Saddles: Bigger Isn’t Better?
Over lunch today, I had a flick through the Sunday Times, and found this article by Emma Smith about the perils of saddle sores, and how if you don’t deal withthem, they can get really nasty (the phrase “drained by a physician” was used - what if you’re not married to a physician? )
I’ve never got to that point, but I have had a sore butt on occasion (too much information for you? Best stop reading right now), but only in those times when I’ve been doing two or three, three-hour rides a week. After extoling the virtues of padded shorts and chamois cream, Emma thinks that her saddle’s to blame:
One look at my bike’s angry, pointy saddle tells me it is to blame. I remember those kindly old-fashioned lady saddles with their ample, big-bottomed proportions and springy undersides. I was thinking a padded gel cover might be enough to solve the problem
Here’s my personal experience on this (which might not be yours - feel free to disagree). Saddles that are used on longer rides tend to be narrower and more uncomfortable looking. But contrary to popular opinion, this isn’t to save weight on the bike, but to reduce the chafing and grating your butt gets when your legs are doing 100 rpm (or 6,000 butt-rubs per hour) for three, four, or more hours.
So if you are riding long distances I would always think about a smaller rather than a bigger perch for your buns. You need one that fits and provides support to your pelvic bones, so not so narrow that it looks more like an, uh, adult toy.
There’s a great article with the pro’s and cons of various saddles over at quickrelease.tv, if you’re interested.
One final point - in the Sunday Times Article, Emma Smith said that before discovering padded shorts and chamois cream, she was getting so saddle-sore after just half an hour that she had to stop. Half an hour!? If you’re in a similar situation, then I recommend you adjust your saddle height, fore-aft position and angle. No, you probably don’t need a ‘proper’ bike fit, setting you back just shy of what you probably paid for the bike in the first place. Just simple adjustments that you can make at home.
There’s a great article on setting your saddle up correctly, over at the Peter White Cycles’ pages. Personally, I wouldn’t fret with the stuff about crank arm length, but the rest talks a whole lot of sense!.