Biking doesn’t have to be a pain in the rear
Custom bike seats are affordable and make a world of difference
The shape of a bike seat can affect a bike rider’s comfort as much as the material in the construction. The problem with traditional saddle seats varies for both men and women. Carefully constructed cut-outs in the center of the seat and specific seat widths can significantly improve comfort, health and endurance for any rider.
A conventional saddle seat increases pressure on soft tissue, compresses the pudendal arteries and nerves causing numbness. Female specific bike seats are now designed with up to 80% of the center section removed. The resulting decrease in pressure shows a clear and proven reduction in soreness, numbness and tissue damage. Women can also choose different widths and amounts of padding in the rear of the saddle for sit bone comfort and support.
Studies by urologist Dr. Frank Sommer at the University of Cologne in Germany have actually measured and quantified penile blood flow in male cyclists while riding. The studies have proven that pressure from conventional saddle seats reduces blood flow to just 18% of the normal rate within just a few minutes. Blood flow effect with specific center cut-outs is as minimal as sitting in a padded chair.
All seats are not created equal. Even riders with the identical waist sizes and weights can have different sit bone width measurements. The distance between the ischial tuberosities (a.k.a. “sit bones”) is the primary determinant of proper saddle width. A rider’s position is also related; as a rider rolls forward into a more aggressive aero position, the sit bone placement tapers closer together so a narrower seat may be prescribed. A comfortable endurance (more upright) position requires a slightly wider seat than a faster, more aero position.
There is no set formula for what will work the best for your size and comfort. The best fit can be determined by testing the design while riding. Bring your bike to a professional, have a seat properly mounted and adjusted and ride it around the parking lot to see how it feels.
Good quality, anatomically-designed seats start at about $40.
By Leon Zasadny
Leon Zasadny is Co-Owner of Sierra Cyclesmith in Reno