Editor’s Note: As often goes on behind the scenes at RBR, our Premium Members take advantage of the Ask RBR a Question perk to tap into the direct wisdom of one of our coaches or tech experts. When it’s a broad enough topic that lends useful insight to many riders, we like to share the responses with all RBR readers.
The following is a response from Coach Rick Schultz to a reader who has suffered through 25 years’ of ill-suited saddles, quite possibly related to bad bike fits. Coach Schultz is a fit expert (author of Bike Fit101) and put together an illustrated 11-page PDF document that touches on the most significant aspects of a proper fit, why a correct fit is a must to ensure saddle comfort, and provides a list of his favorite saddles. The introduction of that piece is below, with the link to the PDF at the end.
The topic of saddles comes up often in my work. Cyclists continue to search for the right saddle, but, as can be seen below, selecting the right saddle is at the end of a long chain of required events, starting with a quality bike fit from a qualified/certified fitter. Having been to most bike fit courses, the best one currently, in my opinion, is Trek’s Precision Fit system.
Paralleling my beliefs, their courses are taught from the point of view of a physical therapist. (Full disclosure, my daughter is currently getting her doctorate in PT, and I have learned a lot from her in the past several years that informs my bike fitting, and riding.)
So my belief is that you need a quality bike fit before you can select the right saddle, or, at least, select the right saddle during the bike fit.
There are several new tools to help in this process; one of the best is a saddle pressure mapping tool. This helps the bike fitter see exactly where and how you are sitting on the saddle and can assist in selecting the right saddle once the bike is fit to the client.
Here’s a recent email where, as the reader, you can see there are many issues going on. In the email, several things jump out – I have underlined the most important points and commented in-line.
The email begins:
During the 25+ years of cycling I’ve done (5,000 – 7,000 miles/yr.), I’ve tried upwards of 75 saddles, yet STILL haven’t found one I could call “comfortable.” By now, I know what I want, but can’t seem to find it. Firstly, I don’t like any with those cutouts, grooves, love channels, etc.,
Never said why he doesn’t like these? If shown how to position the hips correctly when cycling, he might actually LIKE these types of saddles.
including those weird ones (SMP, ISM, Adamo, Cobb, SQLabs). And, yes, I’ve tried leather ones . . . not as bad as I expected, but I definitely need padding.
These ‘weird’ saddles have a place and it’s called Triathlons. There is a reason for this design and they work better on a TT/Tri bike than a road bike.
Basically, I’m looking for a “medium” saddle – another apparent rare commodity these days – both padding and size-wise (i.e., not a hard, narrow racer, but not a big, soft “comfort” model, either).
Here’s a link to Coach Schultz’s full 11-page response, titled Traits of a Better Saddle.
Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. Rick is an engineer by trade, and in addition to being a coach, he’s a bike fitter and prolific product reviewer. He’s the author of Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist and Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit in the RBR eBookstore. Check his product reviews website, www.biketestreviews.com, and his coaching site, www.bikefitnesscoaching.com. Click to read Rick’s full bio.