Sep 262012
Choosing a Bike Saddle Is like Choosing a Life Partner: An Andrea Post, Part II

These are just three of the five seats I tried in looking for a life partner for my backup bike.

In Part I of our series on how to choose a bike saddle so you might actually feel comfortable riding, the important parallels between life partners and bike saddles or bike seats were explored. Extending the analogy, herewith are the types of relationships you might develop.

The One-Night Stand

There are some seats that may be good for an every-once-in-a-while ride: the kind of seat you’ll ride on for a quick test, but you have no intention of calling back. These are the one-night-stand seats. Most often, beginning riders think this is because the seat is far too stiff, or not well padded enough, and may even give them another try with a padded cover. However, the likelihood is, this is because the seat is the wrong shape or size.

This is most noticeable when a seat is too small. No matter if you perch on your sit bones or sit in a fully upright position on a cruiser-style bike, the reality is that your bike gets more up close and personal than most people do on a first (or even tenth) date.

The idea is that your sit bones–the two bones that make connection with the seat and are what start to hurt after too long on a wooden chair–will actually sit on the thickest part of the seat and take most of the pressure. A one-night stand seat, however, is too small, so you end up taking all the pressure in the soft tissue. For men or women, this is a very uncomfortable prospect for anything long-term. We simply need some kind of structure to be comfortable.

The Summer Fling

Then we find the summer-fling bike seats. These are the saddles that are actually pretty comfortable, but we wouldn’t want to take home and call ours forever. For most people, this is where their bike seat falls. Generally, these seats are either close to the right width or wider than their sit bones, and may even feel OK. After a while, however, the edges begin to show. For most riders, these edges show up in a few places. The nose is the first.

Many (though not all) bike seats and posts are attached with a clamp system. Loosen that clamp and you can adjust your seat’s angle and position.

On most bike saddles, the nose is the part of the seat that forms the point of the triangle. This nose provides some extra length to the seat, and actually helps you balance using the muscles of your thighs.

Think about when you were a kid and learning to ride without hands on the handlebars–you were using your inner thighs to balance on the nose of the bike seat. As adults, we can experience some serious pressure in the soft tissues in between your thighs caused by the nose.

Adjusting where the seat is can help significantly. Most women tend to prefer seats that are angled slightly downward, so the seat contacts your sit bones first, before contacting soft tissue. Men tend to prefer seats that are flat. This does, of course, vary widely with your individual preferences, the cutouts on the seat, and even the day.

Bike saddles can also be adjusted front to back. If you often feel like you are sitting on the “wrong part” of the seat, then you may need to adjust the seat backwards or forwards so it finds just the right spot. The sweet spot is one where your sit bones are on the widest part of the seat and you sit comfortably and naturally.

There are a lot of formulas out there that tell you how you “should” adjust your seat or the “perfect way to snag that perfect summer fling” but the point is, a summer-fling seat sometimes needs some adjustment of expectations. Some people stay with summer-fling seats for years, and adding some padding or a cover can be very helpful, but only after you’ve gotten to know the seat.

The Life Partner(s)

Then finally, there are the seats that you want to take home and dedicate your life to. These are the seats that fit perfectly, that are comfotable, that are well-adjusted, and that meet your needs. Finding this seat often means going through a few that are close, but not quite perfect. Sometimes you find your life-partner saddle in a pile of nearly-forgotten summer flings, just waiting for you to realize how good you had it.

For some cyclists, there may even be two life partner seats–one for the daily rides, and one for the weekends. You might be one of those cyclists. We don’t judge. I say embrace it!

An Alternative Seat/Lifestyle

There are also some people for whom the traditional arrangements just don’t work. There are noseless bike saddles, moon seats that are more of a crescent that you rest your hips on, even completely seat-free bikes. You may be one of these people, and the likelihood is you just have to try out one or two before you know if you are ready to come out of the closet as an alternative seat person.

Given all these options, how do you pick the right bike saddle/bike seat/life partner? We’ll give you some tips in the final post in this three-part series.

Posts by Andrea


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