The anatomy of the saddle and the importance of a good fit

T

he saddle –  the brunt of many a cyclists complaints & the shoulders of more than half a riders weight. Have you ever considered the type of saddle you ride and it’s suitability for your size, weight & riding style? Your flexibility, pelvic sizing, core strengths and weaknesses, as well as general body postural scheme are also hugely important in saddle choice. Riding a suitable saddle for you can be a complete game changer. From removing discomfort to eliminating numbness, chaffing & saddle sores, the correct saddle is the simple answer to helping you to enjoy the time you spend on the bike and hopefully help you to increase this.

When selecting a new saddle for your bike there are a number of factors to consider.

For starters it’s worth dispelling some of the simple myths that riders mention to us when looking at saddle, like; the more padding/softer the saddle the more comfortable it will be, and; carbon/titanium rails are there to make the saddle lighter. 

Let’s take a look at the actual anatomy of a bicycle saddle and see how different builds of saddle will change the level of comfort they offer.

Shapes

There are a number of different shapes of saddles on the market, there are curved saddles designed to help riders sit more firmly in a position and to allow/encourage more pelvic rotation, flat narrow saddles designed to allow the rider to mover around the saddle easier, thin saddles, long saddles, wide saddles… the list goes on.

There are different shapes of saddles for different body types and different users. For example the ischial tuberosities (sit bones) of women are generally wider then men leading them to require a wider saddle.

It’s important that you select the correct width of saddle to give yourself the correct amount of support. If you get too narrow a saddle you may find you have too much pressure on the soft tissue instead of your sit bones. Too wide a saddle will often lead to chaffing on the upper inside leg.

Cutouts

Another important feature you may have seen in a number of saddles is the size of the hole, or lack of, in the saddle. This is call the cutout. Generally speaking Saddles with cutouts work best for 80% of riders. This is achieved by shifting more pressure from the soft tissue to the sit bones when the rider is in a position on the bike where pelvic rotation is present. If you are more flexible you may achieve more pelvic rotation on the bike, potentially pressing more soft tissue into the saddle, in this instance a larger cutout will be more desirable, if you are less flexible a smaller cutout will be required.

Padding

The amount, density and placement of foam/padding is an important part of it’s composition. Saddle brands use a number of different fillings for their saddles including, urethane foams & polymer gels. On most road saddles, a different combination and density of foams/gels will be used  to try to help increase the riders comfort in the high pressure areas.

Foam padding is good for dispersing a focused pressure point over a larger area, however if this foam is overly thick or too soft it can deform & disperse to areas you don’t want it to, creating higher pressure on soft tissue.

Generally speaking, adding more padding is not the secret to making a saddle more comfortable. If you have selected the correct shape & style of saddle for your size, shape and flexibility and then positions that saddle correctly on your bike, it can have fairly minimal padding and still be incredibly comfortable.

Materials

The final part of the saddle to consider is the materials used for the rails and shell. These can span from chromoly saddle rails and resin bases to titanium/carbon rails and carbon bases.

Titanium rails are a great solution to add more comfort to a saddle as by it’s nature, titanium is very elastic and allows a lot of vibration absorption, It’s also very light. Carbon bases to the saddle can also help with reducing vibrations whilst also keeping the saddle firm and helping it to hold its shape under your weight.

How can we help?

Research in the saddle area has historically been slow compared to areas like carbon development etc. however, a number of tools have become available recently that will really help you drill into the best saddle to suit your needs.

We’ve invested in Selle Italia ID Match, Bontrager pressure testing and also in Gebiomized’s saddle pressure mapping systems to offer you a comprehensive solution in finding the perfect saddle for you. Along with the 30 day money back guarantee offered on many of our saddles you just need to book an appointment with us to get yourself fitted to your next throne.

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