Bike Saddle: Getting the Right Fit

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Proper body weight distribution on a bicycle saddle depends on two factors: saddle shape and saddle position. In bike fitting, both of these factors have to be taken into consideration as both are just as important.

Simply getting a saddle into the correct position to match a cyclist’s pedalling movement without a saddle shape that stabilizes the pelvis will lead to imbalanced body weight distribution as the pelvis tilts sideways to relieve pressure on the groins.

A good saddle is one that allows the pelvis to sit squarely on it with balanced weight distribution on both sit bones. Why the sit bones? As most of the groin area consists of sensitive soft tissues, exerting pressure on this area (known as perineum) will cause numbness during rides. According to medical studies, if left unresolved, it will lead to loss of sensitivity in genital organs and worse, erectile dysfunction.

Traditional saddles

For a traditional saddle, to effectively elevate the perineum area and prevent it from being pressured against the saddle, one has to make sure the width of the saddle platform is sufficiently wide enough to provide a stable seating foundation for the sit bones.

Here’s a quick and easy way to check. First, set up your bike on a turbo trainer and do a short spin to get comfortable. Then, stop pedalling and maintain cycling posture, do not sit up straight. With your right hand, reach out to right side of your pelvis and try to find the sit bone on the right. Repeat the same with the left. If the pointy ends of sit bones are located within the saddle platform area, then you have a saddle width suitable for you. If the sit bone is at the very edge of the saddle, or slightly away from the saddle, this means that you’ll have to get a wider saddle.

Another cause of perineum numbness is often linked to rounded profile saddles, with reason simply being the sit bones are sitting further below the highest peak of the saddle, causing the perineum area pressing hard against the bulging spine along the center of saddle. Although some cyclists may not have perineum numbness issue using a rounded profile saddle, majority of them will. In this case, opt for a flat profile saddle. If you look at the trend of saddle shape bundled with complete bikes across the past few years, you’ll notice that for the 2014-2015 season, most bike manufacturers provide a flatter profile saddle as standard equipment, in contrast to the rounder ones of yesteryears.

Flat profile saddle VS Rounded profile saddle
Saddle with cut-out section

Another option to consider is the cut-out section in the middle of the saddle. Basically, every single rider will benefit from a saddle with cut-out middle section, as it removes the possibility of perineum pressing against the saddle. However, there’s a loss in shell structure strength as there are less materials in the saddle. Long term usage leads to sagging and affects the visual appearance. Even though some will argue the sag affects stability of seating, personally I do not find that to be valid if the seating position is correctly placed with sit bones at the wide seating platform.

Moving onto anatomy specific saddles like the Selle SMP and ISM Adamo, they are designed to support a larger portion of the sit bones, instead of just the pointy ends like a traditional saddle. This will disperse body weight across a slightly wider area and reduces skin sore, at the same time it provides even more stability to the pelvis.

Anatomy specific saddle

When buying an anatomy specific saddle, we will have to consider our sit bone anatomy (not just the width) to determine which exact model suits us. As these are anatomy specific, the fitment is required to be perfectly matching to your pelvis, any slight deviation will cause discomfort. Companies offer test saddles covering almost all models across their range for customers to try them in store before purchasing. In this case, it is advisable to bring your bicycle to the shop and set it up on a turbo trainer and test ride each model until you find one which is specific to your pelvis shape. If there’s a hint of uneasiness regardless how many times of adjustments have been made to the saddle position, it means that the particular model is not suitable for you.

Lastly, many of us get tempted by saddles with thick paddings, thinking more padding will be comfier. It does help for short distance rides. However, if you plan to go for long rides, choose a saddle that supports more on the sit bones rather than on the flesh around the buttocks. While sitting with pressure on the buttocks feel comfortable at the start, it will lead to numbness eventually once the journey gets longer.

Saddle with thick padding

So, ensure you have the right saddle to make your biking more fun and exciting, minus the discomfort and injury / pain.

Make sure you get the saddle checked during the holidays, and Happy Holidays from us here!

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