Shape and profile
Shape and profile
Traditionally, bicycle saddles have always been relatively triangular shaped, but recent years have seen an introduction of variations upon the theme, most notably T-shaped and pear-shaped saddles, but the basic concept remains the same and that is the broadest section of the saddle should support the rider’s ischial tuberosities, more commonly known as the sit bones.
The reason for this is that those bones are covered by muscle and so are less affected by the pressure applied while riding. If you go for a saddle that is too narrow you’ll then be applying pressure to the soft tissue between the ischial tuberosities, which contains lots of nerves and blood vessels that can easily be damaged and discomfort. Pressure in that area can also lead to erectile dysfunction and you really don’t want to go there. Some local bike shops will have a pressure pad you can sit on to measure your sit bone width.
Take a look at men’s saddle and then compare it to a women’s saddle and you can clearly see how important the shape of the saddle is to rider comfort. Men’s sit bones are much closer together than women’s and this is reflected in the design of gender specific saddles; men’s are generally long and narrow and women’s shorter and wider.
Gender is not the only factor that has an impact on the shape of the saddle, as the intended use can, also be an issue when it comes to the overall profile of the seat.
An example of this thinking is that a seat fitted to a time trial or triathlon bike, or one ridden by a rider who adopts an aggressive position, should have a very narrow, flat profile due to the rider being in a low and forward position with more of their weight placed towards the nose of the saddle. The Fizik Arione is one example, and the Selle Italia SLR is another.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, sportive riders and touring cyclists with a more upright and relaxed position are likely to have more of their weight shifted further back onto the widest part of the saddle, so it is likely to be wider and with a more curved profile, like the Specialized Toupé. In between there’s a whole range of ‘neutral’ saddles which are designed to strike a middle ground between narrow and flat, and wide and curved, such as the PRO Turnix.