Question: My crotch hurts! I’ve tried all sorts of pro saddles without relief. Specifically, the soft tissue in the middle “down there” gets crunched. I’m ready to forget style and go for comfort so I can keep riding. What’s the best saddle, regardless of looks? — Max H.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Style is important — you have to feel good about how your bike looks and how you look on your bike. But if the bike is too uncomfortable to ride, it doesn’t matter how cool its saddle is.
I’d love to suggest a saddle that will cure your crotch woes, but I can’t. Saddle choice is much too individual. Some riders swear by narrow, lightly padded seats and can ride centuries on them without flinching. Others wouldn’t get around the block. That said, here are two types you might consider.
Saddles with cutouts. I tried some of the early versions and they were awful. Manufacturers hadn’t figured out how to keep the edges of the hole from taking a crotch core sample. It felt like sitting on a cookie cutter. But they’re much better now and several riders I know who couldn’t get comfortable on any saddle have found bliss on such models.
Leather saddles. Quite a few ultra-distance roadies who do all-day rides prefer a leather saddle. These seats look like something from the 1950s, but they work. The leather breaks in like a pair of shoes, conforming to your shape. It lets your sit bones make comfortable depressions. The rear is usually slightly higher than the “neck,” and this takes pressure off the soft tissue where you’re feeling pain.
Leather saddles look bulky and can weigh twice as much as a sleek 200-gram plastic-shell model. But some are now available with titanium rails that reduce the weight penalty. Brooks is venerable leather saddle maker, and Selle Anatomica (a small U.S. company with an Italian-sounding name) specializes in leather seats with a distinctive cutout.
Actually, there is another alternative that a number of saddle-sore roadies have chosen — a recumbent bike. It puts you on aflat, padded seat that eliminates crotch contact and pressure. Recumbents are fun to ride and offer other advantages, too, such as reduced hand pressure and neck strain.
Finally, read our Reviews of various saddles to get an idea of what might work for you.