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Saddles- Voodoo or science?

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Saddles- Voodoo or science?

Old 10-07-13, 05:22 PM
  #1  
etw
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Saddles- Voodoo or science?

I was thinking about the regular postings on saddles. I am not looking for saddle suggestions, but am curious about the process that folks seem to go through. Over time I have started to wonder whether saddle choice is at all scientific or perhaps to a degree just a matter of luck. I have read lots of postings and articles and talked to cyclists and bike shops. There seems to be so much info out there, yet much is often anecdotal and sometimes in complete disagreement.

Various points of view indicate the importance of sit bone width, flexibility, riding style, material, density, design, etc. At the same time, one can find arguments that refute any one (or all) of those points of view. There are hundreds of saddles out there and one can find designs that are very different with many varied shapes and sizes.

There are saddle threads posted almost daily and overall, the info that seems to enter every discussion is- you have to find what works for you and them get used to it.

Have people found the standardized selection process, such as the guidelines of various makers, were helpful in getting it dialed in or that it was merely trial and error? For example, did the guidelines point you in the right direction, or was your ultimate choice counter to what the science or even logic might suggest?
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Old 10-07-13, 07:45 PM
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Saddles are as much a matter of experience and preference as much as anything. With experience, you learn what type of saddle works for you. By type, I mean, flat or contoured, light padded or heavy, standard or slotted (pressure relief) top. Fizik, for instance has a range of saddles based on your riding style. Specialized bases their selections on style and saddle width based on your sit bone width. I would only make one general recommendation: Steer clear of heavily padded or gel saddles. With these, your sit bones sink into the padding putting more pressure on areas you want to protect. On the other hand, extremely light, thinly padded saddles are not a good idea, especially for longer rides. Although, I have several that have virtually no padding and are fairly comfortable. The best thing to do is find a shop that has test saddles or has a liberal return policy for saddles. Then test a number of saddles until you find one you like. Be sure to re-adjust your saddle height to compensate for difference in saddle height from the rails to the top of the saddle.
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Old 10-07-13, 08:01 PM
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I went through several saddles about 8 years ago and settled on a Sele Italia Flite. It wasn't comfortable, but I thought no saddle would be comfortable and it was at least bearable. The other day I was in the LBS and started talking to the guy and he said it should be more than bearable, so I sat on the sit bone measurer and he said I needed a 155mm saddle. The next day I brought my Flite in and it looked much slimmer, so I bought a Specialized Phenom @ 155mm.
I have about 150 miles on it and it's night and day more comfortable than the Flite. To the point that after a 2- hour ride I don't really feel any pain from my seat. So the measurement route seemed to work for me.
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Old 10-07-13, 08:49 PM
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Sit-bone support is the one area the great majority of serious riders agree on; the rest seems to be pretty subjective.

I don't think there are too many riders out there who 'lucked out' with their first, second, or even third choices; many have tried for years to find the perfect fit. I know I did.
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Old 10-07-13, 09:03 PM
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I did the sit-bone plus 20mm thing and thought I needed something at least 155 wide. And I thought I needed a flat saddle because my previous experience with curved ones was that they led to uncomfortable soft tissue pressure.
So now I'm using an SMP Glider (135mm wide) that is deeply curved, but with a huge cutout area to avoid soft tissue pressure. It's the last saddle I thought would work for me, and if my husband hadn't talked me into it, I'd never have even considered it. Sit bone width is a starting point for determining if your pelvis is narrow, medium or wide, but on a road bike you most likely won't be sitting on them.
It is trial and error for most people, unfortunately. There could be something to the Fizik philosophy for choosing a flat or curved saddle. Unfortunately, that flexible "wing" thing on the back put them out of the running for me.
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Old 10-08-13, 04:53 AM
  #6  
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Voodoo or Science?
Some of both, thrown it with the fact that no two people have the exact same personal geometry nor ride exactly the same, plus marketing hype.

I have been riding for close to 40 years, when I was younger it didn't really matter. However for the last 20 years it has been Brooks leather saddles that have worked for me. I have tried a couple of others but always come back to the Brooks. I am do not set my bikes up for aggressive riding positions which may play into it. The last Brooks I bought new was a Flyer and it was comfortable right out of the box and only got better the more I rode. Interestingly enough I have two vinyl saddles for my beater bikes that get left out in the weather, one is an old Brooks vinyl that came stock on the Raleigh way back in 1970, the other is a Selle Royal Classic 8261 which is the go to standard in the Netherlands for city bikes. Neither one is uncomfortable for rides under 25 miles, over that I will take a bike with a Brooks leather. FWIW I seldom ride in padded shorts unless the daily mileage is going to exceed 50 miles.

I guess that saddles could be compared to shoes...

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Old 10-08-13, 07:10 AM
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You can increase your odds of having a number of saddles work for you if your bicycle is set up correctly, if you are fit, and if you've got a strong core.

Then you need to find one that you can sit on ... in other words, that fits your sitbones, without being too wide. That can be measured.

And you need to determine if you prefer a curved saddle or a flat saddle. That needs to be determined through your own trial and error.


As for my process of finding comfortable saddles ...

When I started cycling seriously 23 years ago, I rode a hard saddle with a plastic shell and a layer of suede over it. It just happened to be the right shape, and I simply got used to it. Then I started acquiring more bicycles and wanted more saddles, of course, so I started experimenting with saddles. I tried one my father gave me and discovered that it was way too narrow for me. So I looked to my old plastic and suede saddle for width and shape as a standard for the saddles I chose, and for the most part it worked. Several years later, my favourite saddle changed (the rail broke, for one thing) and I started experiencing severe sciatic pain. So I switched to a Brooks. Now I have Brooks saddles on all my bicycles.
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Old 10-08-13, 09:47 AM
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To some extent, saddle selection is like a pregnant woman puking.

A pregnant woman often experiences nausea (usually referred to as morning sickness), up until some time around the 13th week of pregnancy. Then, it magically disappears overnight.

With me so far?

During this time, the woman is getting advice from her friends about how to fix it: eat crackers, take ginger, don't drink and eat at the same time, avoid sudden moves, walk, etc. The woman tries different things.

Now, when the morning sickness stops at week 13, whatever she was trying at the moment is thought to be the thing that solved it.

In the same way, to some extent, the saddle that you happen to be using just when your sit bones have adapted, is the one that you swear by.
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Old 10-08-13, 11:15 AM
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Billions of people in the world .. and, backsides have millions of variations,

and so saddles , are made with thousands of choices to find a match .


And the bent over go fast rider has a different need than the sit up and cruise ,
and look good doing it, rider.

Leather sling saddles like Brooks do have the property of breaking in to suit the rider's bum
like a nice leather shoe will mold itself to your foot.

Last edited by fietsbob; 10-08-13 at 11:21 AM.
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Old 10-09-13, 05:17 AM
  #10  
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I rode for years and years on an Ideale 90 saddle. I added it in my late teens because it was so beautirul in its display case at the bike shop, that I though it'd be great on my French bike. And it was...alas, I have no photos of it on my bikes.

But I found that it caused me numbness on rides over 40 miles or so. This was due to the concave shape across the sitbone area and the general firmness of the leather.

I now know that I like narrow(er), flat, and firm saddles. Whereas the Ideale was painful, a Brooks, or Fujita Belt, or Cardiff Cornwall or E3 Form will be comfortable for much longer rides.

I even have a narrow, firm and flat WTB saddle on my mountain bike, and it's okay for longish rides in the saddle (as on unpaved roads). OF course, for technical MTB riding, one isn't on the saddle that much...

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Old 10-09-13, 06:52 AM
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etw, The science of saddle choice is perhaps best expressed by sit-bone width. Then it becomes trial and error to determine what works best for the individual's physiology, aggressiveness in cycling posture, what the cyclist is wearing and so on. As an example the saddle that works on my roadies doesn't work on my touring bike which has a slightly more upright posture, yet it's a perfectly good saddle. The saddle on my mountain bike didn't work on the drop bar bikes and I really don't know why it works so well where it's at, for the voodoo aspect.

Brad
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Old 10-09-13, 09:07 AM
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Do you want a Shaman to make a replica of your butt and put needles in the thing .. ?
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Old 10-10-13, 09:13 AM
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One of the reasons that I posed the question is that I have had some tell me that the sit bone width is key, while others have dismissed the idea as nonsense. I have heard the same about some of the other concepts, such as riding style. I was interested if to hear experiences whether those ideas about fit worked for most riders. Thanks for the input.
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Old 10-10-13, 09:25 AM
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Pelvic width as a function of hip (pitch) rotation angle is not a constant. Roll forward = narrowwer. Roll backward = wider, generally. PG
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Old 10-10-13, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Do you want a Shaman to make a replica of your butt and put needles in the thing .. ?
Nope the competition

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Old 10-10-13, 09:05 PM
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Would that it were as simple as sitbone spacing + back angle + something else + ... ===>>> saddle spec. While I don't believe there is a magic formula, I do believe that once you've ridden a certain number of files and tried a certain number of saddles you develop the ability to more quickly determine whether a given saddle is "right". I've found I can more quickly dial-in saddle height, fore/aft position and tilt in order to better determine the suitability of the saddle. You've got to be able to find a neutral position of the saddle through a combination of fore/aft and tilt If you're finding perineum pressure and can't eliminate, then I think the saddle is a non-starter. If you're sitbones aren't happy you may want to give the saddle a decent trial, especially if the saddle requires a break-in, but I recently tried a leather saddle in which I couldn't make a dent: another non-starter.

If you can't find an LBS with a loaner program this saddle thing can get expensive; If you're one of those who can ride on a section of 2x4 more power to you.
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Old 10-11-13, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by etw View Post
Have people found the standardized selection process, such as the guidelines of various makers, were helpful in getting it dialed in or that it was merely trial and error? For example, did the guidelines point you in the right direction, or was your ultimate choice counter to what the science or even logic might suggest?
The Cervelo discussion by the engineer is a starting point. Its a good article.

https://www.cervelo.com/en/engineerin...-saddles-.html
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Old 10-11-13, 07:47 AM
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Of course I expect to get a lot of posts giving me grief but here is a simple fact. I see posts like this all the time. Many people report how many saddles they go thru to find one that is the least uncomfortable. Yet in the discussions of DF vs recumbents, most DF riders claim that their saddles dont hurt. But the fact is recumbent bikes for the most part just dont have that problem at all. Bottom line---------on tours or very long rides, ride a bent.
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Old 10-11-13, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
most DF riders claim that their saddles dont hurt.
I've ridden four 1200K randonnees on my diamond frame bicycles, using 2 different saddles ... and I've been comfortable. My butt was the least of my worries.

How far have you ridden on your recumbent?



Incidentally, I have ridden recumbent too, and would like to get one of my own ... but I believe that cyclists can be comfortable on diamond frame bicycles.
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Old 10-12-13, 01:46 PM
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I'm comfortable on all of my bikes, riding for as long as I've wanted. Saddle discomfort doesn't limit me in the least. Now, I've never dreamed of riding the distances that Machka and Rowan do. Someday...
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Old 10-13-13, 07:49 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
To some extent, saddle selection is like a pregnant woman puking.
...Now, when the morning sickness stops at week 13, whatever she was trying at the moment is thought to be the thing that solved it.
In the same way, to some extent, the saddle that you happen to be using just when your sit bones have adapted, is the one that you swear by.
That's only true if the problem you have is with sore sit bones and nothing else. For many people, especially many women, sit bones don't even come into it. The problem is pressure and chafing on the sensitive bits. No amount of riding ever overcomes that.
The first ride I ever did on a borrowed SMP Glider, my pelvic bones (ischiopubic ramus and points foreword) felt bruised after, but most important was that I didn't feel like my sensitive bits had been put through a grater. That's when I knew it would work for me and that it was worth putting up with a bit of soreness over those bones for a while until I adapted.
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Old 10-14-13, 01:16 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Rhodabike View Post
That's only true if the problem you have is with sore sit bones and nothing else. For many people, especially many women, sit bones don't even come into it. The problem is pressure and chafing on the sensitive bits. No amount of riding ever overcomes that.
Which is why you've got to make sure the saddle is wide enough so that you sit on your sitbones. When both sitbones are comfortably planted, there is significantly less pressure and chafing on the sensitive bits.
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Old 10-14-13, 10:38 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Which is why you've got to make sure the saddle is wide enough so that you sit on your sitbones. When both sitbones are comfortably planted, there is significantly less pressure and chafing on the sensitive bits.
The Glider is actually narrower than any previous saddle I've owned, it's the huge cutout and the shape that makes the difference. I could never have gotten away with this width on any other saddle. And believe me, in 30+ years of riding, I've tried a lot of saddles.
The myth of ischial tuberosities keeps a lot of people buying the wrong saddle. Unless you're riding bolt upright on a cruiser bike, this part of the pelvis rarely touches the saddle at all.
Fitter Steve Hogg has commented that the SMP "looks like it was designed by people who knew what they were doing". This relieved and grateful cyclist agrees whole-heartedly.
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Old 10-20-13, 08:37 PM
  #24  
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I love my moonsaddle very comfortable and no numbness
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Old 10-22-13, 06:34 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
I've ridden four 1200K randonnees on my diamond frame bicycles, using 2 different saddles ... and I've been comfortable. My butt was the least of my worries.

How far have you ridden on your recumbent?
In all my years on uprights, I was never able to find a saddle that was tolerable for more than 80 miles or so. By 100 I was always hurting, no matter how much acclimation time I had. Which is why I now ride bikes that don't use saddles. So, in my experience, saddle selection is mostly black magic. And for some, "tolerable" is achievable, but "comfort" is unattainable.

I've never wanted to do a 1200K randonee; but if I did, I wouldn't even consider using a bike with a saddle. Same for a cross-country tour.
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