Thoughts on Bicycle Saddles

A good bike saddle is one you can completely forget about when riding: no chafing, scarring, or saddle sores. In order to find a saddle that works for you, Colby talks about the anatomy of the human undercarriage and how different saddle shapes can bring you ultimate comfort.

Bike Saddles

Many riders come into the fit studio struggling with their bicycle saddles.

In this aspect of bike fitting, the end goal is to have a saddle disappear, where you don’t think about it for one hour, you don’t think about it for three hours, you don’t think about it for five hours, you don’t even think about it when you get home. There’s no chafing, there’s no scarring, there are no saddle sores, there are no little pebble-sized cysts growing in your nether regions (which is unfortunately quite common).

We’re going to talk about the anatomy of the human undercarriage, and then we’re going to talk about the shapes of saddles and how those two things go together. How do they fit together? What are the design concepts of different types of saddles? How do they support the weight of the torso?

All this and much more this week on Cycling in Alignment.

Bike saddle 1
Fizik Saddle
SMP Saddle
SMP Saddle

Episode Transcript


Welcome to the Cycling in Alignment podcast, an examination of cycling as a practice and dialogue about the integration of sport and right relationship to your life.


Colby Pearce  00:25

Greetings meat popsicles. You’re here for another episode of Cycling in Alignment – I use that term not just randomly, sometimes on a bike, you do feel like a meat popsicle. Do you? Think about that?


Colby Pearce  00:41

Well, today we’re talking about how our meat popsicles engage the saddle – No, wait, that’s a terrible analogy. Forget I said that.


Colby Pearce  00:49

We’re talking about thoughts on bike saddles, bicycle seating devices, and specifically, I will unpack some ideas on saddles, some descriptions of how they’re made, and how they might do better to engage in human anatomy and how you might set them up a bit. I just want to give you guys some tools so you can start to figure out what this thing is and what it’s all about and how you might find a better one. That’s the objective. I get specific and talk about different brands, nose angles, shapes, and cutouts and other gizmos. So, my intent is that you find this to be useful information. And if you have questions, as always reach out.


Colby Pearce  01:44

I thought I would take some time today to share some of my thoughts on bicycle saddles. That thing, that torture device, well hopefully not, but I do see a lot of clients who are struggling with the saddle, the world of the saddling. And here’s the thing about bike seats, I usually ask people to rate their current saddle, one to 10. One is you’re sitting on a Phillips head screwdriver. 10 is the ultimate Lazy Boy, but not in a squishy puffy sense in a disappearing sense. That is the end goal, to have a saddle disappear, where you don’t really think about it for one hour, you don’t think about it for three hours, you don’t think about it for five hours, you get home and there aren’t holes burned in your crotch. There’s no chafing, there’s no scarring, there are no saddle sores, there are no little pebble sized cysts growing in your nether regions, which is unfortunately quite common. I know several riders have had surgery to have these removed. So these are scenarios we want to avoid.


Colby Pearce  02:47

When riders come in, frequently they’ll say my saddle is a five or six, or maybe they’ll say an eight or nine. And then I look at the saddle they’re sitting on and I tell them we’re going to give you a new 10. We’re going to re-expand your scale, we’re going to dial in. It’s like you thought Bo Derek was a 10, we’re going to go Natalie Portman on that or whatever, depending on your own – beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you get my point. We’re going to redefine the curve, and we’re going to find a new way for saddles to be comfortable and disappear under the body. And that’s a new paradigm for a lot of people.


Colby Pearce  03:26

As I’ve mentioned on other pods, we tend to lump all discomfort into one category. That is the discomfort which makes you a better bike rider, you go out for your first 80 mile ride in January and your legs hurt, and your lungs hurt, and your neck hurts, and your back hurts, and your shoulders hurt, and your hands are cold, and your feet are cold (unless you live in Florida), and your butt hurts, and your genitals fall asleep, and you have numbness or pain or saddle sores and that’s just part of the process of developing supple muscle and acclimating your butt to the saddle. We don’t want a human pelvic floor to have to accommodate a saddle, we want to build a better saddle. That’s the end goal.


Colby Pearce  04:08

So in order to outline this discussion, we’ve got to define some terms and parameters. We’re gonna talk about the anatomy of the human, the human undercarriage, and then we’re going to talk about the shapes of saddles and how those two things go together. How do they fit together? How effectively do they fit together? What are the design concepts of different types of saddles? How do they support the weight of the torso? That’s the issue. And then we’ll kind of unpack the nuances of all those shapes and how they go together and what may or may not work for you. The end goal is that when you sit on a saddle, you have some idea of what’s going on. And then you can start to discern which saddles working poorly for me, which saddles working better for me and what is it about that poorly working saddle that’s really causing the issue? Is it the width? Is it the transition from the overall width to the nose? What is it about that shape of that saddle that is causing issues? Is it the overall width? Is it the padding? Is the total amount of padding or the lack of padding or the placement of padding, or the thickness, and density of the foam? All these factors can impact how a saddle treats you.


Colby Pearce  05:15

And I’m going to not address too many anatomical concerns in the sense of, there are many aspects of a rider’s functional anatomy that can impact how they relate to the saddle, I will briefly touch on those if I go too far down that rabbit hole the topic becomes too big. So we’ll unpack that in future episodes.


Colby Pearce  05:37

Saddles are basically triangular, we’ve got a nose and a tail, right? And within that triangle, we can do lots of things. Think about a very old school type of saddle. For those of you who just started riding or racing in the last few years, you may have to do some internet searching to understand what the heck I’m talking about. These are models such as a Concor, a Selle Italia Flite or a Turbo. These saddles have some common characteristics; when viewed from the front, meaning if you point the nose, at your face, or at your nose, nose to nose, and you look down the saddle, what you’ll see is a curved shape to the nose, meaning the top side of the nose portion and the center section of the saddle is very curved. And even the the rearward section, the tail section of the saddle has a very curved look to it, like a rainbow, it’s convex. And when you understand the human anatomy, and specifically what’s going on in the relationship between the pelvic floor and the ischium, you’ll understand why that is problematic.


Colby Pearce  06:44

But before I get to that, I want to unpack more about the shape. So when we rotate the saddle to the side, we look at it from a lateral view, from the side view, most saddles are predominantly flat, meaning if you took a ruler and you put it on top of the saddle, one at the nose, one end at the tail, the saddle, the top of the saddle, would parallel the line of that ruler. There are some saddles that have some curve to them, like a hammock, and they curve down away from the ruler.


Colby Pearce  07:10

The Concorde was one of the older examples of this, really it didn’t quite curve down in a U shape, it curved, if you went from the nose to the tail, it was like a long, slow ramp and then at the very end, it has scoop that kind of cupped your butt at the end. And a lot of riders like this saddle shape for that reason. That scoop sort of felt like it gave you some support and cradled the glutes at the backside of the saddle and that was helpful.


Colby Pearce  07:37

Now we’re gonna fast forward to some modern saddles. Modern saddles kind of do, they support the torso in we’ll say the inverse way. So if we go back to our Turbo and our Flite model, look at it from the nose, we have that round shape, that concave shape  that’s like a rainbow, that pops up, and what you’re doing is you’re supporting the weight of the torso on the soft tissue, the perineum or pushing into the pelvic floor. In order to do that, in order to understand the relationship of that pressure to support relationship, we got to unpack what the human undercarriage looks like.


What does the human undercarriage look like and how does it relate to the base shape of a saddle?


Colby Pearce  08:21

So, most people are familiar with the term sit bones. Sit bones, or sitz bones depending on who you speak to, it’s a colloquialism and like all colloquialisms, it’s a great 50,000 foot view. Let’s discern, we’ll have a discourse. So the sitz bones are really what we’re talking about is the ischium, which are the two halves of the pelvis, or the underside of the two halves of the pelvis. And crudely speaking, these are like rocking chair feet: they’re wide in the backa nd they get narrower as you move towards the front and they’re curved – so they’re like the rocking chair feet. When you put a rocking chair on a hardwood floor, it rocks back and forth. And it has one point of contact because that curved arc is meeting a flat surface. So that’s the relationship of your ischium when they contact a flat saddle. In between those rocking chair feet is your pelvic floor, or your perineum. Your perineum has a lump of soft tissue, we’re talking about men and women here, and it’s kind of, in structure it’s sort of like a cucumber. So when you have a saddle, such as a Flite, which is flat when viewed from the side, and rounded when viewing from the front, and it’s triangular as it gets to the back – if you hold that saddle in your hand and you put a cucumber on top, is that cucumber going to be stable on there, or is it going to want to fall off to one side or the other. They’re basically two round long cylindrical shapes. And so you can see that first of all, it’s not a stable relationship. Secondly, as you push that cucumber down onto the saddle, you’re going to mush it and we’re going to get pressure point upon pressure point; meaning the cucumber is gonna get smashed into the long cylindrical length of that saddle. That’s offset a little bit in a saddle like a Concor, which is rounded at the nose, but then scoops up at the tail, but really not so much. Not effectively, it’s a step forward, it’s a small step forward, it’s one out of 12 steps we want to take.


Colby Pearce  10:26

Okay, so now we’re going to think into the future. And we’re going to decide that we want to support the torso in the opposite way, instead of pushing up into the soft tissue, applying pressure to the pelvic floor into the perineum of the underside of a human, we’re going to support the torso by the bones, by the bony ischium. So we’re going to build a saddle that traces the line of the ischium, and we’re going to allow those bones to sit on it.


Colby Pearce  10:54

Okay, now we’re back to our rocking chair analogy; we have those ischiums, and they’re going to go on that hardwood floor. And if we build a flat saddle, then we’re gonna have one point of contact. How are we going to support the weight of the torso on the ischium and not on the perineum? We’re going to build a saddle with a cutout. So we take away the material in the middle, and then what happens is the bones will lie or rest on those long – what am I going to call these, pulling out my descriptive artistry here, we’ll call these just the the long side of the saddle, I guess that’s boring. And the ischium are going to sit on those two rails, we’ll call them rubber tracks. How’s that? Now roller tracks are flat. So again, if we make that saddle dead flat, and put a cutout in the middle, and put the ischiu, on top, that will support the weight of the torso on those ischiums somewhere, but we’re going to get one point of contact and that means one point of pressure, that means localized pressure.


Colby Pearce  12:00

Back to our sitz bones. Many people come to me who have gone to a shop and had their ischial tuberosities, or their sitz bone width measured. And I’m here to tell you, that’s kind of a red herring, and it’s a bit of a useless metric. Again, it’s 250 thousand foot view. Why? Here’s why. When we look at the ischium towards the posterior side, or towards the tail of the saddle, there are two little bumps on those ischiums. They’re not perfectly round, sculpted rocking chair feet, they’re human anatomy, they’re made of bone, so they’re a little lumpy. And they’re two little points in the back. Those little points are kind of like little corners that pop down out of those rocking chair arcs. Those are the ischial tuberosities. There are also two more in the front of the ischium. Those are called the ischium of pubic rami. It’s easy to remember ischium pubic rami because the pubic is closer to the pubic bone, which is the front side of the pelvis, most people will be able to figure that out. The ischium tuberosities are towards the backside of the pelvis. So we have these four points: we have these curved rocking chair feet with imagine four little nubbins, two in the front and two in the back. And they’re like rocker blockers, meaning you can’t go past that point, you can’t rock further past the tuberosities and you can’t rock further past the rami. Hopefully that makes sense.


Colby Pearce  13:22

So, as we set up the bike, and we have our athletes sitting on the saddle, when the athlete sits up on the tops, and their torso angle is closer to we’ll say 45 or 50 degrees for most athletes, a little more towards vertical, then they’re going to naturally sit further back on those ischiums and they’re going to be closer to the ischial tuberosities. as they transition their position to the hoods, most people’s torso angle will go down slightly, we’ll say maybe 35 degrees, 30 degrees, 25, depending on the athlete, depending on where you’re measuring, you get the point. And then we’re rolling forward on the ischium. As we roll forward on the ischium and we roll away from the ischial tuberosities. And more towards the center between we’ll say the rami and the ischial tuberosities, somewhere in the middle. Then as you get really low and either get down in the drops, or maybe you keep your hands in the hoods, but you bend your elbows a lot and you drop your shoulder height. Now our torso angle goes much farther down. Maybe 10, 15 degrees, 20 degrees, maybe zero, depending again on which markers you’re using to measure doesn’t really matter. Call it a racing position with a more horizontal torso. That’s the concept. Now we’ve rolled forward again on those ischium more towards the ischium of pubic rami. So since those ischiums are angled, there’s an angle between them, narrower in the front and wider in the back. What we’re looking for is a saddle that approximates that same angle. So as you roll forward, it matches your pressure and it still supports you and as you roll back and sit more on the tops, it supports you better. Clear?


Colby Pearce  15:05

So this is the basic map of how a cutout saddle with a curve would ideally support the torso. This doesn’t work for all riders. So as a general statement, the only rule about saddles is there are no rules about saddles. Meaning one person’s Phillips head screwdriver is another person’s Lazy Boy. So when you ask your friend, or your riding buddy, what they ride on and why that may be useful data, but it may be completely worthless because your undercarriage is probably not shaped like theirs. And back to my old saying God is novelty generator, so everyone’s unique. So the best way to figure out what saddle works for you is educate yourself about the different shapes of saddles, understand how they’re applying pressure to you when you sit on them, and then decide what works and what doesn’t and then try several saddles back to back. Also see my podcast on how to buy a cycling shoe, same concept. The more back to back trials you can do, the better able you are to refine this process. Some fitters use pressure mapping to do this, I’ll explain why I think that’s quite a useful tool, but I don’t have one in my fit lab because I don’t feel it really gives me anything, especially for the price.


Colby Pearce  16:19

Some additional thoughts on saddle construction, we also have to think about the nose shape, in particular with a cutout saddle or not, either way, we want to look at the shape of the nose. Generally speaking noses can be quite flat, or a bit more rounded and the cutout can either go all the way up to the nose or not. For some reason, it’s quite common for seat companies to not continue to cut out all the way to the nose in some models. A good contrast in this is look at this specialized Roman or phenom and compare it to an SMP. An SMP saddle the cutout goes all the way up to the nose, in a Roman or phenom it does not, the cutout is more centralized. Just using these as examples. There’s no good saddle or bad saddle. The only good saddle is the one that works really well for you. And the only bad saddle is the one that is Phillips head screwdriver. So I’m going to use a lot of brands as specific references in this podcast and my objective is not to demonize or glorify or vilify or dogmatize any brand. I will just talk about brands, somewhat neutrally, agnostically because again, it really makes no difference to me what saddle you end up on.


Colby Pearce  17:29

Full disclaimer, I own a bike studio. I am an SMP dealer. I’m also a dealer for some other saddles, I sell Sq labs, dash saddles, I have a few specialized saddles in there, I’ve got not so many physiques, but a couple most of the time I use those as reference for what not to buy, to be honest. And I don’t know what else at the moment. Anyway, I’ve got a pretty good pile. But I sell a lot of SMPs. I’ll tell you that.


The in’s and out’s of seat padding


Colby Pearce  18:00

Okay. The other thing to think about is what is the basic construction of a saddle and the padding, and the amount of padding and the type of padding. So there’s a base shape to a saddle. And then there’s padding on top of that base. Padding can either be thick or thin, and it can be firm and very dense or it can be soft and squishy. As a general rule, the softer and squishier the padding is the more chafing and bouncing it is going to allow and encourage. And in my opinion, one of the baseline goals of any bike fit is to have the most stable pelvis possible. So generally speaking, I shy people away from padded saddles. If you’re having big pressure points, I encourage you to find other options besides adding padding.


Colby Pearce  18:50

What is padding? Padding is a gasket designed to make two objects that aren’t really the right shape fit together. It’s a void space filler. It’s a one size fits all solution. And you’re not a one size fits all rider. You’re a rider who spends probably thousands of dollars on your bike, and you’ve got foot beds and you’re dailing in your shoes and you’re picking your handlebar size… So why would you pick a one size fits all saddle? Find a saddle that works for you. *Stepping off soapbox.*


Width and It’s the correlation to sitz bone measurements


Colby Pearce  19:19

Width. I get lots of questions about width and the correlation between width and sitz bone measurements. Width is a rough approximator, in Steve’s estimate, it’s like a 60 to 70% indicator of what width saddle you’re gonna end up being on. But from my perspective, it’s not really a useful useful metric to take because you can come in and tell me my sitz bones width said it was this amount, 148 or whatever. The bottom line is, I’m still gonna put you on a bunch of different saddles and coach you through what you feel and ask you to report to me what your sensations are. And when we do that, the result is normally that you can tell me very clearly what works and what doesn’t. The key is I have to coach you through what to tell me.


Colby Pearce  20:02

Sometimes people got on a saddle and they can’t really tell what they’re feeling. This is confounded by the fact that they’re wearing a shammy. So, two secrets. One, anytime you’re testing a saddle, go towards the less padded model, a boneir side of things. Why? That helps you figure out if the shape works better for you right away. Two use a thinner shammy. Consider testing saddles with no shammy. Not riding for three hours with it, but just to test it for a few minutes. That gives you a lot better feedback a lot more quickly.


Colby Pearce  20:30

I’m not saying you have to ride with no shammy, I am saying that if you rely heavily on shammy cream, something needs to be worked on – either your mobility, your saddle position, your bike fit overall, your function as an athlete, or your sadlle choice or all footbeds, saddle height, setback and angle any of these things – it’s a bit of a wormhole, but the fact is, if you are relying heavily on shammy cream, like you can’t ride your bike without a ton of shammy cream, something’s not right.


Colby Pearce  21:00

I will also just pause to say that if you’re using a petroleum based shammy cream, that I have a big problem with this. My general philosophy, in case you didn’t know, is such that if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your skin. You get into a chlorinated bath of water, you absorb about 60% of the chlorine through your skin, not 100% of the concentration but 60% of that concentration over a long enough timeline. That’s a lot of chlorine. Your skin is porous, it absorbs things. So putting Vaseline or bag balm or nasty chemicals on your shammy is something I do not agree with. I rarely if ever you shammy cream myself, the big exception to that was during six day racing, when you’re racing three hours a night on the track at a million miles an hour and 120 RPM, you pretty much have to deal with a little bit of shammy cream. Even then, I was very selective about what I put on body. Just letting you know. If you wouldn’t put in your mouth, don’t put on your skin. This applies to all soaps, all cosmetics, perfumes, don’t get me started. You want more info, go listen to Scott Storries podcast.


Colby Pearce  22:08

So that’s my speech on width. I’ll just close it out to say that when you come in and say I’m a 142. Okay, here’s my experience, a lot of times when people go to a butt ometer or an ass ometer reading, and they get a given width. Okay, and in particular I’m beating up on specialize a little bit here. They’re wdiths come in regular intervals, they have 142, and a 155, and they have a 168. Those are the three major widths, they also used to have 131, which most of the models they’re phasing out, or perhaps all them which is a bummer, because there are definitely people who need 131s. But bell curve, sales model, hashtag, whatever. So let’s say you come in, and let’s say you go to a dealer and you are fitted by someone and they take your buttodometer measurements, and you are a 148. So you’re pretty much right in the middle between a 155 and a 142. What they are instructed to do, at least from what I can tell from reverse engineering, I’ve never taken a bg fit course, is to put you on the smaller size. And from my money, what that’s based on is a really simple logic. They want to have a successful sale and a happy customer. And most customers assume or associate I should say that a wide saddle means they have a fat ass, which means they’re slow. That’s the very simple way to look at it. If I’m on a 155 or 168, what’s the biggest size you make? Oh 168. Wait, you’re telling me that I’m on a 168? That’s equivalent to tell me I’m a 38 pant. But I’m only a 34. So it’s almost vanity sizing where they size you down. Now what’s the problem with that? The problem is that, if we’re thinking about supporting those ischium, those ischial tuberosities under load, think about putting them on a step. Now, do we want that step to be narrower than the width of the ischial tuberosities? Or do we want it to be equal to or do we want it to be wider than. Well if we put it wider than then you imagine there might be some clearance issues between the hamstrings, or the medial tendons and ligamentous tissue of the upper inner thigh, the the area right where your grundle meets your thigh, right? We’ll call that the crease. I think everybody knows what I’m talking about.


Colby Pearce  24:32

So we might have some clearance issues if the if that step is too wide. If it’s too narrow, the ischium are going to fall off to one side or the other. They’re going to tend to rock down on each pedal stroke. And that leads to an unstable pelvis. When the pelvis isn’t stable under load, something else has to try to stabilize it. That puts more load on the muscles of the back and the shoulders ultimately and the core and that is not desirable. Bicycles are amazingly efficient machines especially when you set them up right. You go forever, and you don’t have to fatigue certain local muscle groups. So I want the widest saddle I can get under you and not have clearance problems. That’s one of my kind of philosophies.


Colby Pearce  25:19

Now, sometimes the width is determined or dictated by hamstring clearance, or medial tendonitis clearance, or ligamentous clearance, something along those lines, something in there is really not quite clearing the side of that saddle. And then we have to go down a size. But I want the widest saddle and get under there. So I can have the most stable pelvis.


Colby Pearce  25:39

So when we support the weight of the torso on the ischium, there can be some adaptation. So if you’re used to a conventional model saddle, and by this I mean a saddle that does not have a cut out, and it’s pushing up into the perineum or soft tissue, remember that analogy of our cucumber on cucumber, those two cylindrical objects stacked on top of each other, if you’re used to sitting that way and used to all the decreased blood flow and all the erectile dysfunction, and numbness and tingling that goes along with it, or all the other yucky stuff in your nether regions, lady bits, depending, if that’s your model, and you go to a saddle that has a void in the middle, a cutout or a deep channel, and replaces that with pressure on the sides, meaning on those two railroad tracks along the ischium. Initially, that can be quite uncomfortable if you’re not used to it because you’re bearing quite a bit of weight in a new area. In my experience, there is a progressive curve of discomfort, and then a cliff of happiness, we’ll call it. How it goes is ride number one is like not sure I like this. Ride number two is like ooh, I feel some pressure there, my nerves are kind of complaining, I feel a little – it’s not pokey, there’s no sores, there’s no tension, it’s just like yucky pressure. Ride three is “Ooh, I really don’t know if I like this something about taking the saddle off.” If things work out really well, you take one day off there and you come back, and then you ride two hours, and then you get home and realize you never thought about your saddle. The nerves adapt to that pressure of the weight of the torso being born on the bony structure. And it’s just nerve pressure, it’s just the nerves figuring out this is going to be a load I can adapt to this. I’m not talking about calluses or sores or chafing or any of those types of adaptations on the skin, this is a nerve pressure issue. And that curve, I found to be pretty common. So just to be aware, if you change from a saddle without a cutout to a saddle with a cutout, and you experience that that’s a pretty common curve of adaptation.


Colby Pearce  27:53

If we’re supporting the weight of the torso on that perineum then you’re probably constantly dealing with perinatal pressure. And this is not trivial. I mean, the contact points of bike fit or everything, right? And the relationship between those distances. And so if your saddle is, think about this, if you’re supporting your saddle, the weight of your torso your perineum and you’re sitting upright, well, it’s distributed over a given surface area. As you rotate the pelvis forward and roll. Remember, we’re going into that triangular shape that the perineum is confined on the left and right sides by the ischium, basically. So we’re supporting the same amount of force, or the same amount of weight on a smaller contact area. And when that happens, the pressure goes up. Now, usually when you go on the drops, you’re pedaling harder, not always, sometimes on a descent, you’re not pulling harder. But sometimes when you’re hammering, you’re going harder. So what can be a confounding variable there is, you may think it’s not that bad because if you’re doing intervals in the drops, or you’re in a group riding, you’re only in the drops and you’re thinking, yes, I’ve got smaller pressure, but it doesn’t seem that bad. Well, part of that is offset by the fact that you’re pushing down harder on the pedals. So your feet are effectively taking more of the weight, you’re off weighting the way to the torso from the saddle. So think there is a relationship there. It’s like the old saying goes, the Old World Tour saying is “riders are always complaining, when the race is too slow their ass hurts, when the race is too fast, their legs hurt.” You have a two hour neutral and a promenade. Your butt’s gonna hurt, you’re not pushing down very hard in the saddle and you’re just collapsed. You’re just lazy on that saddle, right? Except not my listeners because they have good posture. They’re mining your actual extension.


Colby Pearce  29:40

So when an athlete is on a saddle that predominantly can only support the weight of the torso through perineum and they roll their pelvis forward, sometimes there’s a wrestling match happening there. Because you want to roll your pelvis forward, and many riders have the correct instinct that when they roll their pelvis forward, or anteriorly rotate the pelvis, they have the increased ability to breathe diaphragmatically, protect the nervous system, and in particular, how it relates to the spinal cord and also activate more glute during pedaling, all of which are desirable. But if the saddles really kicking you in the front side, right behind your lady bits or behind the testicles for a guy and it’s really uncomfortable, then there’s a wrestling match there, and you’re going to want to roll the pelvis back to protect that. Occasionally, I have riders who come in who are chronically doing that and the angle of the sacrum is nearly vertical as they sit on the saddle. And they’ve even, in some extreme cases, they’re barely reaching down to the bars and kind of holding on almost with their fingertips on the tops. When this happens, typically the saddle nose is up a little bit and the saddle is a really poor fit for the front side of their crotch. So we got to start trying saddles and see what we can do.


Different models of saddles and what they offer


Colby Pearce  31:02

I’m going to talk specifically about a few models of saddles and what they offer and what they don’t. And hopefully, the idea is that again, I’m not here to demonize or clarify any particular saddle, what I’m here to do is describe them so that you can figure out what works for you or what doesn’t based on your experience. And there are a lot of different crazy saddle models out there. Bike seats have some really funky little worm holes to go down.


Colby Pearce  31:26

One point of clarification, people get confused on the names of saddles all the time. They come in and they say is that a Selle saddle? Selle means saddle in Italian, and many saddles are Italian. So Sella SMP just means saddle SMPs. Sella Italia means Italian saddle, it’s equivalent to making an American saddle manufacturing company and calling it American bike seat. That’s what Selle Italia means. So Selle it isn’t a brand of saddle, it’s a descriptor that happens to be in many of the saddle brands. So that point is a bit confusing for eople, I just want to clear that up.


Selle SMP


Colby Pearce  32:03

So selle SMP otherwise known as SMP is the brand that I carry or a brand that I carry and they are made in Italy and I like to say there’s good Italy, there’s modern Italy, and then there’s Italy that’s trapped in 1942. And I’m sure you can think of some examples of both. I don’t need to name names on this. But SMP is a very progressive saddle company. They have some really nice lines. And I’m going to describe them briefly for everyone.


Colby Pearce  32:28

What their method is fundamentally to have two trees of saddles. We’ve got an oak tree and a cedar tree. And Aspen, no, that’s many trees. Anyway, analogy crumbles. We got two trees of saddles. One is called the forma line and the other is called the composite line. And each of these trees have a base shape that is the same throughout the line, but as you go from one end to the other, it gets progressively more padded. So in the forma line, it is specifically forma, dynamic, drakon, lite 209. Don’t ask me where they got the names, I have absolutely no idea. We’ll just chalk it up to creativity. And as we go from the forma, which is a base with leather padding only, meaning a thin layer of leather, it really is an unpadded saddle. Then we have a dynamic which we will consider light padding, a drakon which is medium padding, and a lite 209 which is considered thick padding. All of those have the same exact base shape and width, that’s the form of base. Each of the saddles is available of carbon or stainless steel rails. Both are bomber.


Colby Pearce  33:42

The other line is the composite line. And the composite line is a little different in that it splits into two branches. One branch is the narrower branch and the other branches, the wider branch, the wider branches six millimeters wider in overall width. And there are only two padding levels. There is the bony leather only and light padding on each branch. That’s it. Whereas the other tree has four levels of padding.


Colby Pearce  34:12

Confused? I hope not. The point being is that when I test people on the SMP line, I can test them on the leather only saddle and it’s very common for people have never ridden that saddle to just sit on it and go wow this is really comfortable. And then they get off and I point out that there’s no padding on it and they’re shocked. And this is the illustration of why when you have a base that is the correct shape, you don’t need a lot of padding. Most cycling shammies are 12 to 15 mils thick of foam padding. You’ve already got 12 mils of padding on your butt. So I’m not saying everyone needs a forma or a composite saddle which is a hard thermoplastic base, carbon infused base with leather only, I’m saying a lot of riders need less padding than what they’re on. Because padding is a one size fits all choice. It is a gasket solution and it is less than optimal.


Colby Pearce  35:10

So when we choose a saddle that’s got this design parameter, and the reason that I work with SMPs and I’ve had such good success with them is because I’ve never seen a saddle with those two characteristics engineered to such a degree as they are in the saddles, and those characteristics are: a really large cutout that runs the length of saddle all the way up to the nose, one, and two, a very big curve when viewed from the side that matches the shape of the curved ischium.


Colby Pearce  35:42

So you can see how the design of the saddle works, it cuts the ischium and it’s as though, when we put that rocking chair on that hardwood floor, really what we’re doing with an SMP is we’re curving the floor up to meet the chair. So we’re taking away the one point of contact, and we’re distributing over a much larger surface area. That’s the magic of that saddle.


Colby Pearce  36:00

The challenge of the saddle is that because it supports the bony ischium, and there’s less room for error in how the rider sits on it that means if it’s put in the wrong place, the rider will be fighting it the whole time. When you put a saddle on the wrong place and you’re on soft tissue, you’re on the perineum, that’s three or four centimeters of squishy stuff. So the rider just moves around and kind of makes it work. And maybe it feels a little bit wrong sometimes and not really sure the rest of the time and every once it all feels pretty good. That’s a pretty common saddle experience. But it also is coupled with pressure and numbness and tingling and loss of blood flow, which are all things we’d like to do away with.


Flat saddles: Fizik Arione and Selle Italia SLR Superflow


Colby Pearce  36:41

When a fitter uses a flat saddle, especially one with a dome shaped nose, or that rainbow shaped nose when viewed from the front, and it’s completely flat when viewed from the side, it’s a bit of a dartboard for a fitter in the sense that they can throw a dart in as long as they hit the board the rider is going to work some things out on the road. Why? Because a flat saddle allows a rider to slide forward and back quite a bit. The best example of this is the Arione, the Fizik Arione, which is a pancake flat saddle. And it’s extremely round when viewed from the front. And even in the posterior section, the tail section, tt is somewhat sloped, so the ischium can fall from side to side. People come in on the Arione and they don’t know where to sit on it because there is no landmark. You can’t feel the back very well, especially because they put that wing flex thing on the side. So even when you start to run into where the saddle gets wider, it flexes, and then you can ride all the way out on the nose.


Colby Pearce  37:39

To me, this is the, I’ll say, opposite of my philosophy on how to build a bike saddle. And I will tell you that for years, to go back to my opening comment about redefining what your 10 is, I rode the Fizik Arione for eight years. And I rode at the Olympic Games. I rode it at multiple World Championships. So if you ask me what saddle I thought was best at that time, I would have answered you Fizik Arione. And I would have said it was an eight or nine out of 10. But I didn’t know any better. And this is one of the most powerful lessons about saddles. Comfort is very relative. So until you redefine your scale, you may not know what you’re missing. This is especially true in the world of bike saddles.


Colby Pearce  38:26

There is an “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. If you have stable pelvis, you’re highly functional on the bike, you’ve got no niggles, no recurring injuries, and you’ve got no saddle sores, and your junk works great, your sexual performance is fine, then I would suggest there’s probably no reason to change. However, seeing what I’ve seen and knowing what I know, if you’re riding on a traditional style saddle without a cutout, I think all of those things are unlikely. So check yourself before you wreck yourself.


Colby Pearce  38:57

And SMP by definition is the opposite of this dartboard philosophy, you have to hit the target on the center as a fitter, because you’re supporting the bones, not the soft tissue, not this big squishy cucumber, you’re supporting the bony ischium and that means there’s less room for error. So that what that means is saddle height, saddle nose angle and saddle offset from the bottom bracket all have to be precisely controlled, otherwise, you’ll be fighting the saddle the whole time and it’ll never really feel right.


Colby Pearce  39:28

Also, I’ll say that the SMP line of saddles while extensive and has a lot of different options, and is a really well engineered saddle, if someone doesn’t understand how the line works, or doesn’t understand where a rider might land on that line and how to coach them through the sensations they’re having, and they don’t know how to set up the saddle, I=it’s easy to get really lost in there. So it’s pretty common for me to have people come in and say “oh yeah, I tried an SMP like four years ago. And I really liked it for about 15 minutes and then I hated it.” And what that tells me is, it wasn’t in the right place. It was a big improvement from what they were on, they got off their Concorde or their Flite or whatever and they went, “Wow, this is amazing”, but it wasn’t in the right place, so they started fighting with it, but they couldn’t tell the difference. They didn’t know where to go from there. So they just gave up and took it off. And there are some shops that demo SMPs, but perhaps don’t have the expertise to set them up properly. So it’s a bit nuanced, it requires more of the fitting, and it requires more of the fitter or to get the saddle in the right place. If the set shape is correct, and we get in the right place, frequently, the outcome is that it disappears. I’ve got a very, very high success rate with my men with SMPs, not as high with women, but still quite high.


Colby Pearce  40:34

Women, ladies, I’m sorry, but y’all are ice skating a little more up hill and getting a bike seat that doesn’t doesn’t make you unhappy in the nether regions, in downstairs – it’s just kind of the way it is. But we have lots of tools to offer and I’ll unpack some of those too.


Colby Pearce  40:51

So as an example of a saddle that has a similar cut out, but is pancake flat, we have the Selle Italia SLR Superflow saddle. It’s got a massive cut out that goes all the way to the nose, but when you view it from the side, it is flat as a pancake. So again, we’ve got a nice cutout where we’re going to relieve perineum pressure, but we’re going to let that rider slide for and aft all they want.


Colby Pearce  41:13

And let’s just answer this right now: there are 101 Italian wives myths about rules of thumb about bike fitting and 98% of them are complete garbage. But there are like three or four that we hang on to. Among the complete garbage is you should slide forward to the front of the nose of the saddle when you’re going hard, especially on the flats or slide back in the saddle really far, when you’re pushing on the climbs. This is mostly a junk rule, in my opinion.


Colby Pearce  41:41

Occasionally, I even have riders who get this paradigm backwards somehow. And they slide forward on climbs and this is even more of a disaster. Why you ask? Bicycle setup and the mechanics of bike fit have come a long way in the last 10 to 20 years, but they’re still way off the back relative to most other sports that focus on strength and conditioning and mechanics of human movement. Basic rules in the gym, if you’re lunging or squatting and your knees come forward over the toes, generally speaking, this is acknowledged not even generally speaking, it is known that this increases the shear on the patella and increases the tension of the anterior chain of muscles otherwise known as the quadriceps, specifically, the distal quads, which are the quads closest to your kneecap. And this is undesirable because it can cause knee injury and a lot of shear on the patella will eventually cause problems there over a long enough timeline for everyone. When you slide forward on the saddle, you’re doing the same thing you’re going into under extension because the saddles close to horizontal it doesn’t, when you slide forward, you’re not traveling on a circle on the circumference relative to the bottom bracket, which would keep your distance from the center, the radius, the same. What you’re doing is sliding forward on a horizontal, so you’re reducing saddle height, you’re also coming forward relative to the bottom bracket which increases recruitment of anterior chain and tends to downregulate we’ll say recruitment of posterior chain. Cyclist are already challenged to recruit posterior chain. I’ve probably said this a bunch of times already, I’m sure I’ll say it more, but as we slide our butt forward of the bottom bracket, we make our dead spot worse. We’re now pedaling a tricycle, we’re stopping with quads, all the glute out the window. And so during your hardest moment of the race, you want to decrease the total number of muscle fibers you’re recruiting, that’s what I’m hearing, you want to decrease joint angle to give yourself less leverage on the pedals. Okay, I see what you’re saying. Basically, it’s like cheating the last five reps of every squat. If we go in the gym, and I want you to squat to parallel, on every rep, but when it really counts on the days where we put on the heavy weight, I want you to only go to 80% of that range. Why would that be considered acceptable? We can see the problem there. If you’re training that way all the time, you get what you train. So if you’re only training 80% of your range, you’re going to get 80% of your strength, you’re going to get 80% of the range that’s strong. But that’s not the demands of your event. I would argue you want to train a larger range than what your event is. We’re always seeking to make the athlete more robust than the demands needed for their event, not barely matching or less than.


Colby Pearce  44:37

Okay, so this is what a flat saddle offers is the opportunity for the rider to slide back and forth towards the nose or towards the tail. A curved saddle doesn’t prevent this. A lot of people think it does. It discourages movement, and it stabilizes the pelvis in those ranges, but it doesn’t prevent it. You can still slide back, you can still slide forward. You can slide forward up onto the nose of an SMP which has an aggressive curve towards the front end of the saddle. The advantage to that is, as you slide forward, at least you’re not going into under extension.


Colby Pearce  45:14

Hence, the answer to one of the questions I frequently get, can I use a curve saddle such as an SMP on my gravel bike, my cyclocross bike or my mountain bike? Yes, you can. Why? Because as you slide on the nose when you’re going up that extremely steep grade, and you have to come forward in the nose and put your nose down towards the stem and kiss the bars to prevent your front wheel from coming up and still maintain rear wheel traction, you’ll actually find the SMP feels more powerful because you’re not going into under extension, you’re maintaining at least some of the leg extension, when you’re in that forward position.


Cruved saddles without a cutout: Fizik Aliante


Colby Pearce  45:47

There’s some other saddles that have a curvature to them, but have no cut out. An example of this is the Fizik Aliante, it’s got a pretty healthy curve when viewed from the side, if you take an Aliante and put it on a flat surface and then put a ruler on top, you’ll see that curve pretty clearly. And when I’m referencing the curve, I’m referencing from the tie points, so we’re doing exactly that we’re putting a ruler on top of the saddle. That’s how we know how deep the curve is. And it’s in the neighborhood of some SMP models, depending on which one you’re talking about how much padding there is, that’s good, but then we twist it towards the front and look down the nose. And we see that the Aliante is extremely bulbous and cucumber shaped. So it’s pushing straight up into that perineum.


Fizik’s Versus line and the problems of too much padding


Colby Pearce  46:28

But wait, what about the Verses line you ask? Which Fizik introduced a few years ago, I won’t speculate into why they didn’t just go to a cut out saddle, they went to a channel saddle, not a true cut out, it’s a channel. And what I’ll say is Fizik made things a bit worse here, to be honest, because they built up both sides with more padding. And the Aliante is already arguably too padded of a saddle in my opinion. And they built up more padding on either side. And what that does is then the ischium pushes down to that padding and crush it. And then your saddle height becomes a moving target as that saddle padding crushes. And I’ve seen this happen with worldtour riders, it can be quite challenging. The story goes like this, the rider goes to training camp in December, January February, pick your month. This is a new rider to the team, they get their new bike, we do a bike fitting, we agree on what their saddle angle, nose angle, height and offset should be, we record these dimensions, the riders happy. They selecte a Versus saddle with a quite a bit of padding. So we are talking about a normal stacked level of padding and then additional padding on either side to build up the channel on either side. That’s what’s going on. So it’s like a double padded saddle. It’s like a double frosted Oreo basically. And then the rider takes the bike home and they train for six weeks. And during that six weeks, the padding on either side is smashed by that ischium every single day and it gets lower and lower and lower. So they come back, having ridden on the saddle that slowly lowered a few millimeters at a time for six weeks until it’s about we’ll say eight, maybe 12 millimeters lower. That’s not trivial in the world of professional cycling, or in any bicycle rider’s universe. 12 Mills is a lot of saddles height difference. But they didn’t notice it because it happened gradually. Then the rider comes back, meets the team for their first race, and they get the race bike for the first time. The mechanic has done his job precisely. These guys have $2,000 Custom euro made, 2000 euro jigs, made out of aluminum and steel that precisely measure and duplicate the position of one bike to the other. And they have all the dimensions recorded because they’re constantly building and tearing up bikes, they’re constantly building up and tearing down bicycles – TT bikes, road bikes, spare bikes, Ruby bikes, classics bikes, replacement bikes, Grand Tour bikes. And that means all the dimensions have to be matched exactly. So they they came up with jigs that allow them to very efficiently duplicate things like saddle height, distance from the tip of the saddle to the center of the bars, the hoods, bar angle, etc. So the mechanic does his job, and he puts the saddle exactly where it was six weeks ago at training camp, and the rider gets on the bike and rides for five minutes and goes, “What the hell, this is totally wrong. My saddle’s way too high”, because he’s on a new saddle on his new racing bike. And the padding is not packed down. And then the mechanic gets upset because he’s done his job and the riders going “No, this thing’s way too high. You’re gonna get me tendinitis, my backwards.” And so it goes. And they’re both right, because the mechanic did do his job, put the saddle where it was and the rider is correct, because the saddle is now too high because the saddle changed.


Colby Pearce  49:36

So one of the complications of having too much padding is that your saddle height is a moving target. And when you go to have multiple bikes or when your saddle wears out and you go to replace a new one, then you it’s a guessing game. How far down do I put it to compensate for that smashed padding. We want less padding is ideal.


What rider’s don’t do well on SMP?


Colby Pearce  49:55

Other saddles that I work with and see commonly for riders who don’t do well on SMP, let’s go there first. What riders don’t do well on SMP? bBcause we’re supporting the bony ischium riders with an osseous or structural leg length discrepancy, meaning one leg bone is longer than the other, that can be the lower leg bones or the upper leg bones. If that’s the case, sometimes supporting the riders weight on the ischium just doesn’t work. Even if we shim them and do all the things that we do to help compensate for that leg length discrepancy, there’s just tends to be too much pressure on one ischium relative to the other.


Colby Pearce  50:34

Other times we have challenge with SMP is when I think there’s maybe one or two riders I’ve had in my career, who have a more pronounced ischial tuberosity on one side than the other. It’s not that they have a leg length discrepancy, it’s just that one tuberosity is just way pointier. And that can cause problems because they get a constant pressure point. And so we’re supporting the ischium and if there’s too much pressure one side it just kind of relentlessly hammers them until they get sores and things, so that cannot work.


Colby Pearce  50:59

The confounding variable there is that many or I would say most riders come to me with a pelvic obliquity, which is when the two have the ischium are not in alignment with each other, one is rotated forward or to the anterior and the others rotated backwards into the posterior. The most common arrangement of that being right anterior or forward, left posterior back. And this leads to a sensation of uneven sitz bone pressure or ischial tuberosity pressure, ischial.


Colby Pearce  51:24

Some people say ischial, I don’t actually know what’s more correct. Ischial, ischial, depends on what content you’re on. We’ll get Trevor in here in a minute and he’ll say it some other way. He’s always bashing himself or saying stuff, air quotes wrong. I’m just gonna tell him that he’s just Canadian. And he says stuff his own unique way.


Colby Pearce  51:42

So when we have that pressure differential from side to side, it can be an indicator that we have some pelvic shear happening or some hemispheric alignment differences between the left and right aspect of the pelvis, hemisphere is kind of my own playful adjective to describe that. So that can be a confounding variable. That may just mean that you have pelvic floor issues that need to be dealt with and your pelvis needs to be square before you’re gonna be able to figure out what works for you. That is a whole wormhole to go down in and of itself. So seed planted next topic, next podcast, future podcast. If you want to know a little bit more about that see my my episode with Steve Hawk. He talks quite a bit about pelvic obliquity.


Colby Pearce  52:26

So those are people who don’t work well on SMP’s. The other recipe for people who don’t work well on SMP tends to be the rider who’s been riding for 20, 30 or 40 years and they’re they’re just so ingrained that they have to move forward on the saddle on the flats and push back on the climbs, or even worse, vice versa, they can’t get their head wrapped around it, and it doesn’t work for them and they give up. Sometimes I can coach them through that and let them have patients frequently, sometimes not. I also describe in a little bit more detail some of the aspects of SMP bike saddle setup, and some of the adaptation curves and challenges in an article that we will link to that’s on my website. It’s called the SMP primer.


Colby Pearce  53:15

Also, we’ll make a link to Steve Hoggs, excellent article all about SMPs where he breaks down all the different models, the padden levels, he talks about the two trees, and he also talks some of their additional models that he calls orphans. He also talks about this thing called tumblehome. And it took me a while to figure out what the hell he was talking about. That’s basically the angle of the hull of a ship. So if you take that ship and flip it upside down, and you think about the angle of the hull, that angle is sort of what he’s using to describe how steep the side of the saddle is. Some are kind of more rounded and dome shaped. Like for example, a Shimano PRO Stealth saddle, is a very kind of wide shelfie flat saddle. It’s got a pretty big cutout, it’s very flat, and it’s sort of wide and then it falls off kind of gradually towards the sides. That is the saddle I found some success with on riders who can’t make SMP work.


Colby Pearce  54:12

There’s a small percentage of riders who can’t get around the front side of the SMP kicking up. The key to that is to put the saddle as nose down as possible. Actually, this is a real use for all saddle fit. Generally speaking, we want to encourage more anterior rotation of the pelvis. That means tipping your pelvis forward. What do I mean by that? We also have to define these in anatomical terms because it’s really easy to get off track and have a concept backwards for people who don’t have anatomical language in their database. That’s fine. We just have to be clear about what we’re talking about. So think about your pelvis like a bowl of soup with the bellybutton side, and the lower backside. Anterior tilt or forward tilt is when you tip that bowl of soup forward so your belly button is lower, right? You’re pouring soup at the front Pouring soup on your toes. That’s anterior tilt. That is the direction we want saddles to tilt, generally speaking. Excuse me, that’s the way we want pelvises to tilt, generally speaking, when you forward hinge at the hip that is proper performance to hinge at the hip, not in the lumbar spine. If you keep your sacrum, vertical, when you bend forward to get to the bars, you keep your sacrum vertical and you bend in the lumbar spine or the thoracic spine or anywhere besides the hip, I would argue you have some optimization to do there. Which is a nice way to say you’re doing it wrong.


Colby Pearce  55:41

So, I want the saddle as nose down as possible, stopping, of course, just short of the point when the rider is going to be either bracing themselves from sliding forward or chronically sliding out to the end of the nose, and then having to do a big adjustment back, a big butt scooch back. I call that the typewriter, adn I’m dating myself with this analogy – some people don’t know what a typewriter is in this day and age apparently –  But basically it goes like this, you kind of work your way out to the front over hard pedaling dddddd out to the nose and then go to “ching” and then you do a giant reset. A lot of people want to use this reference they talk about the year Commodore lost the tour and the final TT and he was kind of all over the saddle and a total train wreck and even the commentator noticed that he was typewriter out to the nose and then having to do a scoot back. And that’s very common in time trials. That’s not an affliction that is unsolvable at all, it is a function of increased demand of riding in the time trial proposition functionally and saddle position has to be just right. You want to see another really awesome example of that, check out some old videos of Tony Martin where he had the brilliant idea to put sandpaper on a saddle and glued it on there and then finished a time trial with a bloody taint as a result. It’s a bit tragic, and a good lesson.


Colby Pearce  57:05

The goal is not to make a saddle and shammy combo that glues you in place, it’s to have a saddle shape that supports the pelvis in a stable way. So we want the nose to be as nose down as possible, generally speaking, stopping just short of the point where the rider loses stability. The more curved there is when viewed from the side, the more you can be nose down. And to be clear, we’re talking about measuring from the high points of the saddle, just put the level across the highest points there are, don’t put it down on the nose, stop doing that everyone wants to do that. Why do you want to do that? Put the level on top of the whole saddle from the tail to the tip, from the tail end to the nose. That’s your saddle level. And on an SMP, we’re talking between two and five degrees nose down, but more three and a half, four or five for most people with a racing type, saddle to bar drop is common. Sometimes we can go six or seven, as long as the front half of the saddle is not at 0.1 or zero, we’re okay because that means the front half of the saddle has some purchase, it will keep the rider from sliding forward. If the front half is down, then you’ve undone the whole point of the saddle and that model didn’t work for you if that’s the only way you can tolerate it – you got to find a different solution.


Saddles for women


Colby Pearce  58:18

And for women especially this is an issue because women tend to be more sensitive towards pressure in the front, for obvious reasons, anatomical reasons. You don’t want too much pressure in the front side of a woman’s saddle, especially when they’re trying to rotate their pelvis forward. So this is why a saddle like an SMP or an ISM or any split nose or void, cut out saddle well say may not work for women simply because they get too much lateral pressure on the vulva to be direct. And it’s just painful for them to sit like that.


Colby Pearce  58:50

This was the birth of the specialized mimic saddle. With the mimic does is they use pressure mapping to figure out that most women, some women in their test group are having problems with this lateral pressure and the only way they could solve that problem in their eyes was to make a bigger surface area, but make it a soft squishy gel. So basically the front half of a Romin saddle with mimic it’s called, mimic is a technology that can apply to any other different saddle models, it’s got this gel nose on the front side. And for some women the mimic saddle works really well. It doesn’t work well for all women.


Colby Pearce  59:28

I’ve had some good luck with SQlab saddles for women. It’s got a very flat nose so it distributes pressure well. It doesn’t have a cut out but it does have a channel and it does have some scoop to the back. That’s worked well for some of my ladies.


Colby Pearce  59:43

Some women do just fine on SMP, in particular the nymber. Yes, it’s actually called the nymber, that’s n-y-m-b-e-r. Or at a pretty good healthy nose down angle we’re talking five and a half six degrees. Or a Drakon can also be a win for some women who are struggling to find good saddle fit. That can also work. I’ve had a few women end up on pro saddles as well, the pro stealth.


”Radical” saddles


Colby Pearce  1:00:10

That’s my universe of saddle experience right now. There are a few other saddles worth mentioning, that are a bit out of the box. If you’re struggling with all these, you’ve tried all these and they’re just not working and you’re sure you’ve had them at the right angle, then you might try some radical solutions. One of them is the Infinity saddle. It’s basically an un-saddle. Imagine if someone took a sharpie and laid you ass up and traced a line around the edge of your pelvic floor without hitting any holes. That would kind of be like an Infinity saddle. We’ll put a link to this too if you haven’t heard of it. Pretty radical design. It basically just voids everything in the middle and it’s like a thin ring outline of a saddle. And this can work for some riders. It has a small cut fault cult following.


Colby Pearce  1:01:06

You got to figure out what works for you. There’s no wrong answer as long as it supports the pelvis properly and you can ride with a good weight balanced test. I’ll describe that briefly so people can know what I’m talking about. Here’s your weight balanced test. Put the bike in a trainer make sure it’s level ride at about healthy zone to power like zone two plus, we’ll call it between zone two and zone three. So pretty good pressure like kind of pace you would do if you were annoyingly half wheeling someone on a two hour ride. Ride in the drops. Disclaimer, don’t take yourself out. When you’re ready, if you feel stable, take your hands off the drops and swing them back to straighten your elbow, your hands are by your hips. Can you keep riding like that without doing a faceplant into your own stem? I told you don’t faceplant into your own stem, I told you that. If you can do that without a lot of scooching, or straight up falling or excessive movement towards the nose of the saddle that tells you one that your saddle is a good platform to support the weight of the torso and two your saddle offset behind the bottom bracket is far enough. The further back you put the saddle behind the BB, the more likely it is you’re gonna be able to pass this test. But it also tells you a bit about saddle pressure, and about the shape of the saddle and the nose angle. You could have the saddle in the right place. But if it was to nose down, you would still rock it off the end of this thing. So that’s a weight balanced test.


Colby Pearce  1:02:33

What does that telling us it’s telling us that the majority of the weight of your torso is supported on a saddle not on the hands when you’re in the drops. That means you can reach forward and grab the drops comfortably and just lightly put pressure on the drops to stabilize the upper body and steer the bike. When you’re set up like this, your bike will be amazingly efficient, and you will go fast. When you’re not set up like this, and your saddles jammed all the way forward, you’ve got way too much weight on the arms and shoulders and this will illustrate to you how much of the weight of the torso is being supported by your shoulders, and your biceps and your triceps and hopefully that’ll be obvious how inefficient that is.


Colby Pearce  1:03:14

A final option for those of you who are looking into radical saddle solutions, there’s a custom company out of California, it’s called Meld, M-e-l-d. I can’t say that I have tried any of their saddles. I had a couple clients who’ve had experience with them and they’ve been good. Maybe someday I’ll order one just to see what happens. But they are a last ditch solution for some riders who maybe can’t find things that work. I think custom saddles is a great way to go. I’d like to see more companies working towards this direction because ultimately, we’re all unique, and you have to find out what works for you.


Colby Pearce  1:03:53

There are also a lot of companies coming out with these 3d molded kind of honeycomb looking saddles, Fizek has a couple of these models specialized as well. And I haven’t tried one of these yet full disclaimer, I will sit on them eventually and let you know what I think. But my take is that really what we’re doing is we’re just creating more fancier padding and to me that is a step in the wrong direction. To me this is a step to make things more one size fits all and take away more pressure points not build a shape, a saddle that supports the ischium in the right way and allows for the best shape possible for your unique bony anatomy. That I think is the ultimate solution.


Colby Pearce  1:04:38

Hope you found this all useful, or at least some of it useful in your journey to find a saddle comfort. If you have specific questions you can always hit me Have your little fingers do their thing and I’ll hit you back. Full disclaimer, I am subject to email landslides at times, so I appreciate your patience. And also, please understand that my time is not unlimited. Thank you. I will do my best to point you in the right direction if I can help. If my answers are abrupt, well, an abrupt answer is better than no answer.


Colby Pearce  1:05:20

Whoa, it is done. It is done, it is done. See you for the next episode.


Colby Pearce  1:05:28

Attention space monkeys public service announcement. Really, technically, it’s a disclaimer. You already know this, but I’m going to remind you that I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not a doctor, so don’t take anything on this podcast to constitute lawyerly or doctorly advice. I don’t play either of those characters on the internet. Also, we talk about lots of things. And that means we have opinions. My guest’s opinions are not necessarily reflective of the opinions of anyone who is employed by or works at Fast Talk Labs. Also, if you want to reach out and talk to me about things, feedback on the podcast, good, bad or otherwise, you may do so at the following email address: – gratitude.