Author Topic: Finding the right bike saddle  (Read 5565 times)

Ricky

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Finding the right bike saddle
« on: May 14, 2015, 10:24:24 AM »
How do you go about doing this? I have a Trek 8.5DS and the stock saddle hurt after long rides. I replaced it with a slightly cushier, slightly wider saddle and I think it's even worse now. I even wear padded cycling shorts! I am wondering if there is any hope. I went on a 30 mile ride yesterday and was absolutely killed.

Will there always be pain if you haven't rode in a while? I've read that with the right saddle, you'll never be sore.

I'm also thinking my bike could be too large for me. I am 5'9 and have a 17.5" frame. There are three sizes up and one size down, the 15.5". I just notice that when my seat bones are properly on the saddle, my arms are almost fully stretched out.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2015, 10:29:51 AM by Ricky »

nereo

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2015, 10:29:56 AM »
Will there always be pain if you haven't rode in a while? I've read that with the right saddle, you'll never be sore.
how often do you ride? If it's a road bike and you haven't ridden often and for a while my experience is that there will always be some soreness.  "You'll never be sore" is great marketing, but in my experience never the case.   My guess is that your position is such that you are putting undue pressure on a particular area (and you just haven't ridden much in a while).  Find someone who can help you adjust your bike so you have a good riding position and that may help (plus more riding).  Change your saddle only if this doesn't solve the problem.

SeattleStache

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2015, 11:52:16 AM »
In my experience, a firmer saddle is actually more comfortable than a cushy saddle because you can rest your sit bones on the saddle without your "soft bits" sinking in and rubbing where they shouldn't.  I personally use a Brooks.

spokey doke

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2015, 12:14:21 PM »
the soreness tends to go away with regular riding...and returns if you haven't ridden in some time.

as for finding a comfortable saddle, there are endless threads on the topic on bike forums (like mtbr.com) and the unfortunate answer is that you have to try.  That said, there are certainly different general shapes, and some (like Specialized) come in widths designed to match the width of your sit bones.

IMO wide cushy saddles will inhibit your riding, unless you are just going out for a leisurely few miles on a comfort bike, then don't bother.  Good design, fit, and adjustment, along with lots of riding, are the keys here, and the former may take some trial and error to find, so I'd recommend accepting some failed experiments as a possibility.  Don't get discouraged, just be systematic in what you try (and what you try next).  A good bike shop should be able to help you with these choices (again - lots of padding is not the answer), and a really good bike shop should allow you to trade in a saddle that didn't work out (they can typically return them to the manufacturer as a warranty issue).

I've had lots of good luck with WTB and Specialized, both of which make a variety of saddles, but your comfort may vary.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2015, 12:27:29 PM by spokey doke »

Rubic

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2015, 12:57:41 PM »
A cushier saddle will not make long rides easier, just the opposite, usually.

You don't want to hear this perhaps, but it's gonna take a little time for those nether region muscles to develop, the same as with any new activity.  If a non-hiker went out and walked 15 miles in her new boots, she could expect to have similar issues with her feet.

The good news is it doesn't take long for those muscles to develop.  Bon route!

Retire-Canada

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2015, 01:06:17 PM »

Will there always be pain if you haven't rode in a while? I've read that with the right saddle, you'll never be sore.

There isn't enough info in your post to give you specific help, but here are some thoughts:

- I was in pain for 20yrs+ of avid cycling using a variety of saddles and shorts
- I rode all the time and I was still in agony after a ride of any length
- I loved the riding so I kept trying different saddles and shorts with only modest success
- was recommended I try a leather saddle and I can now ride 6-10hrs a day every day for a month+ with zero pain or discomfort
- I no longer wear any type of padded shorts
- two saddles that work for me are Brooks B17 [requires some break in] and Selle Anatomica Titanico [no break in]
- bike fit is also critical so you need to look at that element as well not just the saddle

-- Vik

zinnie

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2015, 01:11:16 PM »
I agree with all of the previous posters that a firmer saddle is generally better. The area around your sit bones should be sore until you get used to riding, but in my experience you shouldn't have pain anywhere else. You can do damage--I irritated a nerve and lost feeling on the upper part of one of my legs for six months from a seat that hurt and was not properly adjusted.

It sounds like you should start by getting your bike properly fitted. There are plenty of good YouTube tutorials on how to do this well.

zinnie

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2015, 01:12:53 PM »

Will there always be pain if you haven't rode in a while? I've read that with the right saddle, you'll never be sore.

There isn't enough info in your post to give you specific help, but here are some thoughts:

- I was in pain for 20yrs+ of avid cycling using a variety of saddles and shorts
- I rode all the time and I was still in agony after a ride of any length
- I loved the riding so I kept trying different saddles and shorts with only modest success
- was recommended I try a leather saddle and I can now ride 6-10hrs a day every day for a month+ with zero pain or discomfort
- I no longer wear any type of padded shorts
- two saddles that work for me are Brooks B17 [requires some break in] and Selle Anatomica Titanico [no break in]
- bike fit is also critical so you need to look at that element as well not just the saddle

-- Vik

Thanks for this info/ recommendations. I am still looking for the right seat!

GuitarStv

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2015, 01:24:54 PM »
I also find that hard saddled are more comfortable for long rides.  Strength can come into play with how comfy your butt is.  The harder you're pedalling, the less weight is on the seat.  You also want to be lifting your butt up slightly when going over rough ground.  If you're tired and just barely moving while going over bumps all that impact goes right into your ass and you'll hurt.

CheapskateWife

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2015, 01:28:18 PM »
+1 on the Selle Anatomica

Since I switched away from my Terry (but its made especially for women) to the Selle, my sit bones have had no complaint.  My husband switched at the same time and is so in love with his seat I might get a little jealous. 

My father switched at DH's recommendation and he reports also that it has fundamentally changed his enjoyment of the long ride. 

Retire-Canada

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2015, 01:44:19 PM »
+1 on the Selle Anatomica

Since I switched away from my Terry (but its made especially for women) to the Selle, my sit bones have had no complaint.  My husband switched at the same time and is so in love with his seat I might get a little jealous. 

My father switched at DH's recommendation and he reports also that it has fundamentally changed his enjoyment of the long ride.

Yup. Glad to hear you are enjoying your SA saddles. =)

Leather saddles changed my life. 10hrs in the saddle and no pain. I can ride day in and day out for a month no issues. Not just no terrible pain - just zero discomfort.

I've turned a 20+ people onto SA saddles with only 1 person who didn't love them.

-- Vik

HenryDavid

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2015, 02:22:12 PM »
It takes time and experimenting. Try a few of the the cheapo saddles in the spare-seat bin at your local bike shop.
Once you find a shape that works, you can watch for sales on better-quality versions of the same shape. Or not, if the cheap one lasts.

Also: fiddle with the angle.
I almost replaced my commuter bike saddle last month, but gave one last try at adjusting the angle.
A tiny shift in angle made that thing just as comfortable as my favourite saddle, on my mtn bike. Saved me some cash.

It all takes patience. Finally, if your arms are stretched way out, it might not even be the seat that's an issue.
Reaching too far for the brakes will force you sit an uncomfortable (for you) angle. Maybe you need a shorter stem. Or higher bars.
All the parts of your position work together.
The frame size can be made to work for you, perhaps, but might be a tad big. It's not just your overall height that matters, it's the ratio between leg and torso length. Hard-core, experienced riders will say "wait another 500k to see if it gets better." For them that's true, their bodies are well adapted to cycling. But for beginners, it should be possible to get a position that's acceptably comfortable for an hour or two, right from the start. After that, yes, you gotta do the saddle time.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2015, 07:53:18 AM »
-added the Selle Anatomica to my bike wish list. Spendy but a new saddle is definitely needed on my ride (original vinyl one is all cracked and currently held together with duct tape).

To the OP: soreness/rubbing does go away with frequency. Comfort saddles and padded shorts make it worse, not better. Non padded chamois bike shorts are liked by some (use chamois butter). I use synthetic boxer briefs and sprinkle some gold bond body powder and that works great. Jockey makes decent briefs, ExOfficio are even better.

I'd switch back to original saddle, get some better underwear and try riding a bit more to see if it resolves (2-3x/week for at least 2 weeks).

If it is sharp pain or numbness, fix it right away. It will NOT go away.

-measure your sit bones. Do this yourself or have an SO do it for you. A proper sized saddle will be just slightly wider than your sit bones. Everyone is different.

-But I'd also wonder if a smaller bike wouldn't be better, or adjusting your handlebar stem to be closer. I'm 6 foot, short legs, long torso, and 17" is my size for a hybrid, even though the "guidelines" would suggest 19".

A really detailed guide to bike sizing is this one: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm

Retire-Canada

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2015, 08:49:32 AM »
-added the Selle Anatomica to my bike wish list. Spendy but a new saddle is definitely needed on my ride (original vinyl one is all cracked and currently held together with duct tape).

There are often 50% off sales. At least once per year sometimes 2 or 3 times. I've only paid full price for my first SA.

If you sign up for their newsletters you'll know about the sales. They are not super annoying with emails.

-- Vik

Moonwaves

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2015, 09:08:42 AM »
Great timing for this discussion. I did my second longer cycle last week and discovered that although my legs seem to have gotten well used to cycling, my poor bum still has a long way to go and two and a half hours was definitely pushing it. Now that I've been cycling regularly for about ten months, I think it's time I started saving to get a good bike. I do love mine but there are limits to what I can do with it. Or at least I need to swap out some parts of it for better ones.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2015, 09:49:50 AM »
There are often 50% off sales. At least once per year sometimes 2 or 3 times. I've only paid full price for my first SA.

If you sign up for their newsletters you'll know about the sales. They are not super annoying with emails.

-- Vik

Thanks for the tip. The sign up was a bit buried on their site, but I signed up. Previous to this thread I'd never heard of Selle - just Brooks.

GuitarStv

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2015, 10:54:33 AM »
Most generic bike seats are fine for under ten miles without bike shorts, and I regularly do 30 miles in bike shorts on the seats that came stock with both my bikes.  I rarely ride more than 40 miles in a day though.  What kinds of distances are you guys putting in to need a fancy expensive seat?

Hvillian

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2015, 01:23:06 PM »
I'm also thinking my bike could be too large for me. I am 5'9 and have a 17.5" frame. There are three sizes up and one size down, the 15.5". I just notice that when my seat bones are properly on the saddle, my arms are almost fully stretched out.

I am 5'8" and have been riding a 17.5" Trek commuter for a couple weeks now.  The first couple rides we quite rough on my outstretched arms, but it got better once I got used to bending further forward at the hips while keeping my weight on my saddle and peddles.

My wife has the 15" model, and it feels very small to me.  If I put the seat high enough for my legs, the handlebars end up being much too low (for my taste).  This could probably be adjusted with a stem riser, but the 17.5 fells better to me.  The fit seems so personal though, you may just need to go to a shop and sit on a few bikes.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2015, 01:54:42 PM »
If you are a man, there is nothing like a "split saddle".  In fact, these were developed because wanna be dads who rode a lot had trouble reproducing because of low sperm counts:  https://www.google.com/search?q=split+bicycle+saddle&espv=2&biw=1097&bih=559&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=y05WVaFug_uwBaHAgMgG&ved=0CC4QsAQ

Way more comfortable, including the buttocks!

Your frame size depends on your leg length/pant inseam:  http://www.competitivecyclist.com/Store/catalog/fitCalculatorBike.jsp
« Last Edit: May 15, 2015, 01:58:45 PM by frugaliknowit »

Ricky

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2015, 06:28:48 PM »

Will there always be pain if you haven't rode in a while? I've read that with the right saddle, you'll never be sore.

There isn't enough info in your post to give you specific help, but here are some thoughts:

- I was in pain for 20yrs+ of avid cycling using a variety of saddles and shorts
- I rode all the time and I was still in agony after a ride of any length
- I loved the riding so I kept trying different saddles and shorts with only modest success
- was recommended I try a leather saddle and I can now ride 6-10hrs a day every day for a month+ with zero pain or discomfort
- I no longer wear any type of padded shorts
- two saddles that work for me are Brooks B17 [requires some break in] and Selle Anatomica Titanico [no break in]
- bike fit is also critical so you need to look at that element as well not just the saddle

-- Vik

Thanks, and thanks to everyone else who responded.

Why are padded shorts everywhere if they aren't any good? I think I'll try a pair of non-padded shorts first and then go with the better saddle if necessary. $150 isn't much for a consistently comfortable ride if it works!

The 30 miles I'm referring to are on the Virginia Creeper trail if anyone's ever heard of it. It's mainly hard packed dirt with loose rocks and some bumps and roots and loose gravel. It's much more demanding than 30 miles on the highway. I don't commute but I do value being able to do that ride comfortably.

spokey doke

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Re: Finding the right bike saddle
« Reply #20 on: May 15, 2015, 11:02:30 PM »
Padded shorts are good for most, that's why they are everywhere...