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by Anne-Marije Rook
September 16, 2015
Photography by Specialized and Bontrager
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
“What saddle do you ride?” “What’s your most popular women’s saddle?” “Is saddle soreness normal?” “My lady parts don’t even want to come near a saddle right now!” “Should I get a women’s specific saddle?” “Does it ever stop hurting?”
Women ask each other, fit experts and sales people about saddles constantly. The saddle is the most personal part of your bike, and while good saddle is barely noticeable, an uncomfortable one can make your ride miserable.
Bontrager Ajna Pro Carbon
It took two years of avidly riding before I finally got a bike fit. I had been riding my cheap, stock (men’s) saddle this entire time and simply thought that discomfort was part of cycling. During the fit, the specialist measured my sit bones and put me on a women’s specific racing saddle. “Ooohhh! So that’s what it can feel like!” I exclaimed. I have been riding a variety of different saddles since then but these are the saddles that are currently on my bikes – and yes, they’re all women’s specific:
– Specialized Jett
This has been my favourite saddle for a few years now, and I was sad to learn it had been discontinued. The Jett is still on my main road bike and while it’s seen better days, I will continue to ride it until it falls a part.
– Bontrager Ajna Pro Carbon
This is my newest saddle. I have spent maybe only 800 kilometres on it on but I have been riding it on various terrain and in a variety of positions. It’s stiffer and has less padding than some of my other saddles but it’s actually very comfortable. It’s quickly becoming my new favourite. It has quite a wide cutout and was designed with women in the aggressive position in mind.
– Specialized Ruby
More racy than the aforementioned Jett, this competition saddle has thin but supportive padding and a carbon reinforced shell with a flexible edge that adapts to your body. Not quite as comfortable as the Jett but still a solid choice.
My first women’s specific saddle came about when a friend asked me why I was riding a men’s saddle. A men’s saddle?! I was so new to cycling that I had no idea that there were men’s and women’s saddles. I quickly went into my local bike shop, was measured and put on a women’s Specialized Ruby. It was an instant revelation: my saddle discomfort was gone. Since then, I’ve been fitted for a number of different style saddles. Now I ride a different saddle on each bike that I ride, they have different features that work for me and each riding type.
– Specialized Oura
I ride an Oura on my cyclocross bike because I ride in a more relaxed position so that I can be comfy when riding long, slow kilometres on gravel. I like this saddle because it has a little kick or lip at the back so my bum doesn’t slide off the back when riding a technical course or in muddy and wet conditions.
I’m new to riding a Power saddle. It is a unisex saddle so i was a little skeptical when my bike fitter suggested that I change from my trusty Ruby. There was no reason for me to change other than the Power saddle is a great saddle for racing. It allows for more comfort when riding in the drops, when your hips are rolling forward and you are sitting on your pink bits a little more. I put the Power saddle on and then proceeded to race 15 days of intense crits – all in the drops. I had no discomfort, at all. It is comfy enough for long rides, too. I recently rode 200km on it and was comfy the whole way!
– Specialized Stitero
The Sitero is a TT specific saddle that I ride only on my TT bike. It is comfy and allows me to get as aero as possible! I love it. Who says you need to be uncomfortable on a TT bike?
Simone Guiliani’s picks:
Selle Italia Lady
Until a few years ago, I thought I needed to toughen up and get through whatever pain a bike seat threw at me. It was getting a little harder to keep that attitude up as my hours on the bike were increasing. Then, when I went to buy a new bike I was lucky enough to find an extremely helpful shop owner who started asking about saddle preferences. He was concerned the male saddle that came on the bike I was buying would be uncomfortable. When I responded with “Well aren’t they all?”, he shook his head and threw in a new saddle that he thought would be a better option. It was a Selle Italia Diva and I was instantly won over.
– Selle Italia Diva (Mountain bike)
This is the saddle that changed my thinking about comfort on the bike as it has a width and cut-out that works perfectly for me. Some of my riding buddies don’t like the cut-out but it is my saddle of choice and has been for many years. Despite the tough treatment it gets on the mountain bike it wears extremely well, but the next one I get will be black as white and mud aren’t a great mix.
– Selle Italia Lady (Road)
I opted for this saddle on the road bike, deciding to try another in the Selle Italia range after the great experience with the Diva. It also has gel flow technology and a cut-out and keeps me content on all but the longest of rides.
My other bikes have a range of saddles – none quite as comfortable as the Diva or Lady – but for me cycling purchases are all about prioritising as with four multi-discipline cyclists in the family the bike budget needs to stretch a long way. Putting money towards new comfortable saddles for my road and mountain bike made sense because they are the ones I spend the most time on and am likely to do those three hour plus rides on. The cyclocross bike and the commuter on the other hand are usually for shorter rides so the discomfort factor hasn’t bothered me and I’ve just stuck with the seats they came with.
Jessi Braverman’s (non-) picks:
While I’m very familiar with the woes many women experience in finding the perfect saddle, I have learned that I’m a bit of an anomaly when it comes to saddle selection. In the last eight years, I have owned seven bikes and ridden another four or five – and I have always been able to ride the stock saddle without even a hint of discomfort (save one terribly painful century ride in Michigan, but having been on that saddle for eight months up until that point, I suspect my new shorts rather than my familiar saddle were to be blame). In general, I really don’t think much about saddles simply because I have never had the need.
When I first started cycling, a friend suggested I jump on the women’s specific bandwagon and swap out the Specialized Avatar saddle that came on my 2006 Specialized Roubaix Comp. She had brought me the Terry Butterfly saddle. I made the swap, felt like I was riding on a couch cushion and two rides later, promptly switched back. I had no discomfort on the Terry Butterfly saddle; it just felt too plush compared to my usual. And it was unnecessary. Why change something that works for me?
I had the same approach about a year later during my first bike fit. My sit bones were measured, and I was given several different saddle options from which to choose. Although I could feel a difference as we tested out various saddles in my new bike position, they all just felt different – not better or worse. In the end, I stuck with familiarity and kept my stock saddle.
Long story short, when the subject of saddles comes up, as it does often, I’m reluctant to participate in the conversation. I don’t have saddle war stories to trade or the perfect saddle (for me!) to recommend. I can’t even tell you the names of all the saddles I’ve ridden because I haven’t needed to know them.
Please let us know what saddle(s) you ride. Which would you recommend?