Testing, Testing….

Warning: This blog post discusses bike saddles and female anatomy…. If you don’t want to read about sensitive girl parts, you might want to skip this one.

I finally broke down and started testing different saddles for my road bike. Thus far I have been using the (male) saddle that came on my (men’s) bike, and although it hasn’t been awful, as the training ride get longer, it’s definitely not great. Alas, I am not in the place where I can afford both a professional fit and a new saddle, so I’m just trying to make adjustments as I can. Yes, yes, an official bike fit with lasers and computers and so on is probably a fun thing to do, but I just don’t have the money for it! And I’m not convinced that I need it.

What I am convinced I need, however, is a saddle that doesn’t hurt in all the wrong places. I’ve read the descriptions, seen the skeleton, understand the potential of soft tissue soreness and damage, know what the sit bones are and how they are supposed to sit on the saddles, etc. etc. I  understand what the “gender specific” grove, cut-out, channel, notch, or whatever you want to call it that runs the length of every saddle, is supposed to be preventing and helping.

Specialized Oura RBX Expert - tempted by the large cut-out in the center...

Specialized Oura RBX Expert – tempted by the large cut-out in the center…

This Specialized Sitero Pro looks like a gynecological tool!

This Specialized Sitero Pro looks like a gynecological tool!


However… why do the aforementioned grooves or cut-outs only focus on the center part of the soft tissue – am I the only one who needs the pressure off the very front of my soft tissue?! I’m sure it means something; I think I arch my back enough that I’m rolled forward, thus I end up sitting on a delicate part that I’m equally, if not more, concerned about protecting.

The mere groove in the Bontrager Evoke RL Women's

The mere groove in the Bontrager Evoke RL Women’s

So… I went into my favorite local bike shop, Revolution Cycles, in Clarendon, yesterday, and checked out a test saddle. No joke, they let you use a test Fi’zi:k saddle for a mere $5 a day! The men’s are a lovely solid bright yellow color, but thankfully, the women’s test saddle was a discrete gray.

Clearly marked as a test saddle...

Clearly marked as a test saddle…

I took the opportunity of joining the Sunday morning Rev Cycles group ride to test it out. (No, I did not do 66 miles with Team in Training Saturday then a 33 mile ride Sunday! I’m not that hardcore. I’d slept through yesterday’s Team in Training ride since I feeling under the weather and not up for 66 miles.)

Rev Cycles ride stats. I'm still horrifically slow.

Rev Cycles ride stats. I’m still horrifically slow.

The saddle felt fine, although I still felt the pressure in the most sensitive area. The Mechanic, who went on the ride with me, and I forgot to tip the nose down a tad at the pit stop, as we’d planned, but when we finally did stop and adjust, there wasn’t a euphoric feeling or chorus of angels to tell me I’d found the saddle sweet spot. Perhaps I just don’t know what I’m aiming for – what does perfect saddle fit feel like? Or does it not feel at all?

The Terry Damselfly - I understand this to be a popular model. I have a Terry on my commuter bike, but it doesn't come with an angel chorus either.

The Terry Damselfly – I understand this to be a popular model. I have a (different )Terry on my commuter bike, but it doesn’t come with an angel chorus either.

Anyway, we returned to Rev Cycles and I ended up buying a Bontrager saddle to test for a while. They have a flexible return policy (Thank goodness! How else does anyone test saddles?) – I have 30 days to test it out, and assuming I don’t A) hear the angel chorus or B) destroy the saddle, I can return it. Huzzah. We put it on Donner (my road bike) and I did a quick test loop around a few blocks. It felt pretty good, even though I wasn’t in my padded shorts. I definitely prefer the less padded seat, and although the groove isn’t very long (hello, help out a girl’s most sensitive spot, please!), it seemed fine enough.

Bontrager saddle. Matches my Bontrager shoes.

Bontrager saddle. Matches my Bontrager shoes.

The test will be on Sept. 7, when I do my next long TNT training ride; no ride on Labor Day weekend. If I’ve been lifted into rapture by the loveliness that is my new saddle, I might not be able to review it, but I’m somehow doubting that!

Until then, I’d love to hear what your experience with bike saddle fit and comfort has been, ladies. What has been your best and worst advice? Any suggestions for me? I know some of you spend a long time in the saddle, so what do you use?


8 thoughts on “Testing, Testing….

  1. Hello!
    forgive me for posting on your blog but I had no other way to contact you! I found you through research on Broadway Dressers! I am an aspiring Broadway dresser and would love insight on how to get started in the business! My e-mail is amyperkins724@gmail.com and I would love any advice you are willing to give!

  2. Thanks everyone for your comments and support!

    The number of you who love your Brooks saddles shows me how totally personal saddle comfort is – I tried the 17S last year on my commuter bike and didn’t like it at all. It was too short for me, and I hated the way I kept sliding forward.

    And thank you for telling me I’m not that slow. : )

  3. I’m not sure I’m going to be very helpful, but on my long distance touring bike (which is also currently my commuter bike although that gives me conniptions & I never leave it locked anywhere for a significant period of time) is a Brooks B17S. I had no problems at all during the tour, or after. But it does seem like a highly personal matter. I’m narrow hipped and I ride fairly upright. I am not a speedy cyclist! E.g. 12mph average seems great to me & 30mph fastest! Wowsers! Hope you find what you need!

  4. I agree with ladyfleur. I lost track of how many saddles I’ve tried. Unfortunately, I had to buy them all because I didn’t have any friends who rode bikes and the stores by me didn’t have a good program. Especially considering many stores carry a more limited stock of women’s saddles compared to men.

    My partner (a man) convinced me to start out with hard/small saddles in combination with chamois bike shorts. That worked for him, so why not me?

    uhhhh yea. It was awful. I hardly rode. I finally caved and have a BIG saddle. It’s a Serfas. Like kinda squishy. Not sleek or cute at all. Not the biggest either, but definitely up there.

    I wish that it was as wide as it is, because I have wide hips, but not as squishy because sometimes it hurts my thighs after a while (about 40 miles). But it’s the only thing I can ride in–I realized that I just hate wearing a chamois (I’ve tried 3 and hate them all).

    I’m going to try a Terry next. I think they make wide saddles that aren’t too squishy.

    Good luck!

    OH, and I’m with you on NOT going and getting a fancy fitting. Find someone who is good at looking at you and making adjustments. A computer seems overkill

  5. I’ve ridden a Brooks B67 for over 15 years and it’s the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever had–and it was straight out of the box. However, it’s pretty wide and has springs, which really isn’t suitable for the kinds of long distance riding you’re doing. I just got a touring bike and had the B17S installed. It’s not quite as comfortable as the B67, but it’s still good. I believe that a leather saddle will work better than most other options in the long run because it will eventually conform exactly to your shape. However, it’s a lot of upfront cost when you don’t know for sure that it will work. Most shops will let you test ride a Brooks, though, and if it’s just as ok as the ones you’ve been trying, you can almost guarantee that it will improve over time–so probably worth it. It will last longer than any of the synthetic models, so in the end, it’s not more expensive.

  6. Oh boy, finding the right saddle can be a lifelong pursuit. So many variables including what type of bike it is and how long and where you ride it. In general, the more bent forward you are (e.g. road bike) the narrower the saddle and longer the nose.

    I ride a Specialized Ruby on my road bike that I chose in part because I wanted a more racing-oriented saddle. Before that I rode the Terry Butterfly which was great for all-day rides (centuries). I still have Butterflies on my tandem and errand bike (an old MTB).

    I just loaned a box full of spare saddles to a female friend who was having issues (Butterfly, Specialized Jett, Terry Fly). She chose the Butterfly.

    Good luck, and keep trying saddles!

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