The Princess and the Pea, a tale of finding the right women’s saddle

Thank you, Jim, for your post complaining about dialing in your wife’s saddle. This post is in direct response to your wife’s question: What saddle do I ride?

I’ve learned a lot in my quest, both as an indoor cycling instructor and outdoor rider. That’s not to say I don’t still have much more to learn – my dream job would be to work in a great bike shop as a women’s fit specialist – but I am well versed in the art of the bike set up, especially for women riders. Setting up myself, however, has been a study of angst and discomfort, much like Jim’s wife’s experience.

Our bodies are different, our hips and the way our pelvis works is different. We carry children, both before birth and long after. The average woman has imbalances in muscle strength and flexibility that could go uncorrected for much of her life, and so it was for me.

For two years I suffered with pain and inflammation in my right hip and glute. I thought it was IT band issues but after the second summer of shitty performance and increased pain, I finally went to a pelvic specialist. I had an eye opening experience and focusing on strengthening my pelvic muscles has completely changed my riding. I’m a much stronger rider now and solving this issue, solved others that I had also been experiencing. I had no idea these were related and just chalked it up to age: a leaky bladder and lower back pain, neither of which I experience on a daily basis now.

Currently, I ride a Bortranger AJNA Elite. I like this saddle because I tend to spend a lot of time in the drops. I recently lowered my bars as well so this saddle works well for me… for now.

I’ve also had a Specialized Ruby, Bortranger Affinity (not carbon) and started out on a Cloud 9. (There’s another in there that I’m pretty sure was a Bortranger but I sold it.)

Finding a saddle is a process of trial and error. It’s frustrating and often painful but each woman rider is individual in what would be the ideal saddle for her.

The absolute best article I’ve found on how to explain the process of finding a saddle for a woman is from Cobb Saddles. The original article did not include images, however, the updated July 2017 version is NSFW as there are images for examples of each individual type of lady parts. When you have an afternoon, go read the article and do some fact finding of your own.

Getting the saddle right isn’t the only thing either. There’s proper fit. If your bike is too big or too small, the crank too long or short, the stem, your shoes and cleat position, seat height as well as how good the chamois is your bike shorts all play a role in comfort and performance.

Not all chamois are created equal, as another of Jim’s posts details and women’s shorts are even worse. But, I’ll save that for another post!

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