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Old 03-20-05, 08:14 PM   #1
moxfyre
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How to pick out a saddle for a new female rider

I bought an 80's road bike for my girlfriend and fixed it up for her birthday. We finally got around to riding together yesterday, and she enjoyed it but had a lot of pain from the saddle (a men's saddle). So obviously she needs a new one. How do forum members pick out a new saddle? In my experience, I can't tell whether a saddle feels good or not until I've ridden it for a few miles. I've learned that in general hard saddles are more comfortable than soft saddles, but that's my only real principle. Also I think my a$$ has toughened up to the point that I can't really tell

Anybody have any tips on how a new female rider should pick out a saddle? I'm worried if she doesn't get something real comfortable she won't want to ride with me anymore. Any specific women's saddle recommendations?
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Old 03-20-05, 08:20 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by moxfyre
Anybody have any tips on how a new female rider should pick out a saddle? I'm worried if she doesn't get something real comfortable she won't want to ride with me anymore. Any specific women's saddle recommendations?
Well, unfortunately her experience is going to pretty much mimic your experience. She needs to break in her bike-butt and really no saddle is going to help her avoid that. Also, since saddles are such a personal thing, it might not be very easy for you to simply pick one for her. She's going to have to sit on a few to determine if the right spots are being properly supported and if there's rubbing in the wrong spots. The best you can do is educate her on what to look for so she can tell right away if a certain saddle is the wrong saddle for her bone structure.
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Old 03-20-05, 08:27 PM   #3
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From a girl's perspective, I didn't like any of the women's saddles I owned. All were too wide, that seemed more uncomfortable. And the gel seats were worse. Slim and hard, less intrusive. In time, the butt callus just develops naturally. Keep her encouraged, it must be a joy to ride together.
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Old 03-20-05, 08:32 PM   #4
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Thanks for the tips. It is definitely fun for us to ride together!

I'm unsure of how much pain is normal, because I kind of just ignored it, and then it went away. Khuon, you mentioned bone structure. Is there a specific sign that you need a wider/narrow saddle? She said she felt pain at two specific points, that didn't feel like muscle soreness... does that suggest anything specific?
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Old 03-20-05, 08:36 PM   #5
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The industry's habit of labeling a saddle as being for a woman or a man is silly. It is based on two ideas: that any woman will have a wider bottom than any man, and, that a woman needs a soft, mushy saddle.

Both of those notions are false. Some woman have slim bottoms, and fit well on so-called "men's" saddles. Some men have wide bottoms (which allows me to ride without using padded shorts).

The width of the saddle in the platform area needs to be as wide as the rider's bottom. And, oddly, a very firm, flat platform is more comfortable than a soft, plush platform. A firm platform puts pressure on the pelvis and sitbones, not on the privates. On a mushy saddle, the sitbones sink into the padding, putting the rider's weight on their crotch and privates.

The rider's position on the bike affects how the saddle feels. Many bikes are too long for a female's shorter torso and arms. That forces them to pivot their pelvis forward on the saddle, taking the weight off the sitbones, and putting it on the privates.

Most females are more comfortable with their pelvis more upright, which requires lowering the saddle, raising the bars, and often, using a stem that brings the bars back closer to the saddle. The bars need to be as high as the saddle. The back should be at about a 45% angle, relative to a "traditional" top tube, riding with the elbows bent and relaxed.

Although they take a few weeks to get used to, the Specialized Body Geometry saddles are excellent. My favorite are the medium wide models with a firm seating platform. The center "cut out" insures that there is no pressure on the crotch...all of your weight is on your sitbones (if the pelvis is upright).

With trial and error, you can work out both the most comfortable postion on the bike, and the best saddle. And, when you get it right, take careful measurements of the exact relationship of the saddle to the bottom bracket, the height of the saddle, the height of the stem, the distance from the rear edge of the saddle to the front edge of the stem. Having those measurements enables you to keep the bike setup correctly after stuff gets moved around at the bike shop, or when the bike is stored.
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Old 03-20-05, 08:39 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moxfyre
Khuon, you mentioned bone structure. Is there a specific sign that you need a wider/narrow saddle? She said she felt pain at two specific points, that didn't feel like muscle soreness... does that suggest anything specific?
The saddle should properly support her Ischial Tuberosities (sit bones). The position of these bones is different from person to person and that's why not one saddle design is appropriate for everyone. Additionally, there is bound to be discomfort in this area at first because the muscle tissue won't have developed their callousness as KirkeIsWaiting mentioned. This doesn't necessarily mean that the saddle is wrong for her either. I recently took a 4-month break from heavy riding and when I got back in the saddle, I discovered that my butt was sore too. Unfortunately, our sport has a bit of a steep "learning" curve in that most people's bodies are not accustomed to riding a bike if they haven't been doing it for a while. Thus many are instantly turned off and never give their bodies a chance to adjust. It's a harsh implicit hazing ritual.
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Old 03-20-05, 08:49 PM   #7
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Has anyone tried Specialized's Body Geometry Fit System? It's supposed to measure the distance between your sitbones to help you select a saddle of the correct width.

And what Khuon said - it's gonna hurt at first until her sit area toughens up.
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Old 03-20-05, 09:23 PM   #8
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Ach! Saddle woes. I went through about 10 saddles before I finally found one that I love (Fysik Vitesse, which I believe is a women's saddle--wait, did I spell fysik right?) and now I have one on each bike and a few extras in case they suddenly stop making them. Anyway, everyone's bodies are different. I have to poink the nose of my saddle down somewhat in order to be comfortable, and I've talked to other female riders who feel the same way; while most of the male riders I know (but not all of them) like to tip the front of their saddles up. She will just need to try different saddles and different positions. It will hurt for a while til her body adjusts and she finds the right saddle/position. My advice is not to go for long rides until she's more comfortable. That way she won't be in horrible pain that makes her never want to ride again.
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Old 03-20-05, 10:16 PM   #9
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I find that "womens' specific design" saddles--or anything , for that matter--rarely work out!!

ESPECIALLY SADDLES!!!

(Yes, folks.... BLACK BUD IS A WOMAN!!! )

Since your GF is just "getting back in the saddle" again, she will probably want to start out with a "softer" and, perhaps, "wider" saddle than she might like later on. This is probably normal--if she wants to do so, don't fight her! (Just don't spend a "boatload" of money, either!!) With time, and riding, she'll be able to decide what will work for her in the long run.

The point about frame fit is a good one...and critical!! If the frame is too long she WILL find herself "riding the rivet", so to speak. Not good for comfort...or her "tender parts"!! (Her arms and shoulders will also get really sore really fast!! ) If it's too short she may...or may not..find herself on the "good" part (the wide part) of the saddle, but will be TOO UPRIGHT to get any power on hills or rough terrain--and she'll have to "fight" the wind way more than she should!!

NO SADDLE CAN COMPENSATE FOR POOR FRAME FIT!!!

I find that a moderate-width saddle, with a longish, "drop" nose and (almost) flat top, with a modest amount of "padding" works well for me. Also, a "split" in the "tail" is OK--but NOT a "toilet-seat-like" hole in the center! The one I like--and pretty much fits this description--is the Specialized "Milano", a "unisex" model.
I've heard A LOT of women like it, too. Maybe your GF will!

If not...let her look...and decide. It's HER butt!!!
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Old 03-20-05, 10:20 PM   #10
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Thanks everybody for the advice. I will try putting a cushier saddle of mine on her bike, and see if she likes that for the time being! If not, we're off to the LBS.
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Old 03-21-05, 11:46 AM   #11
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It's true that everyone is built differently. But one thing us females have in common is that sensitive soft tissue area "down there" and no amount of riding to toughen up the sit bone area is going to toughen up the soft area. I have a Terry Liberator Ti Race saddle on both of my bikes. They may not be the lightest saddles on the market, but they're great. They actually have a hole cut into the middle of the saddle so there will be no pressure on the soft tissue area. Cuz trust me Foxfyre, if she's sore in that area, you're not going to get lucky that night. My LBS lets people put saddles on a display bike and ride on a trainer for however long they want to. I know it's not the best way to determine if a saddle is right, but usually you'll know if it's NOT right within minutes.

Good luck with the saddle hunt!
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Old 03-21-05, 02:31 PM   #12
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Personal preference. After spending about $120 on different saddles my wife settled on a big soft comfort saddle with the springs i bought for $7 dollars at the local Target.
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Old 03-21-05, 03:23 PM   #13
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If she does wind up with another saddle, the Terry butterfly is very popular with the experienced female riders in my club. Also, Terry has a great program - you can return any saddle for any reason within 30 days after purchase.
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Old 03-21-05, 03:39 PM   #14
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Ditto to skydive's reply..... I have been riding with a Terry Butterfly saddle and wouldn't think of trading it for anything different.

Many of my female friends have also switched to the Terry Buterfly and not one has been unhappy with it. The best part is the return policy. If you don't like it - you don't keep it.

This saddle is priced at @ $99. Sometimes, you can get it through Performance or Nashbar a couple of bucks cheaper if on sale. It was well worth the investment.
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Old 03-21-05, 04:01 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by christie133
Ach! Saddle woes. I went through about 10 saddles before I finally found one that I love (Fysik Vitesse, which I believe is a women's saddle--wait, did I spell fysik right?) and now I have one on each bike and a few extras in case they suddenly stop making them. Anyway, everyone's bodies are different. I have to poink the nose of my saddle down somewhat in order to be comfortable, and I've talked to other female riders who feel the same way; while most of the male riders I know (but not all of them) like to tip the front of their saddles up. She will just need to try different saddles and different positions. It will hurt for a while til her body adjusts and she finds the right saddle/position. My advice is not to go for long rides until she's more comfortable. That way she won't be in horrible pain that makes her never want to ride again.
Further proof that we're all different. My bike came with the Fizik Vitesse. After long rides, I was in agony, because my sitbones are wider than the saddle, so I was sitting on everything BUT my sitbones. Went through about 6 saddles, including the Terry saddles the other women have loved, until I found the Specialized Alias in the right size for my sitbones. (In general - but will vary greatly) women's sitbones are spaced wider than men's, no matter what weight and size we are.
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Old 03-21-05, 05:05 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by greenbreezer
It's true that everyone is built differently. But one thing us females have in common is that sensitive soft tissue area "down there" and no amount of riding to toughen up the sit bone area is going to toughen up the soft area. I have a Terry Liberator Ti Race saddle on both of my bikes. They may not be the lightest saddles on the market, but they're great. They actually have a hole cut into the middle of the saddle so there will be no pressure on the soft tissue area. Cuz trust me Foxfyre, if she's sore in that area, you're not going to get lucky that night. My LBS lets people put saddles on a display bike and ride on a trainer for however long they want to. I know it's not the best way to determine if a saddle is right, but usually you'll know if it's NOT right within minutes.

Good luck with the saddle hunt!
Greenbreezer is right. My wife too was having issues with soreness while using our new trainier. I just got her a newer seat (the bike and seat is 13 years old), and some bike shorts. She should use some good bike shorts w/out underware. Underware is rough and can cause irritations. And my feeling is that the muscles that hit the seat will become tougher and used to the seat as she rides more.
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Old 03-21-05, 09:04 PM   #17
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No saddle can "cure" make up for incorrect positioning on the bike. If a rider is putting weight on the crotch or privates, that rider will go through five or ten new saddles without finding a "cure".

If a woman's pelvis rotates forward while riding, pressure will be placed on the privates. Shorter top tube, shorter stem, bars as high as the saddle, pelvis upright, and the rider's weight on the sitbones: problem solved.

Of course, men would also suffer less pain if they rode with their pelvis upright. But, male cyclists seem to be into pain...they like to brag about how much suffering they can take...convincing a male rider to put his bars as high as the saddle is a tough sell..."It ain't aero...wanna look like Lance..."

Last edited by alanbikehouston; 03-22-05 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 03-22-05, 12:13 PM   #18
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Maybe the groove was just shaped/positioned badly but every saddle I've ever tried with a cutout in it felt like I was sitting on the business end of a pair of ice skates.
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Old 03-22-05, 12:44 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MERTON
you tried them wtb saddles?
I've tried the Speed V in the past. The shape was not right for me.
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