In 1997 there was a story in the press about penile dysfunction and men becoming impotent as a result of cycling. It spread through the press and was a huge blow to the cycling world especially in the US where they clearly take these things very seriously… It was in part because a leading Urologist Dr. Irwin Goldstein whipped up the panic by saying that around 100,000 men in the US would already be impotent as a result of cycling.
So then saddle companies started designing saddles with holes in the middle. Something that many professional riders had been doing for many years – to prevent pressure on saddle boils during the Tour and similar long races (I kid you not). The problem I find with holey saddles is that the opening has two sides to it and as a result they act as pressure points – I’ve never got on with them as a result.
OK there are extreme circumstances to saddle discomfort. First and foremost you must ensure that your saddle is dead level and the saddle is at the correct height. Then that you are in the right position in relation to the handlebars. An extreme riding position on a time trial bike could cause problems as you are sitting far forward and placing a lot of pressure on the perinium. So to get this part done it may require a bike fit technician to set you up properly.
Dr. Roger Minkow is an ergonomics expert. He has been working with Specialized on their Body Geometry programme for a long time the result of this is available as a part of the saddle range. His research has culminated in the current range of Body Geometry saddles – the latest being the Alias. (Pictured at the bottom of this article) This comes in the three fit sizes and has a large scoop as well as a hole in the top.
It has to be said that the Specialized demonstration was pretty compelling. The ‘guinea pig’ rider rode for 1 minute with a blood flow sensor attached to his penis. The rider first rode with a Selle San Marco Rolls saddle and the blood flow went from a ‘value’ of 60 to 8 during the minute. Then the saddles were swapped and the tester rode on a Specialized Alias saddle. The blood flow remained pretty constant for the entire minute. In fact independant tests (like our demonstration) have shown the Specialized BG Pro Road saddle to be 90% effective whereas a Rolls was a paltry 6.5%.
The research findings are also involved with sit bone dimensions (the bits you can feel on the saddle). So much is placed on the significance of this that Specialized have come up with three width fittings for their saddles, needless to say this cannot be judged by height or stance so Specialized have come up with a measuring device too, that takes an imprint of the sit bones as you sit on it. This corresponds with a saddle width. For what it’s worth I’m a medium. So we have a saddle to test and I will have to take the plunge and try it out and let you know what I think… It’s a bit like taking nasty medicine though, as I love my Turbomatic…
Maybe it’s a British thing, we used to use Brooks saddles religiously and this moved onto the Turbo and latterly the lightweight market has taken over with saddles like the Flite. We do like to stick with a preferred shape though. Fortunately they didn’t test a Turbomatic (which is my choice) no doubt it’s as bad as a Rolls, but surely we all get familiar with a shape and stick to it? And I don’t appear to have any (ahem) penis problems. However, perhaps the most classic of saddles the Rolls came out the worst in Dr. Minkow’s and the independant research studies. By a long way. So seeing as this is the saddle of choice of all the old pro riders and still a favourite of many new ones, what will we do next?
Price: Alias saddle will be £59.99
Contact: SBC – 020 8391 3511