As mentioned in other saddle reviews, Ed Pavelka and I were there at the birth of the Body Geometry concept. An unknown medical designer named Roger Minkow, M.D., walked up to our Bicycling magazine booth at Interbike in 1997, toting a modified Turbo saddle in a paper bag. He wanted to pick our brains about saddle design. We made suggestions and I sketched my ideas on a piece of scrap paper.
Not too many months later, the Body Geometry saddle hit the market and became Specialized’s biggest selling product ever.
Don’t get me wrong. Minkow came up with the concept, sold it to Specialized and deserves the credit for starting the ergonomic saddle revolution. But Ed and I like to think we provided at least a little inspiration.
So it’s no wonder that we liked most of the early BG saddles. They took pressure off soft tissue and were quite comfortable under the sit bones. But more recent models have left us less enthusiastic. It seemed that Specialized’s marketing department got the upper hand. There has been more emphasis on style and less on function. The best points of Minkow’s original design seemed to recede. Our reviews reflected that.
So it was with some trepidation that I received the new 05 Alias saddle for testing. Or rather I received three saddles in three different widths because Specialized is now offering a choice just like you find in shoes. Minkow realizedthat because distances between sit bones can vary among cyclists, saddles should be designed to accommodate everyone from wide-boned mastodons to riders with the skeleton of a weasel.
To make it easier to determine which anatomical camp you’re in, Specialized designed a simple device to measure sit bone width called (we’re not making this up) the Assometer. it’s a pad with compressible foam, available at most Specialized dealers. You perch on it in the cycling position so your sit bones leave impressions. Measure the distance between them to get your recommended saddle width. Incidentally, Specialized emphasizes that body size isn’t a perfect indicator of sit bone spread. Some large people have a narrow gap; some small people have a relatively large one.
Specialized promised to send me an Assometer to find which saddle width was best for me. But it never arrived, so I measured my fanny at Ruby Canyon Bicycles, a Specialized dealer in Grand Junction, Colorado. Just as I suspected — medium.
Sore Sit Bones
Specialized warns in their promotional literature that the Alias may take some getting used to. It has a flat top (seen from the rear) on a carbon-reinforced nylon shell. There’s a long hole down the middle. This design puts all of your weight on your sit bones. That’s great for the soft perineal tissue between them, but tough on the quivering flesh over the bones themselves. The saddle’s firm padding doesn’t offer much help.
After my initial ride the area over these protuberances was sore. It gradually got calloused (or numb) but on my first longer ride I experienced a shooting, toothache-like pain radiating from my left sit bone. It became so painful that I stood up much of the way home. I assume that it was due to irritation of a nerve crossing the sit bone and trapped between it and the saddle.
Please don’t take this as an indictment of the Alias. The saddle does what it was designed to do: remove pressure off the perineum. And the sit bone soreness I suffered during initial rides wasn’t unusual when trying a new saddle. But the sharp pain Wasn’t normal. I’ll write it off to some personal anatomical trait, although I’ve never experienced it with any other saddle.
I wasn’t able to ride the Alias after that, but my misfortune doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be right for you. As we always emphasize in saddle reviews, everyone is different. The saddle that works fine for one rider might be perineal purgatory for another. With this in mind, we gave the Alias a middle-of -the-road rating.
Other aspects of the saddle get a mixed review. it’s stylish and reasonably light. However, I didn’t like the synthetic leather cover. It was slippery and even though the section in the middle of the saddle was crosshatched in an apparent attempt to provide more “stiction,” I still tended to slide forward even though the top of the saddle was dead level.
Is the Alias for you? I applaud Specialized’s commitment to different saddle widths. But because all the body’s weight is borne by the sit bones, you might find this seat somewhat uncomfortable, at least initially. However, if you experience genital numbness or erectile problems with normal saddles, a bit of sit bone soreness might be a small price to pay for relief.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.