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Saddle characteristics.

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Saddle characteristics.

Old 06-20-13, 11:43 PM
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Saddle characteristics.

I am thinking about getting a new saddle for my bike and have been reading lots and lots of reviews - unfortunately, I live in Thailand where there is no return policy so I can not go out and demo saddles.

I would like your opinions on saddle construction, width, and cushioning on those effects on riding - I usually ride 60-70 miles, about half the time in the drops, at 18-20 mph average speed, and weigh about 190 lbs. I have not had saddle problems with the three saddles that I have ridden thus far.

What started this idea was a little write-up in Wiggle suggesting that wider+softer saddles are more comfortable for short to medium length rides (probably up to 2-3 hours or 50 miles) because there is better support and more cushioning while narrower+firmer saddles are more comfortable for longer rides (probably 4+ hours or 80+ miles) because the extra cushioning will start to bunch up and focus the pressure to the soft tissue and the wider saddle will start to rub against the inner thighs and alter the hip movement. This seems to correspond to what Selle SMP and Selle Anatomica describes. Well, the width is an open issue since our sit bones are not points but rounded bone structures surround by tissue. I have enough gross anatomy knowledge to believe that a difference in saddle width of 0.5 cm on both sides of the sit bones probably does not have a major impact. Thus, there might not be as much difference between a 130 mm and 140 mm wide saddle as we might believe. Anyway, I digress.

There seems to be different concepts in saddle construction:
1) some use a flat or curved top with no cut-out and varying degrees of cushioning foams like the Alliante, Specialized, Selle Italia no flow,
2) some use a flat or curved top with a cut-out with a firm structure and varying degrees of cushioning foams like Specialized Romin and Selle SMP,
3) some use a flat top with a cut-out and a slightly flexible structure to get the hammock effect but with minimal cushioning like Brooks brothers, Selle Anatomica, Selle Italia SLR Flow (EVA foam), Super Flow series (EVA foam)
4) some use a flat top with a cut-out and slightly flexible structure to get the hammock effect and more cushioning like the Selle Italia Flite Gel flow (soft gel) and SL Flow (Perfect Fit foam).

For me,

The 143 mm wide and softer Fizik Alliante was great for the first two years (5000 miles) but not so much after. I think that is due to the cushioning starting to deform and the saddle is a bit uncomfortable for the first 10 miles as I adjust, then fine for the next 50 miles, and then starts to get uncomfortable for over 70 miles. But, I usually stop after 70 miles. The inside of my thighs are just starting to get slightly tender but I am able to ride two consecutive 70 miles on the saddle over the weekend. I am equally tired all over for century rides but can do short 50 mile recovery rides the next day.

The 143 mm wide Selle Italia XC Flow, with a narrower cut-out (that also acts as a hammock) and less padding than the Alliante, is comfortable right from the beginning up to about 60 miles but then starts to get uncomfortable after 70 miles as the inside of my thighs start to get slightly tender. However, I have not ridden it enough (only 1000 miles) but my backside feels better after century rides on this saddle. But, this might also be due to the larger 25c tires that are on that bike.

The 139 mm wide Selle SMP Lite 209, with a wider cut-out and firmer structure than the Selle Italia and less cushioning than the Aliante, is great so far also but I have not ridden it for more than 50 miles yet. And, I have only ridden it for 500 miles. Though, my friend warns me his Selle SMP Lite 209 also was great the first two years and then went downhill as the cushioning deformed.

I think I like the cut out concept of the Selle SMP and Selle Italia flow saddles but am unsure about his cushioning deforming effect and what cut-out size I like.

For my next saddle, I trying to decide between the 130 mm wide Selle Italia Super Flow saddle (wide cut-out with firm EVA foam) or the 130 mm Selle Italia SLR XC flow (narrow cut-out but with softer Perfect fit foam). Or, do you think that I should stick to 140 mm saddles? Specialized seems to think so.


Last edited by MarkThailand; 06-20-13 at 11:49 PM. Reason: Grammar
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Old 06-21-13, 09:12 AM
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If you haven't had saddle problems before, I wouldn't overthink it. Buy another one of the ones you've already had, or one built like it. You may be one of the lucky people who doesn't have a very picky butt/crotch. If so, you don't need to worry too much about these details.
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Old 06-21-13, 10:04 AM
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Saddles are the a big mystery to me. I was struggling quite a bit like over wanting to sure I'm getting something I would enjoy, but it's so hard without actually trying it out. I ended up with a Specialized Toupé and love it. Only other saddle I'd ridden was the crummy stock saddle tho.

Here is a fairly big article all about saddles. Good luck to you!

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