Author Topic: Saddles Thread?  (Read 37051 times)

JWestland

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Saddles Thread?
« on: October 22, 2012, 12:08:16 PM »
Hi -

Just noticed I don't see a Saddle Thread. The saddle on my Thorn is one the way out as the fabric is splitting and plastic doesn't sow well, not a big fan of the Duck Tape look ;)

Brooks are a firm (especially when not broken in yet) favorite here. But maybe not everybody's cup of tea, leather needs maintenance, bit heavy etc.

Also, how does one measure one's sitbones when changing saddle type? A lot of bike shops don't have a measuring tool, or they do but you might not have £80 for the latest saddle.

Might be good sharing some tips on that. Well, my two cents...

The sit bones: You can use aluminum foil on a soft chair to assess the impact one ones posterior to estimate what width is required. (tx for bike radar) sit down and lift your legs to leave a good imprint, or alternatively in the comfort of your own home with curtains closed, doors locked, excuses on hand when spotted etc , feel for the sitbones and measure the distance.

Right now that that is done what saddle does one get?

If the bones are 130 mm apart, a 130 saddle (measured at the widest point) means you literally are sitting on the edge. So I replaced the specialized avatar on my bike with a 143 model (the cover is going). But I could have gotten a 155 (like the Charge Saddle on the Hob) so why not? I prefer somewhat narrower but that's a taste thing (you can "straddle the saddle" better)

But as saddle manufactures can give width in different formats, best to check with seller before buying online, unless you replace a saddle you are familiar with.

Position/Comfort: So the next step is position: I tend to sit half forward, so a very padded saddle or a very narrow race one probably won't suit me. If you are fully upright a bit fat saddle might just be the thing for you, or a narrow mountain bike one (more padding).

Taste: Soft saddles can sink in and pinch the soft tissue, unless they are really wide and you sit upright. But in the world of hardness there are degrees of course. This is where reading reviews comes in...

Men/Women: Women's saddles come wider, and some brands say they got special features for soft tissue relief. Well, I used Brooks (ancient), Avatar (men) and Charge (women) and it seems the sitbones bit/hardness is mostly important. Of course the narrower and harder you want your saddle to be, the more important it is you get that bit right.

I ended up reading a lot of reviews, lusting after a Specialized Jett (Avatar is a men's saddle) which was only on e-bay for 130mm at widest point and thought...well the avatar works why spend more? and then got the deal from Evans for an Avatar.

BTW if you have a particularly fussy behind, it might be worth getting two of a certain model, as every few years manufacturers change things. Aside from Brooks if a B17 suits you... ;)

If a saddle works of course...just get a new one! But maybe it doesn't. Well just my 2 cents hope you find it useful.


Pedal to the metal! Wind, rain, hills, braking power permitting ;)

jags

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2012, 02:22:36 PM »
is my ass to big in this saddle  ;) all good advice i'm sure but if you dont spent enough time in the saddle (Bike)  it doesn't matter a damn about the correct width  ;D

Danneaux

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2012, 05:04:36 PM »
Hi Jawine!

You're absolutely right -- we need a dedicated saddle thread, and I can't imagine why we haven't had one till now; thanks for starting it!

My longtime favorite for the last several decades has been and remains the Brooks B.17. It fits me well, I prefer them new rather than used, and I like the shape and natural "suspension" the slung leather provides.

Before that -- and still, on some of my bikes -- my favorite has been the Avocet Touring II saddle, produced in its original form from about 1978 to the early-mid 1980s. Comprised of a thin nappa calfskin cover over "bump-shaped" dense foam over a nylon pan with thinned spots under the bumps, this has worked well for me. I have two on my tandem, and several more. These have held up well in all weather, are supportive for me without being "too much", and are my second-favorite saddles to the Brooks. One of their great virtues is their consistency -- a good example of an Avocet Touring II will always feel the same over time. Their many imitators in "anatomic" saddles and those that are gel-filled or lycra-covered never matched the original Touring II in my experience. Of course they are no longer made -- at least not in that form -- but a few can still be had on eBay from time to time.

As for measuring my sit-bone (ischial tuberosity) width, I used the bend-over-as-I-would ride-and (while wearing my thinnest underwear) -feel-around-for-where-the-bumps-are method. Slide a caliper against one finger, and slide the other finger along till it matches the bump on the other side. Remove, and read. It can also be done while sitting, but is harder to get the caliper in place; the tinfoil method didn't work so well for me back in the day. By the time  got up, it appeared my sit-bones were the size of dinner plates or even serving platters.

There is a key point (sorry) to sit-bone width that is often overlooked: The width is not constant, but varies depending on how the pelvis is rotated -- it gets narrower toward the front in both men and women, and wider to the rear. What this means is, if you sit upright, your ischial tuberosities are effectively wider, and if you ride in a racer's tuck, they are effectively narrower, so take your measurements in the position you'll be riding, and choose your saddle width accordingly so those weight-bearing sit-bones will be in the ideal spot for you and the riding position you prefer most often. This is why my tandem stokers -- male and female -- tend to prefer the slightly wider women's Avocet Touring II I have in the rear position; they sit more upright, and so need wider support than I do, leaned over more in the captain's compartment.

If one goes for a Brooks or other leather-suspended saddle, sit-bone width has a direct bearing on comfort. Why? It is because these saddles have a steel rear flange to which the leather is attached. For these saddles to be comfortable, your sit-bones must sit on the leather and not the flange. I ran into this mismatch myself with a glorious Fujita Pro saddle, made from a thick cut of water buffalo hide. The thing was nearly twice as thick as the leather in a Brooks Professional, and the build quality was magnificent. I put it on my best bike with such pride, and after spending a good 20 minutes admiring it, went for a ride. Oh, the pain; exquisite agony. The saddle was narrower than my B.17s, and so was the steel flange, intended for a racer's very low position. In my more upright touring position with 45° back, my pelvis was rotated rearward enough so the wider portion of the sit-bones were directly atop the steel flange. Man, words can't describe the effect, but it was BAD. Fighting both facts and reality, tried again and once again with the same results. I removed the saddle and sold it to my neighbor, who was delighted with it for his low-back position on a vintage Peugeot PX10LE. As for me, disappointed and much chastened for being seduced by beauty over function, I returned to my Avocets and B.17s and have been happy ever since.

'Hope something in the above will prove useful. It isn't easy selecting a new saddle, and -- you're right, Jawine! -- when you find a "keeper" get at least two; they do change 'em from time to time. As for me, I wish I could find someone who wanted to buy Brooks saddles in perfect condition that have been just broken-in. I prefer mine new and through to break-in but not so much beyond. I don't put a lot of weight on the saddle, so unless it is a particularly thin or compliant cut of leather, it sometimes takes a few years to get there. eBay's a help for selling on, but I sometimes wonder if there are people who would like a saddle where all the hard work's already been done and the thing is comfortable for them from the start.

Best,

Dan.

JWestland

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2012, 05:11:19 PM »
Aaah the sitbones are wider at the back, that explains why in a more upright position you need a wider saddle   :D

Tried the alu foil, no joy either too big an imprint. The other method is more... undignified but it works.

(It is really bad I know try to get that underwear picture out my head? I guess underwear for cycling is possibly another topic)  ;D
Pedal to the metal! Wind, rain, hills, braking power permitting ;)

Danneaux

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2012, 05:16:46 PM »
Quote
It is really bad I know try to get that underwear picture out my head?
<nods> Yeah, I know...I thought awhile before posting that. The trouble is, if you try it in riding shorts, the "chamois" pad gets in the way of accurate measurements. And if one tries it in the buff, it is actually harder to get accurate measurements. Thin, knit underwear fabric is the way to go for accuracy.
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I guess underwear for cycling is possibly another topic
Uhhh...yeah. S'pose so.  :-\ "try[ing] to get that underwear picture out my head".

All the best,

Dan. (At loss for an appropriate closer this time...)
« Last Edit: October 23, 2012, 01:47:52 AM by Danneaux »

Swislon

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2012, 05:34:48 PM »
Ah saddles. What a topic. I have three B17 s, all very comfortable, hammock like as you tend to sit in it rather than on it. I have heard recent B17s haven' t got the same quality of leather than of days of old. One of mine has become looser than the other two but tightens up OK


I am just trying a Giles Berthoud Aspin on my Van Nicholas Yukon and finding it more of the kind you sit on. Still leather and thicker than a B17. Will need a bit more breaking in than B 17 but I think will be brilliant after a few more miles. I did try Brooks Team Professional before but didn't take to it, which is odd because I have a 33 year old Brooks professional that was always comfortable in my youth but is rock solid now. Perhaps your anatomy changes over the years.

Specialized use a sit pad that leaves indentations of your sit bones. They will then tell you which size of their saddles you will need. I availed myself of this service but couldn't bring my self to try one of their saddles yet. Maybe one day.

wildrover

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2012, 01:00:42 AM »
Here's more discussion (from the ladies) on that subject:

http://forums.teamestrogen.com/showthread.php?t=38436&highlight=sit+bones

I placed one of our memory-foam mattress toppers on a hard bench (and sat on it).  It held the impression of sit-bones long enough to measure.

Holly

JWestland

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2012, 11:25:48 AM »
Tx good tips :)

They should do a big pole with 20 seat-posts with saddles on it to test sit at bike shops!

As like buying a sofa, it's hard to do online.

Pedal to the metal! Wind, rain, hills, braking power permitting ;)

honesty

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2012, 12:28:34 PM »
Interesting topic. I've never owned a brooks saddle myself, though have some 20 odd years ago ridden my dad's bike with an old Brooks B17 on it. I remember it hurt like anything.

At the moment I use a Charge Spoon Ti. The none Ti versions are dirt cheap, but the titanium railed ones were only 20 quid more on Wiggle and are covered by real leather. So far its been really comfy.

Andre Jute

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2012, 03:58:14 PM »
There is a Brooks that is widely said to be comfortable out of the box. (Well, actually, mine came in a plastic bag.) It is the Brooks B73, with helical coil springs at all three corners.  I don't notice mine any more, so I should say it is extremely comfortable. It's essentially a B67 with a third coil at the nose.

It is important as you sit up straighter, and many cyclists are now, that your saddle becomes wider. There are some heavier duty models than the B73 in the Brooks catalogue (B135 is one that comes to mind) but they're not wider. The only current wider model is B190, a monster of a saddle built for really huge people and really hard service. (I fingered it, and decided I'd never even break it in...)

As wide (ish), comfortable, heavy duty Brooks saddles go, the B73 is the lightest of the lot at that end of the Brooks range. I weigh 210 pounds and ride hard on bad roads but not very far, so I don't see the necessity of a "colonial" model Brooks, but there is no evidence that the B73 in harder or more extended use will suddenly wilt.

The street myth that a Brooks B73 sways from side to side on the nose coil, propagated even by Brooks themselves, is nonsense. I'm pretty hefty as cyclists go and as a retired motor racer have a finely developed sense of yaw, and I have never perceived the slightest sideways instability. There's not much movement in even the fore and aft plane, which should be easier to induce, because those springs are extremely stiff.

And they get stiffer on all models on the far side of Brooks line from the B73, and on some are doubled up. At that end of the range, it isn't only the leather you have to break in, the springs will probably want to take a few thousand miles to settle too.

I'm very satisfied with my B73, which I bought at a sale at SJS as an experiment, and have since carried from bike to bike.

***

I've been on other people's B17, broken and new, and have found them all too narrow for the angle of my back. But then you're not supposed to sit on a B17 but to hover your bottom above it and support yourself on your legs with your feet on the pedals. I just don't understand why loaded tourers, whose needs are different, would fit the B17 new. (It's a different matter if you're bringing a broken saddle with you from another bike. Better the devil you know than chafed whatnots for a couple of thousand miles.)

At the B73 end of the Brooks range, you're definitely intended to sit on the saddle, and for many hours at a stretch, day after day. It is no accident that in the days when the Raleigh was mass transport, they fitted much wider saddles than B17.

So, to summarize:
1. Don't see the B17 as a tourer's saddle.
2. B73 is probably as far to the other side of the Brooks range as most want to move.
3. In between there are some really good saddles that share the B73's wider seat without the weight of the springs, including the B66 and B67, which I once heard a Dutchman describe as "a grown-up B17".

Andre Jute
« Last Edit: October 23, 2012, 10:59:25 PM by Hobbes »
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Danneaux

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2012, 08:21:36 PM »
Hi Andre!

A beautifully written summary, as always.  I think you've placed your literary finger squarely on a larger issue, as well, when you write...
Quote
I've been on other people's B17, broken and new, and have found them all too narrow for the angle of my back. But then you're not supposed to sit on a B17 but to hover your bottom above it and support yourself on your legs with your feet on the pedals. I just don't understand why loaded tourers, whose needs are different, would fit the B17 new.
My response (not in disagreement, but in amplification) is touring means different things to different people, and the nature of "touring" has changed over time. "Touring" of today is not the touring of old.

In the days of the French constructeurs (1930s, '40s, '50s) and on up through the 1970s when I started touring and on into the 1980s, touring most often took place on bicycles with drop handlebars set higher, and was an offshoot of the roadie tradition, simply scaled back a notch in intensity and redirected toward long day-rides and cycle-camping. "Tourists" in these eras wore adaptations of road-racing clothing for the most part, and the bikes (remember, drop handlebars) were setup much the same as road bikes.

I would good-naturedly argue the B.17 was purpose-built and appropriate for this sort of touring.

I agree heartily the B.17 may no longer be as appropriate for the evolving nature of what is increasingly called "touring", and seems to be an adaptation of the German "bike-trekking" model, where riders sit much more upright, go on- and offroad at a generally slower pace, and often ride in hiking boots or more multi-modal footware for use and versatility off the bike as well.

If one is more influenced by roadie traditions and tours in an inclined posture, then a B.17 is hard to beat as a touring saddle. If one sits more upright and has the handlebars to match, then -- agreed! -- a wider saddle and very likely one with springs) is more appropriate.

All the best,

Dan. (...inclined-B.17-loving-old-school-roadie-tourist-with-hummingbird cadence-whew!)

revelo

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2012, 07:04:46 PM »
If one goes for a Brooks or other leather-suspended saddle, sit-bone width has a direct bearing on comfort. Why? It is because these saddles have a steel rear flange to which the leather is attached. For these saddles to be comfortable, your sit-bones must sit on the leather and not the flange.

I'm not sure I agree with this. I found my B.17 to be comfortable from the day 1. Back when it had about 2000 miles on it, a bike shop owner with much experience with Brooks saddles remarked that it looked like I hadn't used it much.  I now have about 3800 miles on it and it still looks like new. It occurred to me after that remark by the bike shop owner, and recalling all this talk of "hammock" that maybe I wasn't sitting right on the saddle. It's hard to tell exactly where I am sitting, but after shifting around a bit, I came to the conclusion that I am sitting on the flange. The flange is wider right where my sit bones go, so this isn't uncomfortable. I do notice that when I hit a big bump, I slide forwards and hit against the leather part of the saddle, so that I bounce a bit. But then I immediately push myself back onto the flange. All this is quite natural and comfortable. And yes, I sit in the relaxed position most of the time, and sometimes in the upright position (using my fingertips to control the handlebars) when I'm tired. You can see how high my handlebars are relative to the saddle (590M and I'm 181cm tall):


When I experimented with sitting a bit forward to get off the flange, I felt pressure on my perineum. This is what people warn against with bicycle saddles. So I didn't continue the experiment. But it certainly did NOT feel more comfortable to be on the unsupported leather than on the flange.

I should note that I spent much of life before I retired sitting on a folding metal chair as my office chair, so maybe the skin over my sitbones is toughened up from that.

Danneaux

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2012, 07:23:28 PM »
Quote
...it certainly did NOT feel more comfortable to be on the unsupported leather than on the flange.
Hi Frank!

I'm delighted you've found an ideal position on your Brooks, and I think this simply proves the old adage: "We're all individuals".

Cycling is certainly not a "one size fits all" pursuit and there's many paths to success and enjoyment when setting up bikes and riding. In the end, I'd say it doesn't matter where one sits -- or how, or on what -- so long as one is comfortable! Most cyclists I've spoken with seem much happier off the flange.
Quote
I should note that I spent much of life before I retired sitting on a folding metal chair as my office chair, so maybe the skin over my sitbones is toughened up from that.
Maybe!  :)

Dan. ("Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits." -- A.A. Milne. "I often sits on a bike saddle; 'best place for my thinkin'." -- Danneaux.)

martinf

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2012, 08:44:05 PM »
Another vote for B17 for drop-bar touring type use. I have my bar tops level or slightly higher than the saddle top, and ride mainly on the hoods, so a fairly relaxed position.

I also ride flat-bar bikes in a more upright position, and for these I prefer a B67 Flyer. This is basically a B17 with rear springs, and isn't any wider.

Narrower saddles (Brooks Pro) don't work for me.

André is probably right about wider being necessary on really upright bikes - I suffered from a sore rear on my first Netherlands exchange in 2008 and thought it was due to the padded plastic saddle. So this year I took one of my super-comfortable B17s and fitted it to my exchange partner's very upright bike. It wasn't comfortable with that riding position.

revelo

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Re: Saddles Thread?
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2012, 12:42:13 AM »
I've been following the journal of this guy:
)
at http://www.tiredofit.ca for over a year now. (Website is slow as molasses, so be patient. He's a web designer by profession and evidently likes to maximize complexity to show off his technical skills.) He is using a Thorn Nomad MKII to take an around the world tour, though he apparently recently had a nervous breakdown in Africa. Very interesting discussion of his gear here: http://www.tiredofit.ca/2012/05/26/talk-gear-find-worked/, including a photo of his current Brooks B17 Imperial, which he apparently rides like a hammock. Here is another photo of that saddle:

There's an even better photo somewhere of his old B17, which looked like a banana-shaped hammock it was sagging so much but the website lacks a search function and is frustratingly slow to search manually.  It doesn't surprise me that these hammock style B17's have caused him major health problems, so that he is now thinking of getting one of his testicles removed. From http://www.tiredofit.ca/2012/08/15/manifest-destiny/ :
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"After years of abuse from riding, slipping, and perhaps even getting kicked waaaay back when I’ve decided that once I get into more friendlier Medicare territory to undergo surgery to have one of my testicles removed that seems to give problems for no apparent reason, even after repeat visits to doctors along with x-rays, ultrasounds, and other “exploratory” measures. Enough is enough."

Clearly, there's something to be said for sitting on the flange. Humans have been sitting on wooden chairs and benches or even stone benches for ages, with no ill effects. Surely sitting on metal padded by thick leather can't be any worse. A little soreness on the sitbones is a lot better than soreness in the testicles to the point where you need to get them removed. Or impotence due to constant pressure on the perineum nerves.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2012, 01:37:16 AM by revelo »