Blogs tagged with "saddle"

It's been six days since I brought three bike saddles home to test (read the blog article). Cold and snow has forced me to do all my rides on the trainer -- at the very least, it gives me a consistent riding position for evaluating fit and comfort. I rode each saddle at least once and I am beginning to understand why this process is so hard (finding the right one). I was convinced that the Profile Design Air Stryke would be the saddle I liked least. Despite its well-cushioned wide nose and generous cutout, its width ensured that my sit bones would almost never come in contact with the saddle. The other two saddles -- the Fi'zi:k Arione and the Felt 3.3 -- had a much wider profile in the rear. Like other tri-specific saddles, they were also slightly wider, longer and flatter in the nose region, but neither had a cut out or cushioning like the Air Stryke.

In order to make a fair evaluation, I know I should ride each saddle more than once. Most saddles cause grief on the first ride -- after all, it's a very sensitive area, there's skin and soft tissue and bone -- and that's the WOMEN we're talking about. I can't even imagine what the MEN have to deal with. I decided to start with the saddle that would cause me the most anguish both mentally (because it looks like the perfect tri saddle) and physically (because of my anatomy) - the Air Stryke.
Test ride 1: After about 50 minutes of steady riding with constant adjusting, I was not happy with the Air Stryke -- mostly because of the rear/butt region. The cushioning was nice, but it wasn't nearly as comfortable as it looked. I swapped it for the Felt before I finished my first test ride. Ahhhh, ten minutes on the Felt saddle eased the pain.
Test ride 2: After one hour on the Felt, it was no longer comfortable. I tried to stay mostly in the aero position on this ride. After about 40 minutes, the cushioning on the Felt had become a non-entity. It has a better fit in my sit bone region, but that's useless if the aero position is uncomfortable. In an Ironman, I am in this position for five to six hours.
Test ride 3: After one hour on the Fi'zi:k, I now know what the word "burn" means when used in conjunction with describing saddle pain. For me, this saddle has no endearing qualities -- too bad it looks so nice. The cushioning is about equal to the Felt, and, although it looks flat, I feel there's a slight convex contour that runs longitudinally down the center of the saddle. My crotch was on fire by the time I finished the ride.
Test ride 4: My old saddle was now beckoning to me from the shelf. I resisted and switched back to the Air Stryke. What a difference three rides makes. Now, the Air Stryke is my favorite of the three. The cushioning is just what I need to remain in the aero position for long periods of time, and I've decided that I love having a generous cushioned cutout. What worries me is what will happen on rides when I can't stay in the aero position and my sit bones need a place to... em... sit.
So, should I keep looking? I remembered there are other saddles that resemble the Air Stryke. Maybe their contour is different or they come in a women's-specific version (read: wider rear). I went to Google, again, and researched tri-specific saddles. Based on reviews, I found the following of interest: the Forté T1 Tri Saddle, two from Selle San Marco, the Aspide and the Arrowhead Gelaround (which looks a LOT like my Arami), and the Adamo from Blackwell Research.
I'll ride what I have a few more times to finish my evaluation. I feel I need a few more data points. Currently, the Air Stryke would be my choice, but it's definitely not perfect. At least I have narrowed down features that work for me. Feel free to offer advice - it's always welcome, here or on Twitter (@junglejeanne).

When I found out there was a device that helps size bike saddles by measuring the distance between your sit bones, I thought: "how ingenius!" When I found out that it was affectionately referred to as the "butt-o-meter," I thought: "how embarrassing!" But my fear of pain overcame my fear of knowing my butt size, and I made my way (at the owner's request) to Bike Authority in Broadview Heights to get the dreaded measurement and discuss bike saddles with the people who know best.

As a background, before I went to Bike Authority, I read about triathlon-specific saddles in order to sound educated. The best resource I found was Bikesport Michigan's Review of Eight Tri Saddles. I already had my eye on the Profile Design Tri Stryke. I added the Blackwell Flow to my list (because it was recommended as the best of the eight for women). I also went to the Fi'zi:k Web Site (fun stuff! It asks you to determine which animal you are, leading to choice of saddle). I also noticed a new tri-specific Terry women's saddle (the TRX Gel) but could not find a single review of it. I noticed two major differences between women's and men's saddles: women's saddles are slightly wider to accommodate a (typically) wider pelvis, and positioning of the cut-outs or padding may be different. I gathered other info on tri saddles from these sites: Beginner Triathlete's Selecting the Right Saddle and Coach Tony's Triathlon Bike Fit: Saddle Selection.
Enter the Butt-o-meter. It's a device made by Bontrager for choosing their bike saddles based on measurement. It's a bench with a very thin plastic insert that has thick opaque gel-like-substance inside. When you sit on it, your sit bones make an impression and you can see through to a color-coded measuring plate underneath. I couldn't help but think it was a mood-ring version of the Etch-a-Sketch. The color determines your saddle size. My saddle measurement was 150 mm and my sit bones were approximately 135 mm apart.

So, yeah, I did it, I sat on the butt-o-meter (photo at left), but what if I don't want a Bontrager saddle? They only make one tri saddle anyway and it's not butt-o-meter sized. What now? What I found out from Mike at Bike Authority is what I read in many online resources: butt size doesn't mean diddly. It's a good starting point (and ice breaker!), but bike saddle fit has more to do with personal riding style than your anatomy. What matters most is how you position yourself on the bike and where your pressure points are. My current saddle, the Selle San Marco "Arami," was great until this year when I changed my aero position on the bike. My saddle is now positioned more forward and my handlebars are dropped so my pelvis tilts forward and I'm almost lying on the nose of the saddle. The Arami was great for a more upright position ON my sit bones, but with stitching right down the middle and a narrow nose with very little padding, it is now wreaking havoc. Although I do love the position of the cut-out, something I didn't see on all tri saddles.
On to the hard part(s): saddle choice, cost, and satisfaction. Today I am reminded of the value of having a good relationship with a local bike shop. Not only do they not laugh at you when you ask them to measure your derriere, they don't sell you something just to get the sale. Mike generously sent me home with three different saddles to try: the Tri Stryke mentioned above (which, because of narrow contour, doesn't have a chance in hell of fitting my sit bones), the Fi'zi:k Arione (the same one recommended by Fi'zi:k on their site-o-meter and a standard on many tri bikes), and a Felt saddle that had a similar contour to my San Marco but a wider and flatter nose. My job now is to ride and decide (on one or none). I will blog my evaluation in a few weeks. Photos below.
Photos:
L-R: Fi'zi:k Arione, Felt 3.3 tri saddle, and Selle San Marco Arami (6 years old):
The Profile Design Tri Stryke on my Cannondale IM 5000:

Yeah, yeah, I should be consulting with professionals when I start messing with my bike angles. But, because bike fit usually costs at least $100, and, unlike many triathletes, I do not have gobs of disposable income, I started reading online articles. Articles like these ones: Peter White Cycles - How to Fit a Bicycle, The Effect of Body Configuration on Cycling Performance (PDF), and Slowtwitch.com's Proper Fit for Triathletes. The result of all my reading and looking at photos did one thing -- convince me that paying for bike setup is not necessarily the answer because everyone's body is different. Even if I paid for a fitting, I might have to change or tweak the configuration because of my own biomechanical issues.

So I started tweaking on my own. Seat higher... aero bars lower... seat more forward. The result? Once I found a comfortable position, I also found that I am sitting more forward on the seat, which is what I've always noticed in photos of most triathletes. (I always wondered why photos of me never look that way.)
The overall effect? I might be a little faster. The test? A 55-mile hilly ride yesterday. The result? Average speed 19+ mph for the whole ride, new PR's at all check points, and the ability to hold 23-25 mph on the flat sections comfortably without any additional aches and pains in my legs. A short run after my ride also proved no new issues with the configuration change and only a slight nagging from my (problem) hip joint. The downside? I probably need to spend a little cash on a new bike saddle because my pelvic bone is screaming at me in the new position.
Any advice on a new saddle is welcome. As much as I love my old one (the Selle San Marco Arami, see photo), I'm thinking I need one of those tri saddles: the Selle San Marco Apside or Azoto or the Profile Design Tri Stryke -- basically, the ones with the massive gel padding in the nose. If I can balance on it without pain, that would definitely be a good use of that $100.

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