Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Touring
Reload this Page >

Saddle Question (hard vs. soft)

Notices
Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

Saddle Question (hard vs. soft)

Old 06-01-21, 08:59 AM
  #1  
Noonievut
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 661
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 148 Post(s)
Liked 46 Times in 36 Posts
Saddle Question (hard vs. soft)

I know saddles are very personal and YMMV. However, I had what I consider to be a more general question...we'll see ;-)

I've been riding for over 15 years, road and gravel, and average 4-5 rides a week, 1-3 hours per ride. I've had numerous saddles before, and currently have Selle SMP. I had a professional bike fitting last year, using this saddle, and I'm generally happy. I don't have any numbness or sore bits below. Although on longer rides (4hrs or so), I often get what I would describe as sore sit bones. The skin is fine, no redness or chafing marks. I use good bib shorts and chamois cream. I'm wondering if a firmer saddle (leather), would be a mircale cure for me for those longer rides. I don't think so, but I'm curious as to whether firmer (hard) saddles that don't have padding, like Brooks (which I've used) and Selle Anatomica, might be the ticket.

Last edited by Noonievut; 06-01-21 at 12:24 PM. Reason: spelling
Noonievut is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 09:14 AM
  #2  
headwind15
Bikeable
 
headwind15's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 236
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 120 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 64 Times in 45 Posts
I have been a cyclist since the mid 70's, and the time the I ended up with sore sit bones was the time that I was tandeming and spent way too much time in the seat, and not enough off of it. A different seat honestly would have not made any difference. It was simpily operator error. In other words get off your butt. I used to live in Tucson, and used to ride Mt Lemon all of the time. For that climb I learned to count my pedal revolutions, and at regular intervals, I spend time out of the saddle.
headwind15 is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 11:22 AM
  #3  
phughes
Senior Member
 
phughes's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 2,197
Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 629 Post(s)
Liked 578 Times in 344 Posts
Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
I know saaddles are very personal and YMMV. However, I had what I consider to be a more general question...we'll see ;-)

I've been riding for over 15 years, road and gravel, and average 4-5 rides a week, 1-3 hours per ride. I've had numerous saddles before, and currently have Selle SMP. I had a professional bike fitting last year, using this saddle, and I'm generally happy. I don't have any numbness or sore bits below. Although on longer rides (4hrs or so), I often get what I would describe as sore sit bones. The skin is fine, no redness or chafing marks. I use good bib shorts and chamois cream. I'm wondering if a firmer saddle (leather), would be a mircale cure for me for those longer rides. I don't think so, but I'm curious as to whether firmer (hard) saddles that don't have padding, like Brooks (which I've used) and Selle Anatomica, might be the ticket.
IN reality, once broke in, the leather saddle would actually be less firm than the Selle SMP. THe SMP has a much harder base, which will not give, so once the cover/cushion is compressed, it is hard. The leather saddle will flex. Whether or not a leather saddle will work for you personally is something you would have to investigate.
phughes is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 12:08 PM
  #4  
andrewclaus
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Golden, CO and Tucson, AZ
Posts: 2,257

Bikes: 2016 Fuji Tread, 1983 Trek 520

Mentioned: 13 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 487 Post(s)
Liked 254 Times in 182 Posts
My last multi-month tour I used the Selle Italia, leather over firm padding. I wore that out, now I'm using a Selle Anatomica. I haven't ridden multiple months on it yet, but won't hesitate to do so. It's pretty nice so far. It's colder in winter, if that's a concern, but cooler is generally a good idea. I use lined shorts, not padded. I've never been a fan of padded shorts or saddles. I get more skin issues with soft padding.
andrewclaus is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 12:32 PM
  #5  
Noonievut
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 661
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 148 Post(s)
Liked 46 Times in 36 Posts
Originally Posted by phughes View Post
IN reality, once broke in, the leather saddle would actually be less firm than the Selle SMP. THe SMP has a much harder base, which will not give, so once the cover/cushion is compressed, it is hard. The leather saddle will flex. Whether or not a leather saddle will work for you personally is something you would have to investigate.
I understand what you're saying; however, and maybe I should re-phrase my question, what about what's happening in the rump when I compress the cover/cushion and get to the firmer part of the Selle SMP saddle, could that be the issue? When I've used Brooks, I recall a feeling of 'not sinking' into the saddle, just resting on top of it.

Thing I like about the Selle SMP is the size of the channel/cut-out and how it seems to be helping me avoid any issues down below (I had some previously, maybe not from the type of saddle but fact that I hadn't stretched certain pelvic floor muscles...ever). Whereas the B17's I have, when positioned well for my sit bones, had the nose sticking upwards and without a cut out may have been an issue for me. I won't go back to that saddle, but I'm curious about leather saddles that do not have padding, have a cut out and where the centre of the saddle through to the nose sit lower, but without encouraging a slide forward (the Selle SMP checks all of those boxes, minus the soft padding...which isn't actually that much padding).
Noonievut is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 12:42 PM
  #6  
phughes
Senior Member
 
phughes's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 2,197
Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 629 Post(s)
Liked 578 Times in 344 Posts
Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
I understand what you're saying; however, and maybe I should re-phrase my question, what about what's happening in the rump when I compress the cover/cushion and get to the firmer part of the Selle SMP saddle, could that be the issue? When I've used Brooks, I recall a feeling of 'not sinking' into the saddle, just resting on top of it.

Thing I like about the Selle SMP is the size of the channel/cut-out and how it seems to be helping me avoid any issues down below (I had some previously, maybe not from the type of saddle but fact that I hadn't stretched certain pelvic floor muscles...ever). Whereas the B17's I have, when positioned well for my sit bones, had the nose sticking upwards and without a cut out may have been an issue for me. I won't go back to that saddle, but I'm curious about leather saddles that do not have padding, have a cut out and where the centre of the saddle through to the nose sit lower, but without encouraging a slide forward (the Selle SMP checks all of those boxes, minus the soft padding...which isn't actually that much padding).
That is how I understood what is happening to you. There is no flex to the base of your existing saddle, or at least, very little. Once the padding is compressed, it is hard. The leather saddle will give, so for me, they are more comfortable.

As for pain, I assume you are referring to perineum pain. That is usually a fit issue. I had the issue badly, until I followed the advice of Steve Hogg, and BikefitJames, and lowered my seat. Once I got the seat setback correct for me, and the saddle height correct, all pain went away. I also do not have to run the nose of the saddle high. If the position is correct, height and setback, you won't be sliding forward.
phughes is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 01:09 PM
  #7  
Tourist in MSN
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 8,658

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 38 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2432 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 653 Times in 533 Posts
Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
... I'm wondering if a firmer saddle (leather), would be a mircale cure for me for those longer rides. I don't think so, but I'm curious as to whether firmer (hard) saddles that don't have padding, like Brooks (which I've used) and Selle Anatomica, might be the ticket.
I do not really understand, you say you have used a Brooks, but you are wondering if you should try leather. Was the Brooks a leather one or not? Or, was it so long ago you do not recall?

I only use leather saddles, started using leather half a century ago. And for several decades have only used Brooks, mostly Conquests, a Pro on my road bike, and on my indoor trainer bike have a B17. Exception: my errand bike is not leather and am never on that bike longer than a half hour.

Leather will conform over time to your butt shape. My sitbones have left depressions in the leather. That might be what you are looking for.

I tried a C17, it was like a medieval torture device after 20 miles, sit bones were very painful because the saddle did not give well enough. That said, I know several randonneurs that ride the Brooks Cambium saddles and they like them. But I need the leather that will allow depressions to form below sit bones. The C17 is now on my errand bike, short rides are not too painful.

Keep in mind that there are different Brooks models and shapes and widths. If you have a saddle with the shape and width you like, take that saddle to the store to compare to other saddles you look at.

Leather has other concerns, like do not ride it when wet, carry a saddle cover. Needs occasional leather treatment. I suspect that you will not want to put any leather treatment on it initially, that way it can conform to your shape faster, once you apply treatment it does not change shape much after that.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 01:37 PM
  #8  
Noonievut
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 661
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 148 Post(s)
Liked 46 Times in 36 Posts
Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I do not really understand, you say you have used a Brooks, but you are wondering if you should try leather. Was the Brooks a leather one or not? Or, was it so long ago you do not recall?
Hi - the Brooks was leather, and that was 10 years ago (so I really can't recall).
Noonievut is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 02:16 PM
  #9  
Tourist in MSN
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 8,658

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 38 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2432 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 653 Times in 533 Posts
Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
Hi - the Brooks was leather, and that was 10 years ago (so I really can't recall).
If it was bad, you would remember it. So, it was either average or above average, that is easier to forget.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 02:56 PM
  #10  
philbob57
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Chicago North Shore
Posts: 1,861

Bikes: frankenbike based on MKM frame

Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 545 Post(s)
Liked 318 Times in 196 Posts
Which SMP saddle do you use? They make seats with different levels of padding.

The SMP approach actually aims to have the pubic nerve and artery lie where the groove is and the soft bits (male or female) hang out over the nose. That prevents pressure on the nerve, artery, and soft bits and thereby prevents numbness and other pain. (To confirm this, check the patent application, which contains an illustration of exactly this point.)

I don't understand why Brooks-type leather saddles work. When they're new, the rider sits on the leather. The bones keep the soft tissue above the seat, so there's little to no pressure. But as butt and saddle break in, the rider's bones and weight create depressions in the leather, so there's the potential for pressure to hit the soft tissues. And yet the Brooks-type seats clearly work well for a lot of people.

A Brooks Imperial (with a cutout), which was invented over 100 years ago, was the best saddle I tried before the SMP, but it was not good. Even a Selle SMP TRK, which has lots of padding, is much better for me. I tried a harder SMP, but it was too long for me, so I went back to the TRK.

With bike seats, I suspect current theory just doesn't match reality. We need better theories. Until we develop them, I think each of us needs to keep trying until we find what works for us.
philbob57 is offline  
Old 06-01-21, 03:01 PM
  #11  
Noonievut
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 661
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 148 Post(s)
Liked 46 Times in 36 Posts
Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
Which SMP saddle do you use? They make seats with different levels of padding.

The SMP approach actually aims to have the pubic nerve and artery lie where the groove is and the soft bits (male or female) hang out over the nose. That prevents presure on the nerve, artery, and soft bits and thereby prevents numbness and other pain. (To confirm this, check the patent application, which contans an illustration of exactly this point.)

I don't understand why Brooks-type leather saddles work. When they're new, the rider sits on the leather. The bones keep the soft tissue above the seat, so there's little to no pressure. But as butt and saddle break in, the rider's bones and weight create depressions in the leather, so there's the potential for pressure to hit the soft tissues. And yet the Brooks-type seats clearly work well for a lot of people.

A Brooks Imperial (with a cutout), which was invented over 100 years ago, was the best saddle I tried, but it was not good. Even a Selle SMP TRK, which has lots of padding, is much better for me. I tried a harder SMP, but it was too long for me, so I wen back to the TRK.

With bike seats, I suspect current theory just doesn't match reality. We need better theories. Until we develop them, I think each of us needs to keep trying until we find what works for us.
The SMP Well.

I have them on both bikes and I really shouldn’t complain. Been using them for 1.5 years and they work well for me...I think my recent issue (sore sit bones) was simply down to riding a little longer than normal, probably not standing enough (happens on rail trails), and the warmer weather (I prefer cooler temps for riding). Most importantly, the SMP is working in every other way...so I’m done pondering and will get back to riding
Noonievut is offline  
Old 06-02-21, 03:02 AM
  #12  
elcruxio
Senior Member
 
elcruxio's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Turku, Finland, Europe
Posts: 2,002

Bikes: 2011 Specialized crux comp, 2013 Specialized Rockhopper Pro

Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 442 Post(s)
Liked 57 Times in 44 Posts
Well that was a quick ponder.

But for the others considering the same thing, sit bone pain in relation to padding usually occurs due to two reasons. If you have too little padding, the sit bone will press through it against the hard shell of the saddle, which can cause pain. This can be alleviated with more surface area contact. Selle SMP saddles are shaped in such a way that you can have quite a bit of surface area contact with the saddle. Some SMP saddles don't have padding at all, just a hard carbon fiber shell. Pain because of too little padding is typically somewhat sharp and usually pretty well localized.

The other type of padding related pain is due to too much padding where the padding conforms around the sit bone but there's too much material pressing against the soft tissues. Ie. the sit bones sink too deep into the padding material. This deprives the affected tissues of blood flow and oxygen. The pain related to too much padding is also fairly well localized, but can reflect to areas around the affected area and is usually a dull aching type of pain.

But the tricky part is that the dull aching pain and the sharp pain can feel exactly the same for some people. Trying to differentiate between various types of pain and their causes can be difficult.

However in the context of Selle SMP and especially the Well, it is highly unlikely that there is too much padding on the saddle. While it is the lower end type of saddle they make, the standard Well is pretty thinly padded and the padding that's there is of a fairly loose variety, so I doubt too much padding is the issue. Other lower end SMP saddles usually a lot more padding, but even then it's pretty loose stuff so they're more likely to cause chafing rather than blood flow issues.

I used to ride the Selle SMP Dynamic and had the issues you describe BUT the pain was the dull achy type I've had with too padded saddles. I was sceptical of the Dynamic having too much padding and so I went the other way and got a Drakon, which is the more padded version of the Dynamic. The pain disappeared and on my last 100k ride the saddle was the last thing I thought about. Then again it turns out I had a pretty badly herniated disc in my neck which kept my attention during the ride but still, no saddle issues whatsoever.
elcruxio is offline  
Likes For elcruxio:
Old 06-02-21, 03:32 AM
  #13  
Tourist in MSN
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 8,658

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 38 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2432 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 653 Times in 533 Posts
Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
...
... for the others considering the same thing, sit bone pain in relation to padding usually occurs due to two reasons. If you have too little padding, the sit bone will press through it against the hard shell of the saddle, which can cause pain. This can be alleviated with more surface area contact. Selle SMP saddles are shaped in such a way that you can have quite a bit of surface area contact with the saddle. Some SMP saddles don't have padding at all, just a hard carbon fiber shell. Pain because of too little padding is typically somewhat sharp and usually pretty well localized.

The other type of padding related pain is due to too much padding where the padding conforms around the sit bone but there's too much material pressing against the soft tissues. Ie. the sit bones sink too deep into the padding material. This deprives the affected tissues of blood flow and oxygen. The pain related to too much padding is also fairly well localized, but can reflect to areas around the affected area and is usually a dull aching type of pain.

But the tricky part is that the dull aching pain and the sharp pain can feel exactly the same for some people. Trying to differentiate between various types of pain and their causes can be difficult.
...
Very well said. Totally agree.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 06-13-21, 01:11 PM
  #14  
LynxTheWizard
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 49
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3 Post(s)
Liked 6 Times in 6 Posts
All the issues I've ever had were because of padding (shorts or saddle). For more than 10 yrs I'm riding unpadded leather saddles,never wearpadded shorts or pants and have never had issues since.
LynxTheWizard is offline  
Old 06-17-21, 08:04 AM
  #15  
ClydeClydeson
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 994
Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 339 Post(s)
Liked 477 Times in 288 Posts
IMO In order of importance:

1. Correct shape/width for your arse
2.
3.


...
24. Thin, firm padding
ClydeClydeson is offline  
Old 06-17-21, 07:15 PM
  #16  
tcs
Palmer
 
tcs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 6,675

Bikes: 1980 Mike Melton, 1982 Stumpjumper, 1982 Santana, 1984 Alex Moulton AM, 2008 BikeFriday tikit T-♾, 2010 Dawes Briercliffe, 2017 Dahon Curl i8, 2019 Surly ˝DT14, 2021 Motobecane Turino 1x12

Mentioned: 28 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 869 Post(s)
Liked 456 Times in 275 Posts
"This is an imperfect world of joy and sorrow mingled. There may be a better land where bicycle saddles are made out of rainbow, stuffed with cloud; in this world the simplest thing is to get used to something hard." - Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome, 1900.
tcs is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2021 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.