Top Tips for Cycling Saddle Comfort!
Poor saddle comfort is the most common reason deterring people from cycling. Many cyclists also consider saddle pain just part of riding a bike. However, if you’re bike and saddle is set up correctly, you wont have to put up with pain down there! When you are uncomfortable or poorly supported on your saddle, you may also begin to get hand numbness or neck and shoulder pain.
Most people blame their saddle as soon as they get pain or numbness while cycling. Read on to learn why this is often not the case!
Dan Davis is a physiotherapist, exercise physiologist and bikefit expert and shares the top reasons your bike seat (aka saddle) might not be working for you and how to improve your saddle comfort!
Where you’re sitting on the saddle changes comfort.
Understanding where to sit often goes overlooked. The key is understanding that a seat is designed to support you on ‘bony’ tissue – your ‘sit bones’ in a more upright cycling position, in the case of a time trial set up your ‘pubic rami’, and in racing or more aggressive road positions, a combination of the two!
There will always be a component of ‘soft tissue’ load however, balancing this with appropriate bony load will alleviate most of the problems that arise from excessive pressure such as saddle sores and improve your saddle comfort.
Your overall position changes saddle comfort
Saddle height and handlebar reach are two key factors that significantly impact our ability to use the seat effectively. For example, if someone’s reach is excessive, they may find themselves gravitating towards the front of the saddle to reach the brakes, leading to an increase in soft tissue pressure in the pubic zone which. Over time, this will result in poor saddle comfort and potentially saddle sores, numbness and even erectile dysfunction in males.
Commonly, when a cyclist gets saddle pain, the first thing he or she does is buys a new saddle. Our international partners in saddle pain research agree that 80% of the time, the overall position is the primary culprit for saddle pain and the remaining 20% the ‘specifics’ of the saddle. If you do need a new saddle, there are a number of factors to take into account.
Before you go and spend money on another saddle, consider your position on the bike and remember, just using side on video analysis will only tell you a small part of the picture! Check out how a bikefit at Star Physio works here!
Width of the saddle
The appropriate width for a saddle is determined by which bony aspect the individual is aiming to sit on, as well as the size and shape of the pelvis. If a pelvis presents with a sit bone width of 144mm (‘sit bone to sit bone’) this means we require 144mm or more of area for a positive interaction. This will vary depending on the bike and riding position, for instance a time trial bikefit position requires sitting on the front bony aspects known as the pubic rami, the sit bone width will be effectively irrelevant.
The next important width is where the thighs need to move up and down to push the pedals. The ideal width here is determined by a combination of pelvis width, thigh size and pelvis angles and can be highly variable. In the current market there are a number of “V shaped” saddles such as the Specialized Power. We are commonly seeing issues with cyclists with either bigger thighs or smaller pelvises who are unable to get back onto their sit bones for support due to the “V shape” from front to back, causing excessive pressure and loading on the front of the saddle and the potential for poor saddle comfort, sores and numbness. Have a look at the difference between the Power saddle and the Gebiomized Area saddle below. The difference in shape may appear subtle, but for some cyclists it can be an absolute game changer for saddle comfort!
To add another layer of complexity when considering width, may saddles may quote ‘144mm’ width but display excessive curvature meaning their ‘true’ width is closer to 130mm! Check out the image below!
Shape and density for saddle comfort
Rather frustratingly, there are endless shapes of saddles available on the market. We often see patients who are onto their 5th saddle trying to get comfortable by the time they book in for a bikefit! We often find a positions 25mm too long and 10mm too high on the saddle (some even after apparent professional bikefit!)… and their first saddle would have worked before spending thousands of dollars!
Understanding what shape, size and foam density will be appropriate for you will indeed impact comfort, but having your bike in the correct position with an expert bikefit will most likely make the biggest difference to your saddle comfort. Having your position analysed will help to avoid any unnecessary spending on multiple saddles, but beware, not all bikefits are the same!! Our first goal is always to use our clients current saddle, however when out testing shows that the saddle just wont work, we have the incredible Gebiomized saddles available in the clinic. All Gebiomized saddles purchased during a bikefit come with a 30 day money back guarantee for our clients.
Saddle Comfort Summary…
There are a multitude of factors that influence our interaction with a bike saddle while cycling and our saddle comfort. All of these are highly adjustable, provided the analysis undertaken allows an accurate understanding of the individual including their shape and flexibility, followed by accurate analysis of bike position and saddle loading and support.
We highly recommend booking in for a bikefit PRIOR to buying a new saddle! The Star Physio expert Bikefit team are highly equipped to direct you in the appropriate direction saddle-wise if your current seat will not work with optimal changes, but more often, getting the right fit solves the problems!!
Call our team on 64249578 to book your fit or if you have any further questions or book online here!
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