Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Saddle Chat

This is a repost from my blog. For those of you who have already read it, sorry for the repeat.

There's tons of research regarding the preferred saddle type that pulls in every direction. Some say cutaways or noseless are the way to go as they are designed to relieve pressure in sensitive areas. Others say standard saddles work best as the pressure is uniform. It really all boils down to personal preference and what works for you.

Right now I have a cutaway which I'm sure would be comfortable if my bike was the appropriate fit (the top tube is too long which leads to over-extension and poor saddle position). Prior to this saddle I had the standard saddle that came with my Felt S32 which was not comfortable for longer rides.

Gel seat covers should be avoided as they end up putting more pressure in the soft spots. The sit bones push the gel forward instead of cushioning the area, doing exactly what you don't want it to do, creating more discomfort. An uncomfortable seat could be due to too much padding or not enough support in the right areas.

Cycling technique can be the root cause of crotch discomfort rather than saddle. Some useful techniques to reduce crotch pressure while cycling:
  • Ensure your saddle is roughly horizontally aligned, or only slightly nose up. The nose too upwards aligned will directly increase the perineum pressure, while a downwards alignment will reduce the sit bone support of your pelvis, again resulting in an increased perineum pressure.
  • Make it a habit to stand up occasionally, such as on hills and when accelerating if you have stopped cycling or slowed down.
  • Adjust how you sit from time to time. For example, try to sit closer to the rear when cycling on hills and only sit on the nose for brief periods.
  • Try to sit up now and then without leaning forward as much.

Other tips to relieve pain:

  • Chamois cream. I'm a fan of Assos but there are a ton of other varieties on the market.
    Upgrade to a suspension seat post if you're taking a beating on your rides. These posts provide an inch or so of travel and help to soften the blow.
  • Ride more. The more time you spend in the saddle, the more you condition your body to take it. Sounds counter-intuative but works.
  • Always ride in clean shorts and spend money on quality pairs. The nicer shorts are more expensive for a reason. More padding, better design.

And finally, seat fit measurement for a road bike:

  • Make sure there is proper leg extension between the saddle and the pedals. Place your heels on the pedals and adjust the saddle height so that your legs are fully extended on the down stroke, yet your hips don't rock as you pedal.
  • The horizontal tilt of the saddle fits your riding style and integrates with the other fit factors. You're going to feel different pressure depending on where you're resting on the handlebars. Adjust the tilt to be most comfortable in the position that you ride most. See first bullet point under cycling technique.
  • Make sure the distance between the saddle and the handlebars is proper. Check this by placing your hands on the brake hoods and looking down through the center of the handlebar which should obscure the front hub. If the handlebar is ahead of the hub, you are more aerodynamic, and if it's behind, you should be more comfortable. Adjust bar reach by moving saddle forward or back and/or swapping stems. If you weigh over 250 pounds, you must attach the seat post clamp at least 1 inch from the most forward position on the frame.
  • The height of the handlebars in relation to the saddle provides for the proper angle to minimize shoulder and arm stress. Set the handlebars lower than saddle height to be more aerodynamic (Very hard to do with any noseless saddle), and level with or higher than saddle height to be more comfortable.)

To all the experts out there, please comment if you have any other advice or tips. I for one, would love to hear it.

1 comment:

Tuco said...

I've never had a great saddle, and think I've just made myself get used to the saddles on the different bikes I've owned the last couple years. Around 2004, worried about my boy parts, I bought a Koobi saddle with the cut out down the middle. After trying it for a few months I decided that it was too uncomfortable and I sold it, and went back to the cheap KHS saddle that had come with a $500.00 road bike.