One aspect of cycling that is often over looked is the sizing of your saddle appropriate to your riding position. We have previously looked at riding comfort in terms of clothing and chamois creams, but we haven't touched on whether your saddle is correct for you. Until now!!
Many brands talk of sizing in width, which is a standard method, and in geometry or riding position. For example Fizik: name there range in line with your perceived flexibility. These are:
Selle Italia have what they call 'idmatch'. This follows similar attitudes in the riders position but uses more science to establish the best saddle for the rider. This system takes into account the riders hip width, thigh circumference, rotation of pelvis (flexibility) and the distance between the ischial tuberosities of the pelvis (sit bones).
This information is then used to specify a style of saddle that would be best for the individual with the parameters measured. This system also highlights another area that should be considered. Your reach.
Many brands are now using body geometry to advise on the correct saddle for your riding position . Along side similar equipment to Selle Italia they use what is known as a 'Assometer'. This is a none intrusive way to measure the distance between the Ischial Tuberosities (sit bones) , allowing more individuals to feel comfortable when having a saddle fit.
If you wish to simplify this method to give yourself a guide to choosing your first new saddle consider a simple piece of cardboard and chalk. From this simple method you can gather some information that will help you choose the correct width for you.
By sitting on a simple piece of cardboard the Ischial Tuberosity (sit bones) will leave indentations in the surface that will enable you to measure across the centre of the two impressions.
Narrow’ sit bone width would be 100mm or less, medium 100-130mm, wide over 130mm.
A saddle’s width is measured from edge to edge across the top, with many brands recommending a 130mm saddle width for narrow, 143mm for medium and 155mm for wide. These ﬁgures should translate approximately across other ranges, with all other factors taken into account.
As a basic rule, the more upright your riding position the more padding you will need, as more pressure is placed on the saddle. With saddles now using a gel insert the saddle moulds to the contours of the body more readily. Foam saddles often lose their comfort over time as the padding is broken down.
More aggressive riding positions or racing positions will ofter require little or no padding dependent on how long you spend in the saddle. Track cyclists can afford to have very little padding as they are on the bike for between 5 minutes and half and hour depending on discipline. Where as a Grand Tour rider who is in the saddle for hours a day will need to balance the levels of padding and the shape of the saddle as their position will change throughout the day. Too much padding can create movement in the saddle material and cause chaffing.