For some triathletes finding the right saddle is, well, a monstrous pain in the butt. Some triathletes go through months of trial and error before they find a saddle they’re comfortable with. Unfortunately, for some riders, that process might be inevitable, but, most of the time, a good bicycle store and some research can help. Here’s a primer on some of the factors you should take into account.
Saddles are designed for specific types of cycling. A recreational cyclist will typically ride in a much more upright position than a more serious roadie. Triathletes who spend a lot of time on their aero bars will assume a much lower position with their backs as close to level as possible. That position forces their pelvis to rotate forward, which puts a lot of weight on the nose of the saddle. Of course, it’s never quite that simple – even the most serious triathletes will find themselves riding in a group aat times, which means they’ll also spend a fair amount of time sitting up in a more classic road-riding position.
Which makes the process of finding a saddle that can accommodate all the positions a triathlete will use during their rides even more complicated. As you’ll see in the saddles we reviewed to go along with this story, some saddles do a great job of covering all the bases.
When you’re riding, you want your weight to be distributed between three points – your feet, your arms and, of course, your seat. Ideally your weight should be equally distributed between those points. On the saddle, your weight should be on your “sit bones” or the ischial tuberosities. Women’s saddles tend to be a bit wider because their pelvises are wider.
Contrary to what you might think, more cushioning isn’t always better. Some over-protective saddles will put a lot of pressure on the nerves and arteries in the perineum. Ontario pro Nicole Van Beurden built her own saddle out of carbon fibre – not only is it super light, there’s not a bit of padding to be seen. You might find that the right saddle for you is closer to Van Beurden’s minimalist design than it’s not.
As mentioned earlier, women’s saddles are often wider than men’s. Some saddles will also use cut outs, or a channel down the middle to ensure there isn’t any never pressure or restriction to arterial flow. As triathletes tend to sit on the front of the saddle when they’re in an aero position, many tri-specific saddles offer some extra padding at the front. Manufacturers offer a variety of shapes and widths, all of which might work well for one rider and be a nightmare for another.
Tilt and Position
I’ve often found that many people I fit on their tri bikes find a slight downward tilt in the saddle much more comfortable. Often people give up on a saddle that might actually be perfect for them without taking into consideration their position. A good bike fitter can ensure that your saddle is in just the right position to provide the most power when pedaling, then experiment with different tilts and adjust your stem length and aero bars to help you find the most comfortable position on the saddle.
Manufacturers will use a variety of different types of seat rails to lighten up the saddle. Titanium- and carbon-railed saddles will typically be the lightest, but you’ll pay more for them. You can even find some models with a built-in water bottle holder.
It’s worth the effort
Finding the right position and saddle is critical for a triathlete because it’s so important that you remain in an aero position for as much of the ride as possible. If you are so uncomfortable on your saddle that you have to sit up for extended periods of time, you’re not only going to be frustrated because of the pain and discomfort that you’re enduring, you’re going to be losing time, too. Once you find the right saddle, stick with it – either move it to your new bike or get the same model if it’s still available.-KM
SHC 170 – $190
Design guru John Cobb has been engineering bicycle components for the world’s best for years, and that knowledge has helped his company become a leader on the saddle front. The SHC 170 offers a narrow nose width, but still provides lots of comfort for long rides. Cobb saddles use a specially engineered, moldable base section, which is combined with extremely thin memory foam and titanium rails for an extremely lightweight saddle (202 g). The strategically placed cutout to helps prevent numbness and nerve pressure.
Arione Tri2 Carbon Braided – $345
This is a more traditional-styled saddle, but with a few features that make it a popular option for triathletes, especially those who are keen to lighten up their bikes. With a microtex cover over a carbon fibre shell, the Tri2 Carbon Braided saddle weighs in at just 189 g, in part thanks to the super-light carbon seat rails. There’s extra padding in the nose, perfect for triathletes who ride in an aggressive aero position, and the super-smooth cover makes it easy to move forward or backwards on the seat.
Adamo Racing – $220
Designed specifically for triathletes and time trial riders, the distinctive design of the Adamo Racing saddle has an extensive cut out, making it a great option if you tend to feel a lot of pressure while riding in an aggressive position. The Adamo Racing saddle even has a transition rack hook on the back for racking your bike. Uses light weight foam and gel pads with titanium alloy rails. It’s a bit shorter than other saddles, so you’ll want to both give this a try before you commit. Because of the design, the Adamo Racing forces your weight on your sit bones. We found it to be much more comfortable down on the drops than when sitting, so if you tend to do a lot of group riding, this might not be the model for you.