Round Up: Saddles

Cyclescheme, 19.02.2012

Round Up: Saddles

Discomfort isn't a normal part of cycling. If you're not sitting comfortably, it's time to change something: your saddle. 

'There may be a better land where bicycle saddles are made out of rainbow, stuffed with cloud; in this world the simplest thing is to get used to something hard.' That was Jerome K Jerome, writing in Three Men on the Bummel, his 1900 novel about cycling.

He's right: there can be period of 'adjustment' if you come back to cycling after a long layoff. Your backside won't be used to supporting your weight whilst you pedal, and your buttocks will ache – just like your feet would if you stood up all day and were not used to doing so. This sort of ache disappears after a week or two or cycling. If it doesn't, or if you're suffering from any pain or numbness, you need to change something.

You may need a bike with fatter tyres or a different riding position (perhaps even something radical like a recumbent). Try the easy fixes first. Check the saddle angle. It should be horizontal – or nearly so. Still no good? Get a new saddle.

Different saddles suit different bottoms: one man's seat is another man's murder. As a general rule, the further and faster you plan to ride, the narrower and harder you want the saddle to be. Whatever saddle you choose, your weight should be supported by the 'sit bones' at the base of your pelvis and not by the soft perineum in between. Both men and women have lots of nerves in the perineal area; squashing them can cause pain or numbness.

This is the reason for the cut-out centres of anatomic saddles: they relieve or eliminate perineal pressure, and carry your weight on your sit bones instead. Cut-out saddles are not the only way to achieve this effect. Saddles can be carefully contoured, or made of a material like leather that conforms to your body shape. There's no predicting which approach will suit you best except to say: if it's comfortable, it's right.

Saddles come in different widths. The right width for you will depend on the distance between your sit bones. It must be at least that wide.  Some shops have fitting systems for saddles. You can get a pretty good idea by doing it yourself. Get some corrugated cardboard, a marker pen, a ruler, and a flat stool.

Place the cardboard corrugated side up on the stool. Sit. Grab the legs of the stool to pull yourself down harder onto the cardboard. Stand up. Circle the two impressions in the cardboard with a marker pen. Measure the distance between them, centre to centre. That's your minimum saddle width.

After that, it's trial and error to see what suits you best. Here are some that might help.

Charge Spoon

Charge Spoon

A straightforward mid-width saddle for road bikes and hybrids. There's no cut-out but there is a 'pressure relief channel' down the centre of the saddle, and the overall shape is one that suits lots of riders. It's thinly padded and covered with synthetic leather, in black, brown, tan or white. Charge also do a dearer version with a leather covering and titanium rails instead of chrome-moly steel ones.
www.chargebikes.com

£24.99

Vavert Comfort Memory Foam saddle w/ Elastomer Suspension

Vavert Comfort Memory Foam saddle w/ Elastomer Suspension

This chunky saddle suits town bikes with an upright riding position, where you'll be riding short distances with almost all of your weight on your backside. The width provides lots of support and the saddle is cushioned with memory foam. This is better than normal saddle gel: it conforms to your body shape and it deadens vibration. Bigger jolts are soaked up by the elastomer suspension. Narrower memory foam saddles are also available from Vavert.
www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

£32.99

Rido R2

Rido R2

This chunky saddle suits town bikes with an upright riding position, where you'll be riding short distances with almost all of your weight on your backside. The width provides lots of support and the saddle is cushioned with memory foam. This is better than normal saddle gel: it conforms to your body shape and it deadens vibration. Bigger jolts are soaked up by the elastomer suspension. Narrower memory foam saddles are also available from Vavert.
www.rido-cyclesaddles.com

£34.99

Selle Italia X2 Lady Gel Flow

Selle Italia X2 Lady Gel Flow

Italian company Selle Italia produce a large range of anatomical saddles for men and women. This is an entry-level saddle for women, with a gender-specific central cut-out and a width that better suits women's usually wider sit bones. It's a low maintenance saddle, as the gel padding is covered by waterproof, synthetic leather – in either white or black. The rails are steel.
www.chickencycles.co.uk

£39.99

Brooks B17 S Std Ladies

Brooks B17 S Std Ladies

The Brooks is arguably the original anatomic saddle: as you ride it, the leather becomes contoured to your individual behind. You need to protect the leather from the rain when you park your bike and to treat the leather with proofide. In return, you get an increasingly comfortable saddle that could last a lifetime. The B17 S is a flagship model for touring or road bikes, but there are lots of others. This one is available in black, honey and brown.
www.extrauk.co.uk

£69.99

Specialized BG Toupe Plus Comp

Specialized BG Toupe Plus Comp

Specialized's Body Geometry saddles are lab tested to 'ensure blood flow to sensitive areas'. They're available for men and women for leisure riding, commuting, mountain biking and more; this is a gent's racing saddle, and it's well suited for road bike commuting. The profile is comfortable, despite modest padding, and it's fairly light, thanks to hollow chrome-moly rails and a carbon-fibre reinforced shell. It comes in three widths: 130, 143, 155mm.
www.specialized.com

£70.00

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