Bicycle girl & the search for saddle supremacy

More and more women are getting on their bikes. British Cycling are working really hard to encourage 1million more girls to get on their bikes – and they’re succeeding. One question I’ve seen lots of newer female cyclists ask is:

is there a ‘perfect saddle’ that will eliminate all my discomfort?”

The seemingly never ending quest for a saddle that partners with the riders’ rear is a mystical one. Unfortunately there is no such a thing as ‘one saddle to fit them all’ – and the quest is entirely personal.

I can’t tell you the saddle that’s made for you. However, I can offer some personal advice from my own journey to saddle nirvana and give you some tips for your next purchase.

MY OWN SADDLE QUEST

I began my cycling life as a triathlete and I never had any problems with any saddle. I never wore padded shorts and had no idea what chamois cream was. If you’re reading this struggling with an un-comfy saddle situation and haven’t invested in padded shorts and chamois cream – do that first.

Once I started to focus just on the bike, and upped my mileage – my saddle became much more important.

My first road bike saddle was a Specialize Jett that came with my Specialized Dolce bike. Initially I never had any complaints – but over time it started to sag in the middle. This one is entry level, at just over £50, but I like a saddle that won’t fail me after 12 months. (

Specialized Jett saddle

Specialized Jett saddle

The replacement was a Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow. For day to day riding, this one was great – but having ridden it on a training camp and touring, spending 4 to 6 hours a day on the bike, the area around the cut-out was quite harsh and, “rubbed me up the wrong way”, so to speak.

Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow

Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow

I also tried a minimalist racey saddle, the Specialized Oura Pro. At £100, this was a bit of a risk. We got on pretty well for some time. This one didn’t pass the 500-mile+ week Majorca training camp test either but what I did learn from it was that for me, it’s not about the squish.

Specialized Women's Oura

Specialized Women’s Oura

When I began time trialling, the saddle became very important. On a time trial bike, you sit far forward and lean on your elbows. Now –what one part of the female anatomy has more nerve ending than any other part of the human body? If you don’t know – you’re too young, or the male partner of a potentially very unsatisfied woman. But if you’re female I’m sure you understand.

After two time trials, and some agony, I complained to a friend who sold me her Adamo Breakaway. It saved my time trialling career before it began. At £140+, this isn’t a cheap option – but it’s worth bearing in mind it won’t agree with everyone – so checking ebay could be your answer.

Adamo Breakaway

Adamo Breakaway

The defining factor in the Adamo is that you sit right on the end – and there is basically nothing beneath your very sensitive parts – so I decided to test the same logic on my road bike with a supersized cut out.

My current pirch is the Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow. Like the racy Specialized saddle, it RRPs at £99.99  – so it was a risky investment. However, I’d assessed what worked for me – and I thought this might be it:

Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow

Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow

I read some reviews – and every woman who had tried it having experienced the same issues as me loved it. So – I bought this saddle, and it’s been my friend ever since.

Saddles are truly very personal – you can’t just buy one that your friend likes and expect it to be perfection for you. You can however, think carefully and try to take a logical approach next time you buy one, splashing out on disappointment isn’t nice.

A FEW TOP TIPS

1)  Get a bike fit or ask someone who knows their stuff (for example, your local bike shop) to take a look at your position. It could be the problem is not the saddle, but your set up –tilting the saddle down a few millimeters  moving it back, forward, up or down could save you money on a new one.

2)  Make sure you have a good pair of padded shorts and use chamois cream. I’ve read this highlighted in a few articles before, but there are still women who do it-  so in case you were unclear: do not wear knickers with cycling shorts. Doing that will work against everything your potentially expensive shorts are designed to do.

3)  Pinpoint precisely what is uncomfortable, and look for something that combats that. Then read online reviews – do women with a similar issue like this one? But do add a pinch of salt here – everyone is different.

5)  Check ebay. Once used, even if only once, a saddle is suddenly worth a lot less. Don’t buy something old and knackered (the Specialized Jett- for example – would not be good second hand) but something barely used that hasn’t agreed with another bum could be your next good deal.

6)  Look for ‘test rides’. Many retailers such as Cycleworks in Leatherhead, and Cycles Dauphin in Dorking (atop of Box Hill) offer  a ‘try before you buy’ service so you can avoid expensive mistakes

7) Get sized up. Many saddles come in small, medium, and large. This is based on your hip width – not your jean size. Brands that offer different sizes such as Specialized and Selle Italia have their own measurement tools to determine what you need. Ask in your bike shop – and don’t be shy.

Good luck in your quest, and please comment if you have any tips you can add.

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There are 3 comments

  1. Saddles: how to choose the perfect perch

    […] If you like to ride hard and fast, you are likely to be on a road bike, often with your hands on the drops, and therefore you’ll be rolling your hips forward, taking the pressure away from the sit bones, and often onto sensitive soft tissue. In this case, you probably want a saddle with a narrower nose. I reviewed a selection of more racey women’s saddles on my blog here. […]

  2. Bike saddles: Choosing the perfect perch

    […] Meanwhile, if you like to ride hard and fast, you are likely to be on a road bike, often with your hands on the drops, and therefore you’ll be rolling your hips forward, taking the pressure away from the sit bones, and often onto sensitive soft tissue. In this case, you probably want a saddle with a narrower nose. I reviewed a selection of more racey women’s saddles on my blog here. […]

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