Many people who come to me for a bike fit have questions or complaints about their current saddle. This makes sense, as the saddle is a primary contact point between the rider and their bike.
How can you know whether you have the “right” saddle for you? Well, there are two components to the answer: first and foremost, it’s essential to have a relatively good bike fit; then second, it’s vital to be on a saddle that works for your body and riding style. Unless you are relatively close in your fit, you won’t be able to properly evaluate your saddle choice, because even the right saddle won’t feel good until that saddle is close to the correct position in space on your bike.
When I work with an athlete for a bike fit, one of the very first pieces I evaluate is the width of their “sitz bones” (ischial tuberosity for those more technically inclined). There is a strong relationship between sitz bone width and needed saddle width. Without a properly wide saddle, riders end up rocking side to side on the bike, which negatively impacts pedal stroke, and can make the saddle seem uncomfortable. The majority of stock saddles are too narrow for most riders, therefore, I will frequently start a rider on a wider saddle to stabilize the pelvis when pedaling.
After a properly wide saddle is chosen, the fit process continues by setting the saddle height and fore/aft position. Once that is in place, I then ask the athlete to start giving me feedback about how the saddle feels. Based on that feedback, and refinements to the saddle position, I can make a customized saddle selection.
Interestingly, more and more often I’ve found cyclists riding better on Specialized’s new “Power” saddle. Design and technology continuously evolve, and this is an amalgam saddle that can effectively be used for road bike, time trial, and triathlon riding. It is a much shorter saddle than typical, with a somewhat wider primary seat area. The net effect of its shape is that it allows the pelvis to “roll forward” more successfully than almost any other saddle my cyclists have tried. When other saddles are as far forward (close to the handlebar) on the rails as possible, but the fit requires the cyclist to be even further forward, the Power saddle allows that to happen because of its shape. The Power saddle comes in 4 levels of weight (due to amount of padding, shell material, and rail material), 3 different widths and 2 different colors (red and black). Prices range from $100 – $300.
While no single saddle works for everybody, I am finding the new Power saddle to be a terrific choice for many clients. If you are in the market for a new saddle, I strongly encourage you to FIRST get a proper bike fit, and to THEN make your saddle choice. Doing that will save you hours of frustration and discomfort, and significant expense – and assure hours of comfortable, efficient, powerful riding!
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