Are you experiencing discomfort in your lady parts during your long ride?
While it can take time to build up comfort in the saddle the only area you should be feeling pressure is in your sits bones and the surrounding bony tissue, if you are experiencing numbness or pain in your soft tissue and lady areas then it is time we have a serious conversation about your saddle.
Finding the right bike saddle is a personal journey that every female triathlete must go through. When you buy your first bike, be it road or triathlon, the first up grade you will want to make is to your saddle. Most bikes are not sold with stock bike saddles for women. Unless you bought a female specific bike, that saddle on your brand new bike is a cheap male saddle. That saddle was not designed with your anatomy in mind, which means you are not in for a comfortable ride.
What To Look For In Comfortable Bike Saddles For Women
Now that you know you need an upgrade let’s talk about what to look for. In the world of saddles there are hundreds of options which can leave you feeling a little overwhelmed. Avoid the temptation to pick the first saddle you see within your price range and bolt, this is one piece of equipment you want to invest some time and money into.
Stiff Vs. Cushy
One of the most common mistakes new riders make when looking for a comfortable bike saddle is gravitating towards soft cushy seats. Let’s be clear, your bike saddle is not a lazy boy, softer is not better. You may be socked by this fact, but you are better off getting a stiff saddle. Just as you want nice stiff cycling shoes for better power transfer, as I talk about in the post Should I Transition To Clipless Pedals, you also want a nice stiff saddle. While it may seem counter intuitive, a stiff saddle will be more comfortable in the long run. A stiff saddle protects you from road vibrations and allows for proper blood flow to your most sensitive areas, cushy saddles on the other hand may disrupt blood flow causing numbness and discomfort in soft tissues.
You will see a wide price range on saddles, from $40 all the way up to $200. It can be tempting to cut corners and save a few bucks on your saddle, but resist this temptation, this is one piece of equipment that you get what you pay for. Your saddle is in contact with the most sensitive area of your body which makes it a good place to invest a little more money for maximum comfort.That being said, if you are someone who rides for an hour or less you will find a mid range saddle fits your needs very well. On the other hand if you are logging some serious mileage and spending hours on end in the saddle your comfort is worth going the extra mile with a high end saddle. One of the biggest differences you see in the high end saddles vs. the mid range is that they hold up longer under high mileage.
Narrow Nose Vs. Wide Nose
There are two camps when it comes to womens saddles, narrow nose vs. wide nose. Most women will find they have a very strong preference for one or the other. According to this article: Innie or Outie? on CobbCycling.com your preference is a result of your specific anatomy. The article sights two specific anatomical features which are the placement of your hip socket combined with your “lady part” anatomy. These features tend to determine saddle preference. It appears that those with more forward hip sockets prefer the wide saddle nose, while those with more rearward hip sockets consistently favor the narrow nose. Check out the article to determine which anatomical features describe you.Finding the right fit: comfortable bike saddles for women #triatlhetes #triathlontraining #bike Click To Tweet
When selecting comfortable bike saddles for women it is important to test out several different brands. While they may look similar each saddle has it’s own unique design and engineering behind it. Test ride several different brands in the style that best fits your anatomy to find the saddle that best fits you. Below is a list of some of the most popular bike saddle brands for women.
Adamo – one of the most popular wide nose saddles
Selle Italia – Makes an excellent narrow nose saddle and my personal favorite, I didn’t get comfortable in the saddle until I upgraded to the Selle Italia Flite Saddle (as featured in my Triathlon Favorite Things.)
Forte – If you are operating on a tight budget this is a good brand for a budget saddle.
Finding Comfortable Bike Saddles for Women
Now that you have a good idea of what to look for it is time to call your local bike shop. If you are still a little unsure on which style of saddle meets your needs many shops have a plastic tool that takes an impression of where you place your weight in the saddle, this can help them narrow in on which saddles will work well for you. Find out if they have test ride saddles, many local shops will let you take their saddles for a spin on your own bike to help you determine if the saddle will work for you. If they do not have test ride saddles find out about their return policy. Many stores have a great return or exchange policy, which means you wont be stuck with an ill fitting saddle if the first style you try doesn’t work out as well has you had hoped.
After you get your new saddle make sure to check your bike fit. If you can have this done by a professional, if not you can use the measurements from your last professional fit to at least make sure everything is still set up correctly. Different bike saddles have different widths and heights, failing to check the fit of your bike after upgrading a saddle could be a big mistake that could lead to some major discomfort on your next long ride. Another issue to watch out for is improperly setting up your new bike saddle. Your saddle is engineered to sit flat on top of the stem. Some riders, incorrectly assume that a forward tilt will be more comfortable. By tilting the saddle forward or back you disrupt the intended design which leads to improper placement and pressure while you are riding. You can use a level to make sure you saddle is placed evenly, and remember to check your placement at least once a year, vibrations and bumps from the road can through off your bike fit over time.
When To Replace Your Saddle
Saddles, just like your shoes and your sports bra, have an expiration date which is determined by use. Over time saddles lose their stiffness and begin to flex which can cause discomfort. If you find that your tried in true saddle just isn’t performing the way you remember, it may be time for a replacement. How often you need to replace your saddle will depend on how often you ride and how well your saddle was designed in the first place. Higher end saddles will hold up better under high millage than lower priced models. It is also important to note that the heavier the rider the sooner your saddle will wear down and need to be replaced.
While finding the right model for your anatomy is the key to comfort in the bike saddle it is also important to remember that it takes time to adjust to riding. If you are new to cycling it is normal to feel some discomfort as you adjust to the small seat and different demands of a bike saddle. As long as you have the right saddle for your anatomy, and that discomfort is in the sits bones and bony areas, give yourself some time and miles to get comfortable.