Cycling is often quantified by strength, distance and speed achieved which is really summarized by time in the saddle. Having a poor fitting saddle reduces the ability to perform consistently the longer the time the greater risk of discomfort. This is one of the biggest factors of encouraging new cyclists that have had an experience of an ill fitting saddle in the past.
The saddle is one of the most important parts of the bike that affects the rider’s enjoyment and even fit, yet it is often overlooked in the quest for performance. More and more science is coming into the cycling industry, and saddle technology is one of the biggest beneficiaries.
A few bike companies are investing heavily in product development and science to ensure the average rider has access to the right saddle and therefore the best experience possible while riding their favourite two-wheel transport. Recent studies on subjects like sit bone widths, blood flow, and pressure mapping are changing the shapes, materials, and sizes of saddle dramatically.
As we choose a saddle we naturally seek comfort first and foremost. Past studies and even recent evidence shows that most designs compromise blood flow in men and create undue soft tissue pressure in women. The golden solution is finding the saddle that meets the rider’s expectations in comfort, but also addresses the sometimes invisible medical challenges that saddles present.
Dr Roger Minkow, working with Specialized, pioneered the live blood flow tests, showing conclusively that most saddles, with their dome-shaped rear sections press on the perineum, therefore shutting off healthy blood levels in penile tissue which can lead to sexual dysfunctions later in life. For women, the shapes of the saddles presented a very challenging process of finding the one that fit their shapes the best, offering enough comfort to be able to enjoy their ride.
Test rides are not on offer in many local retailers, so the exhausting process of getting it right has led to many women dropping cycling altogether. Recent designs, like the Body Geometry saddles from Specialized address this by creating a saddle design that repositions the weight of the rider onto the sit bones instead of the perineum.
The sit bones (ischial tuberosities) offer more structural support for the human body, and are actually designed to support body weight. The firm, flat seating area on the BG saddles properly fit the rider, but present another challenge: no two riders have the same distance between their sit bones. Common, visual cues offer no indications of this individual trait, so innovative ways to measure the rider’s sit bone width have been incorporated into the process of choosing a saddle, like the memory foam tool Specialized has designed, commonly (and quite humorously) referred to as the “assometer”.
Armed with this anatomical number, a rider can more accurately choose between 3 different width saddles within the same model. The quite prominent V-shape on the saddles further prevent additional pressure on the perineum, and allow the rider to rock forward onto the bike in a lower position.
Women’s saddles require a slightly more sculpted “V” as to reduce sharp edges in the foam base and reduce any undue pressure in the soft tissue areas. The cool part in all this technology and research is that the everyday cyclist gets to benefit.
Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing