Finding the right saddle

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
RedOrbea
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Finding the right saddle

Postby RedOrbea » 7 Mar 2019, 4:00pm

Hello and thanks for reading and any advice or guidance is much appreciated.

I have had a few years of uncomfortable riding different saddles, none of which alleviate the pain in my sit bones (at about 20 miles). The problem appears to have started or got worse after I injured my ACL. I don't get out the saddle to climb hills anymore, so it stands to reason there's more weight on my bottom now. Have gone through so many tests I've lost count. I had a really good fit from an expert. That was okay for a while, or maybe I had more strength and body tone. Post the ACL injury the saddle has been a nightmare. Despite a saddle mapping, and several changes of saddles (all recommended). Then another bike fit. The problem is that after 20 miles I am in so much discomfort that its killing off the potential to do 30+ more miles pain free.

Posture and position in the saddle could be an issue. The saddle mapping showed a tendency to favour the good leg.

I'm wondering whether its the bike and the saddle, and whether I ought to change the road bike for something like a tourer.

All and any advice is greatly appreciated, thank you. There's absolutely nothing anywhere online that addresses injury/saddle/position. I ought to add that I'm a lady, aged 52. I've read so many articles about the saddle and how women/men's saddles vary, but nothing related to my specific issue. I'm running out of saddle options and think a Brooks or something like that might be the way forward. Thank you.

yostumpy
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby yostumpy » 7 Mar 2019, 5:31pm

you could always test ride a recumbent.

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531colin
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby 531colin » 7 Mar 2019, 9:36pm

I'm sure you will get lots of saddle recommendations...probably divided 50/50 "buy a Brooks" vs. "don't buy a Brooks, they stink".
However, I would take a small wager that it isn't the saddle alone that's the problem; I would say that if your riding position isn't right, then no saddle on this planet will be comfortable.
Bike fits......hmmmm.
I absolutely reject the sort of "bike fit" that specifies dimension "X" on the bike should be dimension "Y" on your body, times a "magic number".
The saddle height should be your inside leg times whatever magic number is flavour of the month. ….is that for a twenty year old dancer, or a sixty year old carrying a lifetime's worth of sports injuries? For riding the club 10 mile time trial or a fortnight tour in the mountains?
Below you will find a link to my own DIY bike fit guide, which a few people have been kind enough to mention helped them. I try to explain how it feels to ride a bike properly set up for my sort of riding; that is leisure riding and touring, including riding tracks. I say how much weight I have on my hands, and when I'm pulling back on the bars. I write about "un weighting" the saddle over bumps, which is essential on tracks or poor quality tarmac, (of which there is no shortage) and how the bike should move underneath you like a rocking horse. If you sit on the saddle (like a sack of spuds) then a big bump will fire you up in the air. I write about moving back in the saddle for greater knee extension.
Most bike fit systems are heavily weighted towards "performance" cycling and emphasise getting your saddle as high as possible to give "efficiency"...greatest power for least muscle work. Great for the club 10, bad for a fortnight in the hills.
Some reading....https://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2011/04/on-female-anatomy-and-bicycle-saddles.html
https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/bikefit/2011/05/seat-set-back-for-road-bikes/
https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/bikefit/2011/02/seat-height-how-hard-can-it-be/
Lastly, don't go buying another bike in the hope it might be the answer; much better to sort out your fit on the existing bike. Saddles and handlebars can be moved.

slowster
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby slowster » 7 Mar 2019, 11:15pm

The problem appears to have started or got worse after I injured my ACL.
[...]
The saddle mapping showed a tendency to favour the good leg.

It sounds like you may have modified your pedalling technique in some way(s), probably without even realising it. I can imagine that putting more power in the stroke through your good leg and/or compensating for the ACL weakness/pain by slightly shifting position during the stroke (which could have become an ingrained habit even if you are now fully recovered) might also increase the pressure under the sit bones.

In an ideal world in your shoes the people whom I would consult would be the medical and physiotherapy team at British Cycling, which might be expensive but still cheaper than spending money and time (in continuing pain) on new saddles or bikes, which may not solve the problem.

9494arnold
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby 9494arnold » 8 Mar 2019, 8:56am

You say you have already had a 'bike fit' , has something changed?
Do the bars need to go up ( saddle will be marginally closer to the base of your spine) or down (reverse)
Suspension seatpost?
Do you need different bars ( my wife has "Butterfly Bars' which give you a more upright position (Back weakness) .

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Cugel
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby Cugel » 8 Mar 2019, 9:20am

There are three approaches to the comfort offered by the saddle itself (as opposed to your riding position on the bike, bike compliance, etc.):

1) padding
2) shape
3) flexibility

Personally I've always found lots of padding to fail over longer distances, even if it feels better for the first few miles or minutes. Some padding is better than other padding but all of it seems to end up creating hotspots. (But see later).

Over many decades of cycling often long miles I discovered that a saddle that flexes a lot is better at avoiding hotspots over long distances than is padding. One virtue of the Brookes and similar saddles is that they flex. They also deform to fit your nether shape and thus spread amd lessen the pressure across your whole rear rather than creating hotspots. Even your sit bones end up having just some, not all, of your weight acting through them.

Leather saddles are not the only flexy saddles. For example, the Fizik Kurve range (and some others of theirs) have a thin hull that's made to flex and deform to fit your nether and thus lessen the pressure.

The saddle shape can make a big difference if you have a particularly sensitive area or a riding position that you prefer but which concentrates your nether weight in a particular area. There are all sorts of shapes and you need to find one that gives more - presses less - at your vulnerable area. Only you can figure that one out. :-)

The ladywife has recently taken up cycling again after several years abstinence(doing running, now given up, to be accurate). She found the saddle type she used to use (a Flite) too uncomfortable even after persisting with it for many rides. This caught her eye and she found one half price so gave it a go. She finds it very comfortable indeed - a case of the marketing blurb having some truth in it, unusually.

https://road.cc/content/review/248617-f ... ius-saddle

The saddle provides comfort by offering what might be thought of as extreme padding, using air arranged in cells. It seems to conform very well to the shape of the nether sitting on it but doesn't end up deforming like ordinary padding materials because the padding (the air) is held by a firm skin and internal soft pillars that prevent the thing from squashing flat in any area. Foam and gel paddings seem to easily migrate, go bumpy, completely flattened and so forth. The air in this saddle structure seems to avoid those padding-drawbacks.

Cugel

jacksonz
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby jacksonz » 11 Mar 2019, 7:07am

Knee injuries/surgery can cause a lot of muscle wasting. You could get somebody to measure the circumference of your thighs and compare.... This could indicate the nature and severity of the problem.

The suggestion of physio/rehabilitation sounds good....

Vorpal
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby Vorpal » 11 Mar 2019, 9:16am

There are a few things about this... One is that our bodies change with time. The injury may be influencing the problem (and to that end an assessment from a physio familiar with cycling may help), but I doubt that it is the whole picture.

The type of pain you have can make a difference to the solution. Is it bruising? Pressure on the skin? pressure on the muscle between the saddle and sit bones? Chafing? Are you able to tell?

After having babies, I struggled a bit to find a comfortable saddle. The saddle I had been riding for years had started to cause chafing. Brooks saddles are great for some folks. They seem to be the wrong shape for me. I do have one, and I may give it another go this summer. I have tried several times to use hard saddles, and I have ended up with bruised sit bones. So my current saddles are all ones with padding/gel. This goes against what most experienced cyclists find, but I can ride all day on a Serfas Rx.

The other part of this picture is that changes in our bodies can affect the best position on a bike. A fitting can be useful, but I agree with 531colin. What is the goal of the fitting? Many bike shops will be fitting someone on a road bike for an athletic position & best efficiency, which isn't likely to be the most comfortable position.

My position on my road bike is different than my position on my tourer. My road bike is more set up to go faster; the bars are lower and deeper, and the saddle is slightly more forward and slightly higher.

My tourer on the other hand is set up to be comfortable, and even early in the year, when I am not as fit, I can ride 60 miles without too much discomfort (even if I might feel it the next day!). It took me a while to get the position just right on that bike, including using an adjustable stem, trying 3 different saddles, and two different seat posts, so I was really pleased when I finally got it.

Something that I don't think anyone has mentioned, is gearing. Road bikes are generally geared much higher than tourers. This can affect the best position on the bike, and it can also affect pedalling action. Lower gearing might mean that the cyclic changes at the saddle contact points are gentler. I think that helps my distance capability on my tourer, at least. And with your injury, I would expect that lower gearing is better, anyway; maybe your weak leg can contribute more if the work is easier.

The other thing is how often do you ride your bike? Fitness (not just general but also specific to the body/bike interaction) can have a big influence. Frequent, short journeys (i.e. commuting, shopping, running errands) will do more to improve cycling fitness than a 20 mile ride a couple of times per month.

All of that said, I also agree with Colin about getting your current bike sorted before buying a new one.

It's an awful lot to untangle, and likely to take some time and experimentation. Feel free to come back here and ask more questions.

p.s. if it helps, I am a 51 year old woman, though I've never had an ACL injury
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

althebike
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby althebike » 11 Mar 2019, 10:25am


RedOrbea
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby RedOrbea » 11 Mar 2019, 10:30am

Thank you all for taking the time to write and imparting with excellent advice.

I am proceeding with an open mind and experimental approach.

531 Colin -
However, I would take a small wager that it isn't the saddle alone that's the problem


completely agree "it isn't the saddle alone"

949Arnold
You say you have already had a 'bike fit' , has something changed? 


When I first bought the bike I had a fit which went through everything, testing the seat, measuring up my saddle, position, everything. And since then the saddle mapping and swapping saddles a few times.

At the saddle mapping the new saddle the bike shop gave me was more suited to a male pro racing rider! The saddle was as hard as an ironing board and I was in agony the first ride I did on it. Though I tried it in the shop, that wasn't enough time. Ideally I need to take out a saddle on a test but there aren't many cycle shops in my area that do that.

Slowster
"I can imagine that putting more power in the stroke through your good leg and/or compensating for the ACL weakness/pain by slightly shifting position during the stroke (which could have become an ingrained habit even if you are now fully recovered) might also increase the pressure under the sit bones."


Yes, one of the biggest differences to my cycling, since having the ACL injury and operation, is that I don't get out the saddle anymore up hills. I am now rammed down and almost stuck to the saddle instead of taking the weight off my bottom/sit bones. Pre-injury I used to get out and attack hills. Now those long, hard pulls of a hill, with my weight pushed forward, is where its really uncomfortable.Cycling on the flat its less of a pain than up a hill. Maybe till I get "over" the mental barrier of getting out the saddle that it won't give me any release on a long ride. I can stand up, but its completing a full rotation with the damaged leg that's a mental block. I'm thinking physiotherapy on a bicycle

So... yes a combination of saddle tests, physiotherapy etc

Vorpal
The type of pain you have can make a difference to the solution. Is it bruising? Pressure on the skin? pressure on the muscle between the saddle and sit bones? Chafing? Are you able to tell?


Yes, it's my sit bones and pressure on them making it really uncomfortable after say 20 miles. I have to keep getting off the bike to get some respite from the saddle.

Agree that the fitting experience
Many bike shops will be fitting someone on a road bike for an athletic position & best efficiency, which isn't likely to be the most comfortable position.


I find bike shops are geared for mainly male/racing bike cyclists.

I think that ultimately I'll end up getting a comfy tourer. My friend has a Dawes Galaxy. And its a combination of things that make it a pleasure to ride. Firstly, the triple chain ring. The bike is too big for me but when I have borrowed it I've loved the feel of it as it is effortless up hills, and so smooth. Its now becoming a bit of a vintage bike so I am not sure I will find one the same. But I am sure that the frame and build absorbs the road bumps. The saddle is a larger gel one to my Orbea too.

Back to the drawing board ... thank you all.

slowster
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby slowster » 11 Mar 2019, 12:15pm

In general I think most bike fitting (and evidently saddle mapping based on your experience) is intended to deliver optimum performance for average riders and performance cyclists. They are probably unlikely to address any injury that a rider is carrying that affects their riding technique (or even identify that the technique is somehow imbalanced or otherwise sub-optimal and reveal that this is being caused by either a current injury or past injury which has resulted in over-compensating for the pain/weakness in a way that has become ingrained even after recovery).

If (and it's a big if) your problem has been caused by the injury and as a result you now have a pedalling technique that is causing excessive pressure under your sit bones, then the danger of focusing on changing saddles and bikes is that they might only provide temporary/limited relief, because they are likely only to reduce the symptoms, rather than fix the underlying cause (and an experienced cyclist getting such severe pain after only 20 miles suggests to my layman's understanding that there is a significant biomechanical problem/factor, rather than it just being a question of finding a saddle or a bike that you find more comfortable).

If you don't want to go down the route of getting specialist expert input, or at least not just yet, and want to experiment to try to remedy the problem, then in your place I would focus to begin with on modifying riding position/style in ways that I thought might correct any acquired bad technique. The two things I would probably try first would be:

- Use much much lower gears and ride at a low intensity. In other words don't increase your cadence to compensate for the low gears. Instead focus on your position and technique, trying to keep everything as smooth and relaxed as possible. Arguably a touring bike might facilitate this sort of riding style better than whatever road bike you have at the moment, but it should be possible even on a fairly sporty type bike, e.g. do not use the big chainring, fit a wider cassette and/or fit a chainset with much smaller rings.

- Lower the saddle. It sounds like you are a 'hard rider' type with a saddle height and bike position which are probably intended to maximise power output. However, I suggest you lower the saddle not so much to reduce power output in combination with low gears, but rather more because if you have developed bad habits in your pedalling technique, it may be easier to break those habits if you change your position significantly in order to reset your pedalling technique. To that end, I would be tempted to lower the saddle (and probably set it back a bit further at the same time) by a relatively large amount, even if the resulting position is distinctly 'sub-optimal' for speed and power output. If you only lower the saddle by, say, 10mm that is probably unlikely to provide enough of a difference from your current position, and so you would probably still retain any ingrained bad habits. Unlike an excessively high saddle, I don't think an excessively low one should do any harm.

If you have developed bad pedalling technique, I think you will need to be prepared to persevere for some time to unlearn it and reset your style, before thinking about starting to ride hard again using bigger gears and putting your saddle back up.

I am not a sports scientist or a physiotherapist, and I could be completely wrong in my suggestions above, but that was why my initial post advised going to a specialist (which I would still advise doing first), and I only make the above suggestions given that you wish to persevere and experiment.

Edit to add - One thing which I would expect a bike fit to identify, but which - if it failed to do - might account for your problem, is unequal leg length. I could imagine that post injury the weakness in one of your legs might result in any pre-existing unequal leg length affecting you in a way that it did not do before the injury. However, as I say, unequal leg length is something which 'should' be identified by a competent bike fitter.
Last edited by slowster on 11 Mar 2019, 12:55pm, edited 1 time in total.

Vorpal
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby Vorpal » 11 Mar 2019, 12:33pm

RedOrbea wrote:I find bike shops are geared for mainly male/racing bike cyclists.
:lol: :lol: yes.

RedOrbea wrote:I think that ultimately I'll end up getting a comfy tourer. My friend has a Dawes Galaxy. And its a combination of things that make it a pleasure to ride. Firstly, the triple chain ring. The bike is too big for me but when I have borrowed it I've loved the feel of it as it is effortless up hills, and so smooth. Its now becoming a bit of a vintage bike so I am not sure I will find one the same. But I am sure that the frame and build absorbs the road bumps. The saddle is a larger gel one to my Orbea too.

Back to the drawing board ... thank you all.


Well, if you want a new bike... :wink:

More seriously, there are plenty of traditional type tourers out there, whether you want a new or used bike, I'm sure that there is one for you.

If you can't figure out your position on what you've already got, a new bike could end up being an expensive mistake.

On the other hand, if it's the right size, and you'd rather work out what's best on a tourer instead of your road bike, you might have an easier time of it, because the geometry is more suited to a relaxed riding position.

My tourer is a Geoff Smith (bought used), though there are similar frames available from other shops. I've heard that Paul Hewitt uses the same frame. Spa cycles have their own tourers, often recommended on this forum.

There are certainly others out there, and a reasonable market for used ones, but it will probably take some patience to find the right bike, especially if you take a smaller frame.

Regarding saddles... a decent bike shop will let you try a saddle for a couple of weeks. I've gone through plenty of borrowed saddles trying to find something that will work for me.

Good luck sorting all of this out!
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Samuel D
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby Samuel D » 11 Mar 2019, 2:47pm

Vorpal wrote:I have tried several times to use hard saddles, and I have ended up with bruised sit bones. So my current saddles are all ones with padding/gel. This goes against what most experienced cyclists find, but I can ride all day on a Serfas Rx. […] My position on my road bike is different than my position on my tourer. My road bike is more set up to go faster; the bars are lower and deeper, and the saddle is slightly more forward and slightly higher.

My tourer on the other hand is set up to be comfortable, and even early in the year, when I am not as fit, I can ride 60 miles without too much discomfort (even if I might feel it the next day!).

Would you mind saying which model of Serfas RX you have and which of the two bicycles above it is on, Vorpal? I recognise the limited value of one person’s saddle recommendation, but I’m helping someone with the comfort problems you describe and thought I’d start by recommending the saddle you’ve found to work.

pwa
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby pwa » 11 Mar 2019, 2:59pm

For anyone with an asymmetric pedal action whose body wants to do something slightly different with the left and right sit bones, a Brooks style leather saddle is the obvious first thought. Because the saddle will gradually mould to the pressure put on it, it will develop asymmetric dimples corresponding with the user's undercarriage. It will take time to do that, of course, so it won't be perfect straight out of the box. I have always suffered from tender sit bones and the best long distance saddle my undercarriage ever had (male user) was Titanium Swift that, after a few hundred miles of less enjoyable use, became a joy on longer rides. That ache didn't occur.

Vorpal
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Re: Finding the right saddle

Postby Vorpal » 11 Mar 2019, 3:02pm

Samuel D wrote:
Vorpal wrote:I have tried several times to use hard saddles, and I have ended up with bruised sit bones. So my current saddles are all ones with padding/gel. This goes against what most experienced cyclists find, but I can ride all day on a Serfas Rx. […] My position on my road bike is different than my position on my tourer. My road bike is more set up to go faster; the bars are lower and deeper, and the saddle is slightly more forward and slightly higher.

My tourer on the other hand is set up to be comfortable, and even early in the year, when I am not as fit, I can ride 60 miles without too much discomfort (even if I might feel it the next day!).

Would you mind saying which model of Serfas RX you have and which of the two bicycles above it is on, Vorpal? I recognise the limited value of one person’s saddle recommendation, but I’m helping someone with the comfort problems you describe and thought I’d start by recommending the saddle you’ve found to work.

I have different models Serfas Rx on both bikes. My road bike has a lycra covered road saddle that is no longer made (and falling apart :( ) and my tourer has the RX ladies saddle. I find the RX ladies saddle to be the more comfortable of the two, but it's a fairly wide saddle, and more suits the relaxed positions on the tourer.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom