Finding the perfect saddle for yourself can be a daunting task, particularly for those of us who are sensitive in the nether regions, aka, girls. I don’t know how boys feel in the saddle, because I don’t have those parts. I have girly bits with double the nerve endings, pointing in exactly the wrong direction when it comes to a bicycle saddle. BUT, thank our lucky stars, technology has caught up with our bits. The shapes and varieties that are available for women were great in 2008, but will be even better in 2009. Oh no, more variety, more choices; how the heck do you choose?
Well, here ya’ go. This is all the information I can muster, along with a few recommendations for brands and models.
If you are sitting on a saddle that fits, you should feel the majority of your weight on your sit bones, and you should feel supported around the sit bones and through the labia. There should be no weight at all on the clitoris or urethra. So you should feel weight on the sit bones and only support everywhere else on the saddle.
1. Find some way of measuring distance between your ischial tuberosities.
Your Ischial Tuberosities are your Sit Bones. This is the place where you want the majority of your weight. The more upright you are on your bike, the more weight is on your saddle, therefore sit bones. So start your perfect saddle search by answering these three questions:
- How upright is your spine on this bike?
Specialized Jett – Best Saddle Redesign
- What kind of riding will you do with this bike?
- Will you be wearing some kind of chamois on this bike (or what kind of clothes will you wear)?
The more weight you have on your sit bones, the more padding you need at that point on the saddle. Not a lot more, just enough. A good example of getting this design right for women, is the Specialized Jett (pictured). They’ve redesigned the Jett this year, to include more padding directly under the sit bones, and have also taken away excess volume on the side to reduce thigh rub. They also got rid of the annoying seams that used to encircle the sit bone pads, which used to rub and wear out clothing, and felt quite uncomfortable without chamois. This is an excellent update for this particular saddle, and shows that Specialized is willing to listen when they find out something is wrong with a part of their design. For such a large company, I’m well impressed. This saddle is excellent for road riding, mountain biking, track, and touring. It comes in three sizes, so get your sit bone width measured at a Specialized dealer, to find out your size. For commuting, which is very upright, choose something with a bit more cush, all around.
2. If you’re a girl, admit that you are a girl and get yourself a split saddle.
I’ve had a survey up for a while, and it is clear from the answers that those who lean on their clitoris because they do not have a split in their saddle WILL in some way experience discomfort. Maybe not for a while, but eventually your body will shift sitting position off of the clitoris to avoid leaning on nerve endings. This subtle shift in bike position can cause a HUGE host of problems that seem to have nothing to do with your saddle, such as numbness in the toes and fingers, pain in the front of the shoulders, and lower back issues. Of course saddle related problems also occur, like thigh rub, sit bone pain, pain or aching in the labia and surrounding tissues. For these reasons, (and because I’ve fit enough women successfully), I’ve become convinced that a split saddle is the way to go for women. The exception to the rule is commuters, who might be so upright and in such inappropriate clothes that the split in the saddle would not make a difference. For such women, my premier choice is a Brooks saddle, from England. These saddles also come in varying widths (do NOT assume you will fit a women’s saddle) so you can definitely find the saddle for you. The thing that distinguishes the Brooks saddle is it’s fine leather, which you can think of as forming a hammock for your buttocks. The leather can be tensioned to be more or less supportive, and after a while the leather breaks in and comforms to you buttocks, giving you an extremely comfortable ride. Just keep in mind that these saddle don’t work as well if you lean forward while riding (as that will put pressure on the clitoris). If you sometimes lean forward, but like the idea and comfort of leather you might try a Selle Anatomica (pictured).
- Selle Anatomica
3. Make sure that the cut out and shape of the saddle fits you.
Saddle brands have different shapes to their cut outs, so you’ll just have to look around to find what really suits you. Most saddle companies and bike shops these days have saddle demo programs, so that you can try their shape and style. An example of an unusual cut out is the 2009 Selle Italia Lady. Pictured below, it’s easy to see the differences in the cutout, between the 2008 model, pictured first, followed by the redesigned 2009 model.
- Old 2008 Selle Italia Lady
- 2009 Selle Italia Lady Redesigned
As you can see, the back of the cutout is more open, which will lead to better airflow. Less volume in the center is probably more comfortable, but I’d be interested to hear how ladies who have been dedicated to the old shape will feel about the new cutout. By the way the shape of the old 2008 Selle Italia Lady, is very similar to the Classic Terry Butterfly. That is, the old SI Lady has a Y shape, like the Butterfly, while the new one has more of a T shape, so like the Specialized Jett, trimmed for less thigh rub. One non-plus thing I noticed about the 2009 model; it has stitching in the thigh area that may prove to be a problem. It may not, but the stitching was definitely raised enough to annoy a “Princess and the Pea” like moi. Ladies, if you get this saddle, please tell us how it is! Kudos to Selle Italia for trying such an innovative and different design.
4. If you love your saddle, don’t change it. But always be open to better design.
I admit that I have a personal preference for the Terry Damselfly, which is a classic performance saddle for slim sit bone widths. I love it for road, track, and cyclocross (though the nose is a bit long for cross) . For my commuter bike, I use the slightly fluffier men’s Terry Fly Carbon, because the carbon rails make for a dreamy comfortable ride when I’m not wearing chamois. For my mountain bike, I use the Specialized Jett 130, which has a very similar shape to the Damselfly.
- Terry Damselfly