Friday Group Ride #304

Friday Group Ride #304

There are a lot pieces of clothing and equipment for which I take suggestions, but saddles isn’t one of them. As I understand bike seats, the width of your ischial tuberosities (sitz bones) determines what saddle will work best for you. Recommending a saddle to someone is a bit like recommending everyone wear your shirt size. “Oh, you’ll love medium. It fits me perfectly,” you might say.

I have ridden a litany of saddles, from old school leather covered to roadie classics, with and without cut outs, various widths, lengths, concavity and convexity, all trying to find something to cup my supple buttocks in such a way as to make those 5th and 6th hours on the bike less torturous than they need to be.

I have, at this point, settled on a go-to seat, made by a company I don’t particularly like, but a solution which nonetheless gets me there without the sort of physical crisis that can put a rider right off the notion of riding a bike. I will not name it, for to do so might smack of recommendation, which I think I have made clear, is not my jam.

If you are still searching the land for such a saddle, there are things you can do. You can have someone measure your tuberosities, but this is an intimate procedure, like a proper tick search, that not everyone is into. You can also have your ass pressure-mapped, which will not only help you find the right width saddle but also show you just how lop-sided and improperly you sit on your bike in the first place.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what does your butt look like, and what saddle do you ride? How did you find this mythical saddle? Trial and error? Professional guidance? Or do you labor on, riding a sleek but decidedly uncomfortable piece of carbon fiber covered in space edge materials that reduces its weight, if not its total impact on your gluteal discomfiture?

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  1. Mike C

    What does my butt look like? I don’t have much of a plumbers crack. That’s probably a good thing. Then again I really don’t think that’s what you’re really asking for.
    I’m fortunate that I have narrow hips but it also translates to narrow sit bones. My first road saddle was comfortable but it caused numbness. I gave the ISM saddle a try. After a bunch of tilts, re tilts and fore and aft movement, I got that brick feeling just right. Did a bunch of 75-80 mile rides on it without incident.
    When I did my first 120 mile ride, I thought someone had put sand in my bibs. It came off the next week.
    I bought one of those super light carbon seats with the tiny pads on top. It felt so good to ride.
    The problem with that seat was if I took any time off the bike, I had to break my sit bones back into it again.
    Common sense finally prevailed and I gave the Prologo seat that came with my bike a chance. It was magic from day one.
    Yes, it looks like it came with the bike.
    Yes, it is more than one color.
    No, it doesn’t match my bar tape.
    No, it isn’t super light.
    No, it doesn’t have that cool carbon fiber look.
    No, it didn’t cost $250 like the other one.
    BUT, my ass is happy when I ride. ..

  2. Ransom

    I’ve been mostly riding WTB saddles lately, after lucking into a reasonably comfy one that was probably put on the mountain bike my LBS assembled for me due to the paint-matching white (yes, on a mountain bike…) and reasonable quality and weight. And being there.

    Of course, WTB no longer makes that exact saddle, but emailing photos to customer service got me the next-closest version. I’m still a long way from total comfort, but these aren’t bad. I *think*, apart from wanting to do some measuring at some point, that I seem to prefer a saddle with very little or no “saddle”-shape dip when viewed from the side, pretty flat when viewed from behind, and with a reasonably narrow nose with relatively quick transition to whatever width due to a tendency to feel like the saddle’s trying to pull me apart width-wise, and that I think a wider nose may constrict blood flow on the insides of my legs. Like I need to sit “on” the rear of the saddle without too much contact between.

    Sure seems like a lot of info, if vague, for still being so far from a place I can comfortably spend all day… And though I might lose a little of my own padding, sitting 20lbs more lightly probably wouldn’t hurt. Easy rides are the hardest on my butt.

  3. JIm

    A half-dozen years ago, I took the brand S foam-sit in-shop evaluation. Bought a seat with a certain width and was very happy with the results so I bought the same seat for my other bike. For the most part, saddle sores went away for good and now double centuries, back-to-back-to-back long days, etc are not a problem. Those old super light SLR saddles were a terrible idea for me and I’m not motivated to go down the new-saddle rabbit hole for awhile.

  4. Dan

    Selle Italia Flite. That’s been my saddle for 20 years, the perfect shape, the plastic shell flexes the right amount and a minimal amount of soft padding.

    Other saddles that I have liked are the Ideal 2001, original Concor and Concor light. All of these, like the Flite, are “less is more” saddles. I have tried gels and cutouts and I find that they cause irritation, not less, and I always go back to a simple saddle.

    Last year I tried a Prologo Scratch and a Kappa. The Scratch has a nice shape but the padding is too thick and too hard. The Kappa is more like the Flite, I could be very happy on it.

    In the old days you could try a saddle by looking through the $5 used saddle box at the bike shop. Good luck finding one of these now. Try a slightly used saddle from eBay and then sell it if you don’t like it.

    Now if only shorts makers would offer natural chamois inserts again, no padding please.

  5. Brian

    I found my “holy” seat by accident. A friend had an extra saddle that i put on my cross bike. It seamed ok for the spring months of training. What i didnt know is how much better it was than my current saddle on my road bike. Fell in love on a 300 mile bike tour and immediately switched all of my seats.

    couldn’t agree more when suggesting saddles. I just tell new and old riders to “try em all”

  6. Andrew

    For a long time I used WTB Rocket V’s on all my bikes. For some reason, about a year ago I decided I wanted flatter saddles. I have a different WTB on one bike (forget the name, it came with the bike) and a Williams seat on one bike. The Williams seat is pretty minimal, but comfortable. I think it’s a total crap shoot what works and what doesn’t- I’ve rented bikes where I had to stand after 3 days, and bikes where I didn’t even notice the seat it was so comfy. Basically I have made my peace with the fact that sitting on a bike seat isn’t going to be a perfectly comfortable experience. Plus i have a leg length discrepancy, so basically everything kind of sucks.

  7. Aar

    Selle Italia Rolls for the longest time. When it was first discontinued, I tried multiple Brooks saddles that kinda worked. So, I started a search for a modern saddle with the shape that most closely matches the Rolls. Finally, I tried the Specialized Chicane Despite it’s svelte appearance, I find it more comfortable than than the Rolls on rides of all durations. When it was discontinued, I stocked up. If my stock runs out, I have my eye on a Fizik that has a similar shape.

  8. Shawn

    My ass is fabulous and all those who regard it are better for the experience and live happier lives. The same is true for saddles, but, unfortunately for the earth’s population of bicycle seats, the glorious perfection of my delicious hams have straddled the same post-capper since I was a teenager. My saddler’s curated leather collection has been plundered several times to re-wrap it in a new, caressing cover after the last could no longer bear the wondrous joy and cracked under the strain.

  9. Aaron Thomas Smith

    Ergon SR3S (narrow width) does it for me.

    I once had my IT’s measured and was told it was a good thing I couldn’t give birth because I would crack my pelvis open like a walnut if I tried to pass anything through.

    Tried a lot of saddles before I got to this one. Complete accident that I found it. Bought five to be sure I have em for a long time.

  10. ScottyCycles

    Specialized Romin 155cm. I have wide sit bones and until I discovered the proper width nothing worked well. Hollands Bicycles in Coronado has a sit down in your bibs shorts pressure mapping thingamabob.

  11. Pat O'Brien

    I have no ass to speak of. Without a belt my jeans would puddle around my ankles. After trial and error, my boss steered me to Terry saddles. Liberators on all our bikes, mountain, road, and touring. Only overnight tours to date, but I hope to take a longer one soon.

  12. John

    Love trying saddles as much as I do pant shopping with a stick in my eye.

    Flite…although completely serendipitously found Fizik Airone feels good. Glad that’s over.

  13. David

    Selle Italia Flite since 1992 when I was working in a (now defunct) bike shop in San Antonio TX. A guy brought one in that he had crashed and tore the cover. I got it for like $5, had a prosthetist recover it and have been riding them ever since.

    My current one has been recovered 4 times. I’ve purchased 3 from eBay as back-ups if this one ever becomes unusable.

  14. John Kopp

    I have an Avocet Racing II on my Trek 950, and Avocet Touring II on my Trek 510 and Schwinn Paramont. Seems to work well for me. The II must be the size designation. The Paramont also has an Avocet Touring W I on the rear. It doesn’t get used much.

  15. Michael

    I have a skinny narrow butt and use different seats on different bikes. It seems to matter how upright I am for the fit, and I don’t aim for my bikes to each feel the same, cockpit-wise. My road bikes are pretty similar and somewhat stretched out, and a Fizik Arione works well. A Fizik something-or-other plastic seat works on my 29er, where I am only sitting part of the time anyway so I really only need something to blunt the seat tube end. On the cross bike, touring bike, and touring tandem, I found a WTB Rocket V is super comfortable, but I don’t think I would want them on my “normal” road bikes.

  16. Rick

    If you’re not sharing them I’m not sharing. Just kidding. I rode a B.H. Turbo in the 80’s, a Rolls in the 90’s and I’m happy with an Arionne presently. As for MTB, i’m open to suggestions.

  17. Bruce

    Been riding for about 40 years. Started with Brooks and never looked back. A properly broken in Brooks saddle makes it for me. When I broke a rail a few years ago and had to buy a new one, it was a very big deal. Takes about 200-400 miles with a lot of oil and a little league bat to make it right but once it is, it works for me.

  18. Hoshie99

    Tried the Big S ass-o-meter and got tortured on the demo saddle the shop recommended. It’s too simplistic of a test imho. Or the shop personnel might not have been trained properly.

    Had the selle Italia fit procedure at a different shop and voila – the right fit.

    I get along with many saddles just fine; just a little nicer with the properly sized selle Italia model I chose.

    I’d recommend that process to anyone reading this. Even if you don’t it that brand you can see the basic dimensions they recommend by vetting the saddle models they suggest and make your choice.


  19. MattC

    Selle Italia SLC Carbino for my 2 road bikes (though they changed the model line a few times and one of the later versions, while it looked great, was about as hard as the REAL MAN SADDLE from Sheldon Brown, so that one was gone quick).

    WTB Rocket V for the MTB (I’m on my 2nd one now, the last one got bent rails when I got hit by a bull last year). Went thru a LOT of ebay saddles before I found the ones that fit me. Agree w/ Michael above in that it’s the sitting position and sit bones width determines the ‘right’ saddle for the specific bike…thus I need diff saddles for my diff bikes. I’m a lot more upright on the MTB than on the road. I tried the Selle Italia on the MTB long ago for about 2 rides, HATED it (and I’d been riding it on the road bikes for quite some time by then). Trial and error were my process…though the measuring of ur sit-bones sounds like a fabulous idea if you are still searching for YOUR magic-seat. Cuts out some of the guess work and steers you with info.

  20. Rod

    Hated the saddles that came with my first adult bikes. Selle Royal something. Tried a Fizik Pave, didn’t work at all. Able to shop exchange it for the flat counterpart, the Arione. Loved it. Then found out basically any flat saddle works for me – cutouts, width (as long as you can scoot forward/back on a flat perch and adjust the setback), padding (though not a squishy one) are all secondary.

    I did a CX season on a Selle Italia with a cutout. No fit issues but the gap on something you’ll ride on mud struck me as suboptimal. For the gentleman above that rides the Arione – I’m now using a Tundra for CX and the fat bike. Flat, no hole, firm – and without the sharp point at the back that’s just begging for a bad remount.

  21. The_D

    I have a ridiculous collection of trial and error saddles at home. Am on my third Spesh Romin 143 (I think that’s the number).
    Problem is my butt and hips change as the season wears on, which forces me to play with minute angle and setback adjustments. Give a man an ass and he’ll sit on it all day. Teach a man to ride a bike and he’ll mess with his saddle until it’s too dark to go for a ride.

  22. Tman

    Been riding for 30 years. In the 80s it was Turbos. Early 90s I was on Flites.1995-present original WTB SST TI, the first version that looks like Gonzo the Muppet. I rode Brooks leather around the turn of the century. Still have SST, Flite, Brooks on several bikes. My 1×1 has an old take-off Squadra that just seems to work. I am currently gathering up NOS WTBs, that is my go to favorite.

  23. Tom in Albany

    Dumb-assed luck (pun intended) I bought a Serotta back in ’99 and the LBS I bought it through recommended a Selle Italia Flite. It’s been the bomb. I wrecked one – don’t ask – and replaced it with same. Happy butt here.

  24. Ron

    I must have an adaptable butt. Let’s see – road bikes: Regal.e, Regal, Prologo something or other. Cross bike: Fizik Gobi XM, Cross-commuter: old school Turbo, SS commuter: classic Rolls. Mtn. bike has some knock of Velo that is actually very comfortable.

    For me, it is more about finely tuning the positioning of the saddle. I seem to be okay with many…though I never, ever got the SLR to feel good. Oh, and I stockpile old Flites…but am realizing I don’t have any on my bikes. This must be amended!

  25. PvD

    I have a bony arse, am tall and all legs and arms. For a couple of years I searched far and wide for a saddle with the help of my fitter friend who let me borrow all kinds. Finally I saw a single SWorks Chicane 143 with Ti rails which looked like it had never been used hanging on a hook. It’s a domed, old school saddle resembling an old Regal or a Concor. My fitter said it’d never work, but strangely I started to forget about my butt and the pain I’d long been enduring. He just gave it to me so I threw it on my cross bike and I bought a second with carbon rails for the road bike.
    Sadly Specialized no longer offers the Chicane. I should have picked up a few more.

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