Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This one's too soft and this one's just too weird...

A few days ago, I had someone in the shop with a, um, saddle related issue. He would go for a ride and then have lingering pain for the next couple of days. Not good. He brought in two saddles that he'd tried that did absolutely nothing to ease the pain and provide comfort. I find it interesting when some engineer tries to reinvent the bicycle saddle. Just like a double diamond frame and the chain, the basic bicycle saddle shape has remained virtually unchanged for the past hundred years or so.

While there may be cases where it is the seat that causes the pain, most cases it just comes down to getting the rider into the correct position and selecting a seat that is compatible with the rider's anatomy.

So the guy who came in looking for relief also came in with two seats he'd tried on his bike, but which had failed him. The first one, I can't for the life of me, understand how it's supposed to work. I'm not sure how it's designed to be positioned or where in the heck the rider is supposed to sit on the darn thing. Do you sit up high on the back? Cradled down in the shallow part or perched on the nose? Probably best to sit in a chair and just ponder what the heck the person was thinking when it was designed. It's even swoopier looking in person.

The other one was one of those double-pontoon things that are supposed to fit right under the butt cheeks. Again, it's difficult to figure out how to position it. Is it supposed to be at a "normal" saddle height? Higher? Lower? The problem with these types of seats is that when the rider pedals, the back of the leg hits the pontoons of the seat and causes other pain. I even, out of curiosity, threw it on a bike so I could personally find out if it works. Well, yeah, you sit on it and pedal, but it has got to be the most gawd-awful contraption ever bolted to a bicycle. A dumpster is too good of a place for this thing. It really has no place on a bicycle.
I've always liked WTB seats and have had no complaints with any of them. I put on a WTB Speed V saddle on his bike, fit the bike in a trainer, and had him pedal for a bit after getting his seat height right for him. His comment about the Speed V - not bad, but there's still a little pressure.

Next, I had him pedal his bike with a WTB Comfort V. A little better than the Speed V, he said, but still a wee bit o' pressure.

Finally, I told him about the Selle An-Atomica Titanico saddle. Every report I read about this saddle was absolutely glowing. Grant Petersen at Rivendell told me it was the best seat he's ridden. I had bought one recently and had gone on two rides with it and had really good results (but then I also find the old Cinelli Unicanitors that are simply plastic shell and steel rails comfortable). After telling him about it, I put it on his bike and had him pedal it on the trainer. He told me it was by far more comfortable that any of the other seats. Despite the price of the this saddle being over 3 times higher than the Speed V, it was the one he wanted on his bike. If it gave him the comfort he was after to ride a bike, then it was well worth it.

In addition to the seat change, I also noticed he was pedaling on the trainer with his hands well back from the grips like the bars were too far forward. The bars he explained were just too uncomfortable to hold on to normally. I mocked up a set of 40 degree back swept riser bars. He said that they were much more comfortable.

I found it interesting (well, I didn't because I already know it's not about how thick the padding is on a seat that makes it comfortable or not) that the first thing people do when seeking saddle comfort is go to a cushier/softer seat. This is obviously not the the proper course of action in this situation. I've always found the best seat is the one that provides the most support over the whole of the nether area.

This was the day before yesterday. Coincidentally, yesterday, another guy came in with his bike and one of those double-pontoon type saddles and asked if there was anything else that could be done. The two pontoons were about as painful to the back of his legs as just the act of sitting on the saddle was to the prostate. I sent him out for a quick spin on the bike with the new Selle An-Atomica saddle. I ordered a couple more Selle An-Atomico seats yesterday.

(What's playing: Ella Fitzgerald Begin the Beguine)


Jim G said...

I had one of those SA saddles, given to me by a friend who'd tried it and not liked it. I mounted it on my new bike (the Kogswell), and discovered that the leather had stretched (or the frame had bent?) to the point that I couldn't tension the leather enough to keep my butt from bottoming out against the top of the seat post. And I weigh only 145lbs! I contacted SA and they weren't willing to do anything about it, telling me to "just buy another one". I dug around online and found that while lots of folks find this saddle super-comfortable initially, there are several reports of the leather over-stretching, rendering the saddle useless after only a few hundred miles!
I've resumed using my comfy Terry Fly.

blackmountaincycles said...

Thanks for the insight on that, Jim. I'll keep an eye out for that.

Kevin said...

I have this seat on both my 29er and my Merlin with no issues. Both have been the best seat(s) I owned to date. I had seen the issues other posted about but I decided to try the seat and have been very pleased.

Guitar Ted said...

I too have tried the Selle Anatomica and it is by far the most comfortable seat ever. I did experience some stretching, but mine seemed to settle in and quit after about a couple hundred miles.

My beef with it is that the rails bend far too easily. The saddle is not recommended for off roading by me for this reason. Pavement only, and even then, my co-worker got his to bend while riding his Raleigh Rush hour.

I sooo wish that Selle Anatomica would consider beefing up the rails at least. Until then, the Pure V or Bontrager Inform saddles are my perches of choice.

By the way, That SMP saddle? You are supposed to run the thing tilted downwards. It doesn't make a hill of beans of sense to me either!