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Saddle Choice - A Sore Point!

Old 02-09-17, 07:41 AM
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Saddle Choice - A Sore Point!

Isn't it about time somebody tried to 'demystify' the process of choosing the right saddle?
I think it's pretty clear now that getting the right saddle for your bum is a highly subjective thing and the web is full of unhelpful advice, like; 'I tried model 'X' and have never looked back'.
I don't think it's over simplistic to say the right fit comes down to 4 things;-
- The width (the only feature that anyone is prepared to put a number on).
- The curvature across the saddle.
- The profile (does it sweep up at the rear end?).
- The amount of padding.
The problem is; how do I compare a known saddle with what's available from other manufacturers?
For instance, my saddle seems to suit me well, but I feel it might be a little on the narrow side, or perhaps I need something a little flatter.
Trawling through the web articles doesn't give me any means of comparing and the pictures often give a false impression of the shape.
Fabric saddles have got off to a good start; They offer saddles with profiles that are; 'flat', 'shallow' and 'radius'. What could be simpler?
It would be nice if somebody could take a purely objective look at saddles, grade each feature and put a number to it. Even hardness of the padding can be measured, that's how saddle manufacturers select the right grade of foam in the first place.
There's nothing difficult about putting some figures to these features.
Come to think of it, I could do it!
Calling all saddle manufacturers, send me your saddles!
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Old 02-09-17, 07:56 AM
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I'd add a 5th factor which is the saddle's flex (ie. quite important especially if one opts for little/no padding saddles).
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Old 02-09-17, 08:55 AM
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Take those 4...or 5 or an infinite variety of parameters you probably haven't considered...and multiply them by the number of people on the planet and you'll come close to the number of parameters you have to test.

Sorry to say but there is no test or measurement that you can apply to say that one saddle is like another. You are the biggest variable in the equation. How you ride, how often you ride, your level of dealing with discomfort, etc., all determine which saddle is "best" for you. No one else can tell you what saddle works.

That said, a lot of finding the "best" saddle comes down to you adapting to the saddle. Saddles...even Brooks...don't "break" in. You just get used to their idiosyncrasies. In other words, you break into the saddle.
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Old 02-09-17, 09:52 AM
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I'm quite tolerant to saddles. I have tried more that work than don't, and only have found one that is obviously better than others. There are only two I've used that I would ever refuse to ride on again.

What would be easier, is simply a matrix to get you closer to what you like so you know what to try. If you like saddle X, Saddles Y, Z, and A are all similar.
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Old 02-09-17, 10:06 AM
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My Selle Anatomica Titanico is my 8th saddle in 2 years. I have never willingly changed a saddle. The process works like this:

Step 1: test ride saddles, as many as needed. 8, 10, more.
Step 2: find the one that fits the best
Step 3: buy it, ride it for 2-3 months
Step 4: saddle suddenly turns evil and tries to murder my nethers
Step 5: return to Step 1

As of today the Titanico is approaching a previously unseen number of miles without becoming evil. I remain cautiously optimistic.
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Old 02-09-17, 04:58 PM
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Raise the nose.
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Old 02-09-17, 05:20 PM
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I'm a trial and error guy mainly because it's so hard to correctly quantify the key issues.

But, I've never had to ride a saddle more than a minute or two to rule it in or out. IMO 99% of fit boils down to one thing. Where your "sit bones" rest, and where nothing else should. If the saddle meets that test giving me good support and clearance, I know it'll very likely be OK. OTOH if I feel any pressure anywhere else other than where I want it, it's an instant reject.

BTW - if using my process, it's important that shorts have minimal or no passing. I suspect that modern excessively padded shorts are a major contributor to many issues blamed on saddles. The padding allows the sit bones to settle spreading the support to places where you don't want to be supporting your weight.
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Old 02-09-17, 05:45 PM
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Never will get the angst associated with bicycle saddles.

If one wants to sit bolt upright, one needs one of those horrible padded and/or sprung thingies, because all one's weight is plunked on the 'seat' (or couch).

Otherwise, if one rides dynamically, choose minimal padding and then it's trial and error for saddle shape (flat; scooped; curved sides; cut-out or no) until one finds what suits one's sit bones/riding posture. Fine tune until the saddle disappears on long rides (50+ miles, let's say) -- done.

Find one that works -- buy two or three before they go out of production. When those are used up, go through the process again.

There's no magic, and there's no shortcuts.
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Old 02-09-17, 07:24 PM
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Guess I'm not the only one whose butt isn't picky about saddles. Handlebar design and height, overall bike fit, yup. My back and neck dictate those factors. Saddles, nope.

My rigid fork mountain bike has an old Bell saddle with gel or memory foam padding covered in a tough but absorbent cloth. Comfy, not so great when it rains. I've ridden up to 60something miles on it, no problems.

My comfort hybrid has a heavily padded vinyl covered wide saddle with springs. Way too wide for me, looks like it's designed for a woman, not my skinny butt. Still comfy for rides up to 60something miles.

Only problem I've had was trying to wear tight shorts with chamois pads on these saddles. Way too much material squirming around, lots of chafing, 't'ain't comfortable. I'll save the padded shorts for a hard saddle if I ever get one. Otherwise I wear Champion boxer/briefs, great wicking fabric, under baggy shorts or jeans.

I've tried friends' bikes with carved leather Brooks and Selle saddles with those pressure relief cutouts. They seemed good, just enough give to be comfortable. No way to judge from a short ride around the block.

But I don't feel any pressing need to worry about saddles yet. Might change my tune after my first century ride.
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Old 02-09-17, 07:49 PM
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If you want a comfortable saddle ...

1) Make sure your bicycle fits and is set up properly for you.

2) Check the saddle width. It needs to be wide enough for your sitbones but not too wide. If you're riding a trainer or as stoker on a tandem (the two most difficult saddle situations), you might want to consider a slightly wider saddle.

3) Check the curve of the saddle. Some people like them flat, some people like them curved up in the back a bit. You'll figure it out pretty quickly. I like mine curved up in the back.

4) Shorts ... get some with light padding that covers your sitbones. Yes, some people can ride without padding, and you may get to that point too, but start with padding.

5) Core ... start working on it. The stronger your core is, the more comfortable you'll be in the saddle for extended periods of time.

6) Fitness ... keep riding and also work on other aspects of your fitness. Leg strength, upper body, core. The stronger and fitter you are, the more comfortable you'll be in the saddle for extended periods of time.

7) Posture on the bicycle. Don't just sit on the saddle like you're a sack of potatoes. Try to distribute your weight between your hands (small percentage), feet and sitbones. Try to sort of lightly perch on the saddle. This is where fitness and core strength really come in. And by putting some of your weight on your feet when you ride, you'll be able to lift yourself out of the saddle ever-so-slightly on descents or when crossing railway tracks etc. to give your sitbones a bit of a break.

Also note that bicycle fit isn't something you arrive at and remain with for the rest of your life. It will change as circumstances change.
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Old 02-10-17, 03:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
If you want a comfortable saddle ...

1) Make sure your bicycle fits and is set up properly for you.
So I've just got a sweet bike in my size but I'm coming from an upright MTB. My lower back kills after a while but looking at pictures the fit is alright. Little tweaks help.

Is this muscle issue that I will just have to build up over time?
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Old 02-10-17, 03:28 AM
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Originally Posted by rigidan View Post
So I've just got a sweet bike in my size but I'm coming from an upright MTB. My lower back kills after a while but looking at pictures the fit is alright. Little tweaks help.

Is this muscle issue that I will just have to build up over time?
Yes. I've kind of let my core work go a bit over the past few months ... cycled up a mountain last Sunday ... and oh, my aching back. Gotta do the core work.
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Old 02-10-17, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Chuck Naill View Post
Raise the nose.
>>> and fiddle with the height ... IT WORKS !!!!
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Old 02-10-17, 07:50 AM
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This June will be my 30th anniversary of cycling. In that time, the only racing saddle I could not get comfortable on was one that was super narrow. I've had every shape. What it really comes down to is proper tilt adjustment. people don't seem to realise how spot on you have to be. Sometimes a couple of millimeters makes the difference between comfort and pain.
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Old 02-10-17, 08:14 AM
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Lots of good answers above. I also have little trouble with most saddles - just a few I knew right away weren't going to get comfy. My best fit is with Selle Italia Flites with light padding. Generally over $100, but they've never disappointed me. My worst fit was an oem WTB that looked like it was engineered to be comfy, but it was a real pain machine.
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