike but I can ride saddle with the profile of the second saddle on a triathlon bike. Your results may differ but hopefully a something here has helped you find your happy place.
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