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  1. #1
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    [saddle] Measuring sit bone spacing and making the right choice?

    Hello

    I've tried a few different saddles, but still haven't really found one where my butt and/or some muscle in the inner thigh region (#28?) wouldn't hurt after only 100km.

    I guess this one isn't meant for touring
    tern.kore.saddle.jpg

    So I googled for infos on how to choose a saddle, and one of the articles has this to say:

    You can measure your sit bone spacing in several ways.

    [...] You can do the same thing at home if you are careful:
    • with a piece of Corrugated cardboard which also takes impressions if done right
    • By sitting on Playdoh between sheets of paper
    • Direct measurement with a ruler or tape measure (and a very good friend)
    • Floral foam in a plastic bag
    (Source: "The Four and a Half Rules of Road Saddles")

    Are there other ways to accurately measure the distance between the two sit bones?

    Incidently, the four and a half rules are:
    1. Rule #1: Wide enough
    2. Rule #2: Flat enough
    3. Rule #3: Firm enough
    4. Rule #4: Maybe a cutout
    5. Rule #4.5: T or Pear shape?


    There are so many saddles out there

    Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Personally, I don't think that measuring your sit bone spacing is worth a darn. Unless you're using the Specialized Ass-o-meter and planning to buy a Specialized saddle. The problem is that much like pant sizes and seat tube lengths: everybody measures differently. If a saddle maker tells you that their saddle is 145mm wide, what does that mean? Is that the width of the saddle at it's widest part? Is that the width of the "seating area"? Is that the width of the piece of leather used to cover the saddle? Ask three different saddle manufacturers and you'll get three different answers!

    The best thing to can do for yourself is to be able to pinpoint exactly what you don't like about your current saddle. Is it to wide or too narrow? Too hard or too soft? Too stiff or too flexible? Too long or too short? Too flat or too curved? Once you know what you don't like about your current saddle, you're more likely to be able to pick a saddle that's a better match. Of course, it helps if you can purchase from a store with a liberal demo or return policy...

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    An easy way to measure spacing is to collect some objects of different shape, and sit on them on the floor, or elsewhere. So get some identical wooden pieces like 1x1/2 in slats, space them, and sit on them. You will feel when they are directly under your bones. You can try a variety of object, and sit on them (golf balls in spaced holes) and collect some info.

    I don't think this is super useful in buying a saddle, but it is useful in fitting one. If you have diminutive proportions, or conversely, are well padded, often one can't impress the seat with the bones, or at least not without long painful miles. All that was required was to mark the spacing on the saddle, wiggle around to feel for it's position. Once you have it. Carefully press golf balls over the marks, so that the leather immediately under the sit bones is upset downward. This is not a big move, just get the upsetting process underway. Once it is established below the bones, you can have a situation where the break-in period goes from months, to not at all. If you get a leather saddle to fit, you will be very comfortable.

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    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tip.

    It's interesting that professionals should provide tips that are useless.

    As for what I don't like about my current saddles: It hurts after barely 80km, either around the sit bones area or some muscle in the inner thighs area (when the leg is at top-most point when cycling; didn't go to med school).

    Since I can't keep buying saddles until I find the right one, I was looking for infos on how to zero in on those most likely to fit me for touring (not racing).

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Since I can't keep buying saddles until I find the right one, I was looking for infos on how to zero in on those most likely to fit me for touring (not racing).
    I personally don't make a distinction between touring and racing. I find the same saddle works great for both for me. When I rode some centuries a few years ago and did some on my touring bike and some on my race bike I realized that the race bike was more comfortable on the long haul. After that I tried to match my race position on the touring bike. Once I made that decision any need for a different saddle for touring was gone.

    Also I found that breaking in my bottom to the saddle was way more key than anything else. Even the saddle that felt the worst of any of the saddles that came with my bikes for the first few hundred miles was fine on a 4200 mile coast to coast tour and a number of other longish tours. I find that I can tour on any of the saddles that came with my bikes, but if choosing a new saddle I'd pick a race type saddle like the Prologo Kappa.

    Numbness from nerve pressure may be the thing that would disqualify a saddle for me since that may be something your bottom can't just toughen up to deal with.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I personally don't make a distinction between touring and racing. I find the same saddle works great for both for me.
    I said this because articles on the subject explained that racing saddles are very flat and thin because riders sit more forward and their weight on the saddle sits more on their thighs than their sit bones, while when ridding in a more upright position, the sit bones take a beating, hence the need for a wider and more comfy saddle.

    But it could be another useless tip from professionals.


    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    When I rode some centuries a few years ago and did some on my touring bike and some on my race bike I realized that the race bike was more comfortable on the long haul. After that I tried to match my race position on the touring bike. Once I made that decision any need for a different saddle for touring was gone.
    Good to know, but I can't ride 200km in a racing position.

    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Numbness from nerve pressure may be the thing that would disqualify a saddle for me since that may be something your bottom can't just toughen up to deal with.
    But I won't suffer thousands, or even hundreds or kms/miles simply to wait until the saddle fits. I need something that will fit well right from the start (or at least, that can break in gently by simply riding short distances in the city).

    At this point, I guess I'll just pass the "performance saddles" that seem to be aimed at racing riders + padded shorts, and limit my choice to the "leisure saddles", provided those don't weigh a ton and look fuggly.

    Wiggle Cycle | Mens Saddles & Seat Posts

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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    But I won't suffer thousands, or even hundreds or kms/miles simply to wait until the saddle fits. I need something that will fit well right from the start (or at least, that can break in gently by simply riding short distances in the city).
    This is quite a thing to demand of a saddle, especially since you find it difficult to find one that fits. The right saddle is a very personal thing, so there is no way to give the 'right' advice. I am of the opinion that the methods for measuring sit bones etc. is a good way to start looking for a saddle, but not a guarantee for success.

    That said, in your position, given those demands, I'd probably invest in a brooks pre-aged flyer, and comfy cycling shorts or underwear.

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    Winfried, Trying to quantify saddle fitment is difficult at best. The only 'truthism' that seems to be correct is that the more upright the riding position, the wider the seat pan should be. The experts aren't wrong, they just have a different outlook, sometimes conflicting with each other.

    A well fitting saddle doesn't require padding or padded bicycle shorts. While my saddles, with one exception have a little 'compressability', they wouldn't be considered to have padding and my cycling shorts only have a chamois. The exception is the back-up touring bike I use as my beater bike and to toodle around the block bike with the grand kids.

    Brad

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    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Thanks Brad.

    So how do people find the right saddle? Surely, they don't order ten's of saddles on the web and return them until they find the right one?

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    It boils down to what works for you. So any advice you get for me or anyone else should be food for thought, but in the long run do what works for you.

    The more upright the riding posture the the more weight on the saddle and that makes a difference. Also having a strong core helps because it means you can ride with less weight on both hands and bottom because more weight can be carried by your legs.

    You mention not wanting to "suffer thousands, or even hundreds or kms/miles simply to wait until the saddle fits", but I think that we all do some of that regardless of what saddle we use. Except I don't think it is the saddle that breaks in I think it is us unless we are talking about a leather saddle.

    You may indeed want to sit more upright on your touring bike, lots of folks do, but I'd caution that you do it in moderation if you are worried about saddle comfort. Generally the more upright you go the more weight goes on the saddle. That said, I figure that how comfortable you are in a more aggressive posture is mostly about how conditioned your body is to it and I figure that on a long tour is the time I am most likely to be conditioned to the posture and the saddle.

    Starting a tour with fairly easy days for the first week to ten days goes a long way toward letting you settle in to the pace, the posture, and the equipment. I think that similarly starting a tour with a less aggressive posture and tweaking it a bit lower as the miles build might make some sense as well if you aren't well conditioned to the more aggressive posture at the start. That way you can get to a more aggressive posture over time without ever riding with the bars lower than you find comfortable.

    In any case, I wish you success in your quest for saddle comfort.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tips.

    Elsewhere, someone also mentioned that it made a difference when he rode a bike that had a smaller distance between the pedal holder (cranck housing?) and the tip of the saddle:
    velo.distance.axe.pedalier.bec.selle.jpg
    Incidently, what about the distance between the seat and the handlebar? Wouldn't this also make a difference, regardless of the saddle?

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    I find that I need a narrower saddle when I lean more forward than when I sit up more upright. I use drop bars into headwinds but for slow sightseeing I am more likely to be using the tops where my interrupter brake levers are located, or several positions in between depending on conditions. Thus, for me the ideal saddle is a compromise. I use a Brooks Conquest (I recently heard that Brooks has started making this model again, do not know if that is true or not). If I used flat bars, I probably would be happy with a B17 or Flyer, but I find the B17 or Flyer too wide and too flat for me when I use the drops on the drop bars.

    My point is that my sit bones are where they are, but my riding posture also comes into play for determining saddle width and shape.

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    Re Specialized Butt-o-meter, I think it applies to a racing position and not as much lower energy output sitting more upright, or heavier folks. When I could no longer ride my road bike/touring bike with a 225lb belly compared to a 160lb belly with 3" bar drop I looked for another saddle. The Butt-o-meter put me on the narrow size just like my old Concor, except it just wasn't comfortable with the bar at a higher position, -1" to 0" bar drop. I got the next wider sized Avatar and it was perfect.

  14. #14
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Packed up another transcontinental tourists bike to send home, had a C-17 on it...seemed nice enough ...

    they, Italians, produced a C 15 , a narrower one now, too ..



    Non scientific, .. you may just have to sit on more saddles ..
    in the local shop, placing the saddle on the stairs and sitting on it is the first sorting..

    that's hard to do, shopping online..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 08-06-14 at 09:05 AM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    As for what I don't like about my current saddles: It hurts after barely 80km, either around the sit bones area or some muscle in the inner thighs area (when the leg is at top-most point when cycling; didn't go to med school).
    If you're already used to riding on a regular basis, perhaps you need a saddle with a bit more padding? If the inner thigh pain is the result of chafing, you may need a narrower saddle.

    Since I can't keep buying saddles until I find the right one, I was looking for infos on how to zero in on those most likely to fit me for touring (not racing).
    Unfortunately, everybody's butt is different. I can tell you my three favorite saddles (ISM Adamo Road, Selle SMP Lite 209, WTB Rocket V) and my three most hated saddles (Specialized Toupe, Brooks B17, Specialized Avatar) but unless your butt happens to be a duplicate of mine that information likely won't help you very much. Unfortunately, some trial and error is required until you figure out the basics of what works for you. As you can see from my choices I generally prefer saddles that curve slightly from front to back, have a cutout or channel to reduce pressure on the perineum, and have a short (or non-existent) nose. I use those saddles on my endurance road bike and my touring bike, which has fairly similar geometry (and would thus be considered extremely aggressive by most who post here). If I rode a bike with a more upright riding position, my saddle choices would likely be very different.

    BTW, like you I won't give a saddle hundreds of miles to break-in. I test saddles on the same 30-mile (48km) loop that I ride hundreds of times/year. If I experience even the slightest bit of discomfort I immediately return the saddle! With so many instantly-comfortable saddles available, I just don't have the patience to deal with a saddle that isn't perfect right from the start...

  16. #16
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    You'd be very lucky to find the "right" saddle the first time. Unfortunately, for many if not most, it does take many hundreds, if not thousands of miles to find the right fit (or to break something in).

    An analogy for long distance hikers is shoe fit. There's no way to tell how a shoe is going to work for many consecutive twenty-plus mile days by getting measured or trying it out in the store, or even on five-mile walks. At the beginning of my hiking career, it took me over 2000 somewhat painful miles (that's millions of steps) to find the right shoe, and every one I tried was nominally the same size.

    I'm still looking for the right saddle. For instance, the one I'm using now doesn't feel perfect in the crotch, but interestingly a nagging neck pain issue has improved. So maybe I'll keep it for a while.

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    All things bike don't work for everyone,no matter who says it does.....Cost doesn't matter either.

    You just have to learn what works for you.I like Brooks B-17 saddles,but it took a couple of YEARS and who knows how many saddles (10-15) to figure it out.

    If you had 10 riders with the same sit bone width,I'm guessing they don't ride the same saddle types.Works great on paper,not so much in real life.

    Couple months ago,I was riding down the west coast and ran into a guy that had his saddle turned around backwards,nose towards the back.....He was plenty happy with the saddle like that!...Nobody said the nose HAS to be forwards....
    Last edited by Booger1; 08-06-14 at 11:17 AM.
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    best way to succeed at decreasing saddle discomfort, IME, is to lose weight, ride more, harder, faster and lower. all will help reduce your weight on the saddle, which, i have found, is the cause of the vast majority of discomfort.

    BTW, none of which, most riders really want to do when it comes down to it.

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    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input.

    The inner thigh pain doesn't come chafing. So it could be the saddle which is either not set right (I'll check how level it is, its height and distance from the handlebar), or the shape.

    It's complicatedô.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    The inner thigh pain doesn't come chafing. So it could be the saddle which is either not set right (I'll check how level it is, its height and distance from the handlebar), or the shape.

    It's complicated™.
    Have you ever had a professional bike fit done? If your saddle isn't in the right location, that will make comfort even more difficult to achieve! The saddle in your initial post appears to be very long. If you have it positioned a bit too far from the handlebars or the nose angled a bit down, you'll end up sliding forward onto the nose which will likely not be comfortable over the long haul...

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    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    No, but I'll find out if some bike shops around here provides that service.

    Thanks for the tip on the saddle. Based on recent infos, I was indeed wondering if could be due, at least partly, to too much distance between the saddle and the handlebar, so I moved it it forward and will try again this Sunday on a 100km trip.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    ...
    BTW, like you I won't give a saddle hundreds of miles to break-in. I test saddles on the same 30-mile (48km) loop that I ride hundreds of times/year. If I experience even the slightest bit of discomfort I immediately return the saddle! With so many instantly-comfortable saddles available, I just don't have the patience to deal with a saddle that isn't perfect right from the start...
    I have leather saddles on all but one of my bikes. The leather saddles all needed breaking in. I am happy that I have invested more time into my saddle decisions than you did, but if you have found what you liked, good for you.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by bradtx View Post
    Winfried, Trying to quantify saddle fitment is difficult at best. The only 'truthism' that seems to be correct is that the more upright the riding position, the wider the seat pan should be. ...
    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    ...
    The more upright the riding posture the the more weight on the saddle and that makes a difference. ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
    I find that I need a narrower saddle when I lean more forward than when I sit up more upright. ....
    All of the above. There seems to be something about the shape of the sit bones, that the part that comes in contact with the saddle is closer together when you lean forward, and farther apart when you sit upright. One of these days I'm going to bring a bike saddle to the lab at the high school where they have a skeleton model and try to figure out exactly what I'm saying.

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    Senior Member fairymuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Seeing you mention Wiggle:I find the Charge Spoon from Wiggle a very comfortable saddle. At £22 it doesn't break the ban either, and it gets tons of very good reviews. It may not be the one for you, but if it isn't, it won't have cost the earth.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fairymuff View Post
    Seeing you mention Wiggle:I find the Charge Spoon from Wiggle a very comfortable saddle. At £22 it doesn't break the ban either, and it gets tons of very good reviews. It may not be the one for you, but if it isn't, it won't have cost the earth.
    Thanks for the infos.

    Indeed, it could be that the distance between the two sit bones changes depending on the position, which would also explain why the saddle width is different for racing bikes, touring bikes, and city bikes.

    With so many positive reviews and its nice look, I did think about getting the Charge Spoon but decided on a more touring-oriented saddle since the Selle SMP TRK also got a lot of positive reviews but turned out to be excruciating for my butt.

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