This is the second part of our Bike Saddle blog series. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Part 1 here.
Many riders find the bike saddle to be one of the most unpleasant parts of the bicycle. They expect the bike saddle to be uncomfortable. But did you know you might actually be riding on the wrong saddle size? Just like shoes and helmets, bike saddles come in different sizes. Riding the wrong saddle size is not only uncomfortable, but you could also be doing damage to your nether region.
Saddles, like riders, come in many different sizes and shapes, and it’s important that you find one that’s wide enough to support your sit bones (otherwise known as your Ischial Tuberosities). When we are supported on our sit bones, we are resting our weight on structures that are meant to bear our weight. If you have ever sat on a saddle that was too narrow, more than likely your body weight was resting more on your perineum and other sensitive areas. This can restrict blood flow, which could cause numbness and other issues.
Specialized has been at the forefront of designing their saddles based on sit bone width. Most of their saddles are available in 3 or 4 different widths to fit a wide range of riders. They also make a sit bone measurement tool – or ‘Ass-O-Meter’ as we jokingly call it. It is a simple tool to make sure you are on a saddle that will support the actual width of your sit bones. Interestingly, there is no correlation between sit bone width and how big or tall you are which is why this measurement tool is so important.
Saddle widths are measured from edge to edge, so it’s important to check with the manufacturer to see what saddle width works with your measured sit bone width. If you are between sizes, we recommend choosing the wider saddle.
When center cut-outs in bicycle seats first started to appear, many thought they weren’t necessary, a gimmick, or just uncool. Dr. Minkow who developed the first Body Geometry saddle, medically tested the shape and position of the cut-out to come up with the first saddle that maintained blood flow to sensitive tissues while riding. This was revolutionary and ever since most saddle manufacturers offer some sort of cut-out on their saddle. The cut-out combined with the proper width saddle ensures most of your weight will be on the sit bones, and not on areas it shouldn’t be. After seeing the difference in comfort and fit, we always recommend saddles with cut-outs or relief channels.
As we highlighted on our Specialized Mimic blog, Specialized learned that cutouts aren’t necessarily the best solution for all riders. Riders who were born with a vagina can find that cutouts can actually cause MORE discomfort! Specialized Mimic Technology was developed to address this specific need in riders and it has been found to be life-changing for a lot of riders.
No matter which saddle you choose, it’s very important that the saddle is adjusted specifically for you. You could be on the most comfortable saddle in the world, but if it was not set correctly, it could still be a painful ride.
The most common issues we see are saddles that are adjusted too high, which puts extra pressure on your sit bones and can cause your hips to rock. Saddles that are positioned too far forward or too far back can have you riding on the wrong part of the saddle, causing discomfort, chafing, or extra pressure. And the tilt of the saddle is important; even a few degrees angled up or down can have you sliding or put extra pressure on sensitive areas, it’s always best to start with your saddle level and make minor tweaks to find the right position for you.
Make sure to read the third part of our Bike Saddle blog series where we talk about chamois cream and other ways to get your butt more comfortable on your bike.