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  1. #1
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    Saddle advice for long distance?

    I'm having a hell of time finding a saddle that doesn't cause pain.

    I ride a Raleigh endurance road bike. I'm 6'1 and 170 lbs. Because I've got (very) long legs relative to my torso, I had to buy a model with shorter reach, resulting in less stack than might be ideal. The saddle is about four inches above the bars on a straight post, forward in the rails, and angled flat. My posture is aggressive, though not aero. Between road and mountain bikes, I ride three or four days a week at something like 200W average power. My longest ride so far is just under 40 miles.

    I may have a photo of me on the bike on rollers if that would be helpful.

    My goal is to be fitness-limited. Right now, I'm pain-limited. On the ride I just did, at the 10 mile mark, my sit bones and the area just south where my hamstrings meet my glutes started to hurt, which rapidly increased in severity. It feels like a combination of severe lactic acid buildup and throbbing. Usually this lasts at least a couple miles. Sometimes it spontaneously dissipates, and then I might get 5 or 6 miles of mostly pain-free riding before it comes back (the latter even if I haven't moved in the saddle).

    On my most recent ride, I actually got off the bike at around 30 miles because the saddle was so unpleasant, despite a pulse below 140 and a perceived cardiovascular effort of maybe 60%.

    This is not a problem on the mountain bike, I assume because I'm out of the saddle constantly.

    Things that don't help:

    * Sitting further back on the saddle
    * Sitting more upright
    * Soft-pedaling

    Things that sort-of help:

    * Pedaling harder (presumably because it puts less weight on the saddle, but this backfires quickly because of the extra blood flow)
    * Going into the drops and tilting my pelvis more forward

    Things that do help:

    * Standing up
    * Scooting all the way forward so my weight is almost entirely on my perineum

    I don't experience numb genitals. When I'm on my perineum, that area becomes warm and burns a bit. This seems unhealthy. It's also uncomfortable, though much less so than the pain it's relieving through what feels like increased blood flow.

    Saddles I've tried in order of preference:

    * Generic Chinese carbon, modeled after a Selle Italia (?):

    Saddle advice for long distance?-saddle1.jpg

    Like it for shorter distances. After 20 miles, sit-bone pain is noticeable, and after 25, I just want the ride to end. The shape seems to allow for the most blood flow of all the saddles.

    * Fabric Line Shallow:

    Saddle advice for long distance?-saddle3.jpg

    This was the saddle for the ride description above. Good for 10 miles. At 20 miles, it begins to feel quite hard, and I experience waves of pain every few miles thereafter.

    * Prologo Nago Evo X8 T1.4:

    Saddle advice for long distance?-saddle4.jpg

    Came on my Cannondale. Like the GUB, the wide front-end is impossible to ignore. Sit-bone pain over time is slightly worse than the Fabric.

    * Raleigh Merit stock saddle:

    This one is generically shaped and well-padded. The padding makes it hard to find a good position and seems to hurt power transfer. I still experience pain quickly.

    * GUB 1158, modeled after a Specialized Phenom:

    Name:  saddl5.jpg
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    Hate it. The long, flat front feels too wide and hard. The back feels too wide. I use this on a mountain bike (because it's light and comfort doesn't matter much there), it feels much harder than the other Chinese saddle despite the padding. I haven't tried it on the road.

    I'm not sure where to go from here. Any ideas or saddle suggestions?

  2. #2
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    Try an ISM Adamo or ISM style saddle.

    Or try something like the Pro Stealth or the Specialized Power.

    Currently you've only tried traditional saddles but ride the position of a twin rail saddle. So try a twin rail saddle. Or at the very least try some TT saddles.
    use a torque wrench

  3. #3
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    OK. I don't have any experience with that sort of saddle, does it make sense to choose a narrow one?

  4. #4
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    Have you considered having a fit done? I would find a shop that has a good exchange program for your next saddle

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  5. #5
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    If not already, measure your sit bone width. Then look up saddles that fit your width. I've tried over a dozen saddles to find the right one for me. It was a costly process but hey, keister is the boss so you gotta obey.

  6. #6
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    You should look into your bike fit. Saddles matter of course but not really at just 10 miles. You should be able to ride on anything and be pain free for such a short distance with a proper ft.
    And when the pain is in the sit bones (where pressure should be) your chamois is also a huge factor. Also, although I said 10 miles is too short to have pain, it could be that you're a newish rider and haven't healed from the last ride so that's why it happens so quick.
    Basically, it sounds like you have more than your saddle to address.

  7. #7
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    I'm with Jay Strongbow-I think it's your bike fit. You should have found at least one of the above saddles somewhat accommodating.

    I don't like your description of your bike setup. If it's an "endurance" road bike, it should have enough headtube length that stack height shouldn't be an issue. And the "straight post, forward in the rails" well, I'm hard pressed to believe your reach is that short, especially at your height. Maybe a photo of you on the rollers would shed some light on the issue.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    You should look into your bike fit. Saddles matter of course but not really at just 10 miles. You should be able to ride on anything and be pain free for such a short distance with a proper ft.
    And when the pain is in the sit bones (where pressure should be) your chamois is also a huge factor. Also, although I said 10 miles is too short to have pain, it could be that you're a newish rider and haven't healed from the last ride so that's why it happens so quick.
    Basically, it sounds like you have more than your saddle to address.
    I disagree.

    I 100% am in the same camp as the OP.

    If a saddle is uncomfortable for me, I know it immediately. Some saddles I can't even ride around the block on without crazy pain and pressure.

    Some saddles I can ride for up to an hour until they begin to hurt.

    Some saddles I can ride for a couple hours until they produce pressure points or numbness.

    Some saddles hurt me immediately and I know within 5 minutes.

    Granted, all saddles should be moved fore and aft and have their angles changed for a full test, but some just don't work for some people.


    Usually when a saddle hurts, it's soft tissue pressure. I will not tolerate soft tissue pressure.


    And I second having to also use top shelf bib shorts. I need a dense padded chamois, 120, no less. So for some brands, they'll have several chamois that look the same, take ALE for example. The 4H, 8H and Double Ergo are all basically the same shape and construction. Only difference being the density of the foam used. The 4H is too unsupportive for me after an hour, density is only 90. The same shape and size chamois in the same shorts with denser foam (120) will take me into all day, won't hurt after an hour. The right chamois is critical too.
    use a torque wrench

  9. #9
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    Way too many factors to get a good answer from the interwebs.

    Your bike size/fit sounds really weird.

    There is also the issues of not enough saddle time or improper choice of clothing.

    I regularly ride a really busy MUT. I see some crazy bad pedaling styles (wonky knee, knees way out, saddle way too high, saddle way too low, aero bars on a hybrid going 10 mph, etc.). I recall following one guy whose butt literally lifted off the saddle enough to see light and then slammed back down on every single pedal stroke. I can't imagine how bad his butt would hurt after only a few minutes. No saddle could help that.

    I am not saying that is you, but sounds like there is enough issue(s) that you should get help from a pro.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by crit_boy View Post
    Your bike size/fit sounds really weird.

    I am not saying that is you, but sounds like there is enough issue(s) that you should get help from a pro.
    Problems could lie there.

    My setup "sounds really weird" and is just like the OPs. Way "too pro" for a normal guy most think.

    When people go to a "professional fitter" they come out of there sitting half upright, using mainly the hoods to rest their hands, usually with short upturned stems and lots of spacers and conforming to all of the industry standard angles. Nobody ever comes out of there with a fit that looks like a pro's fit.

    Kind of goes hand and hand with those saddles pictured above. They're only for people that sit on the back of the saddle. You're only supposed to slide forward when you're going hard in the drops, right? Well what if you always want to be in the drops? What if you always want to be aero? What if you want to be comfortable and in an "extreme" position at all times? Going to tell me it's not possible? Going to tell me you have to ride as much as a pro for it to work?

    Telling people to get a fit done is fine and well if they sit on the back of a saddle sitting mostly upright, but it's not the way to go for all.
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  11. #11
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    I don't want to dwell much on fit. I'm actually happy with the location of the contact points within the bounds of this frame. I feel balanced and efficient and I'm not scooting forward or backward during the ride. I do get a bit of upper trapezius pain after 20 miles, though I consider this a direct implication of the saddle/bar drop (actually more like 3" it turns out) and it improves as I build strength in that area.

    To be clear: almost no bike fits me. I have nearly a 36" inseam. This puts me way back over the rear tire (hence the seat pushed forward in the rails to steepen the effective seat angle, and a desire for long chainstays to keep the weight balance from being wonky), moves me away from the bars (short reach desired), and requires a very tall head tube to get the bars anywhere near the height of the seat. This is how seriously I take the frame:

    Saddle advice for long distance?-frames2.jpg

    It's taken many miles, many parts, and a lot of experimenting to get things as they are. I'll look into making a recording on the rollers soon.

    I haven't measured my sit bones properly yet. The chamois is Pearl Izumi Quest (minimal), Garneau Fit Sensor 2 (moderate), and Santic (moderate+). I'll definitely spend more here if that would help; I hadn't realized chamois foam has a grading system. I'll be ecstatic if one solution here is better shorts.

  12. #12
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    I am much like you. Have all the charts and everything.

    I have a very long inseam for my height and desire the exact same things.

    I recommend both one of the saddles I mentioned and some better shorts.

    First go to the assosfactoryoutlet and buy a pair of the NeoPro shorts, hopefully they have your size. At 170 lbs the Large might be just right, I'd try them for sure. Should be worth every penny.

    As for getting a saddle, you can try the China copies of the ISM Prologue or the Specialized Power, both are under $30. Better yet though is to call around to local bike shops and ask what saddle brands they have test programs for.

    A saddle test program is the best. You just go in and get a saddle, test it, bring it back, repeat, it's all free. Brands make special colored saddles for bike shops to lend out for testing. Most big brands do this. ISM does, Pro does, Specialized does, etc.
    use a torque wrench

  13. #13
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    Excellent tips, thanks. I've got a significant discount with Garneau and Pearl Izumi, I wonder if their high-end shorts would compare with the others you've suggested. I'm hesitant to try knockoff saddles because I don't think they use the same foam. ISM saddles do appear on the 'bay with some frequency, though. I'll look into test programs.

  14. #14
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    I haven't tried any shorts from either of those brands that I would wear.

    I've done years and thousands of dollars in testing to get my current setup. Hopefully it doesn't take you so long.
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  15. #15
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    Brooks Team Professional.Saddle advice for long distance?-0036424_brooks_team_pro_copper_saddle_colour_black_length_273mm_width_160mm.jpeg
    "L'enfer, c'est les autres"

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMsRepBike View Post
    Try an ISM Adamo or ISM style saddle.

    Or try something like the Pro Stealth or the Specialized Power.

    Currently you've only tried traditional saddles but ride the position of a twin rail saddle. So try a twin rail saddle. Or at the very least try some TT saddles.
    These can work very well for endurance saddles. I ended up using a Cobb Randee after trying several ISM and Cobb saddles. I found the ISM's to be a bit too wide and rubbed my thighs, the Cobb Randee is narrower. Also found most of the Cobb saddles to be too soft, the Randee is just the right amount of firm for me.

    Many ISM and Cobb Dealers have loaner programs, find one that does and try some on. My advice is give each one several weeks of riding to allow your body adjust to it and you to find the sweet spot for set up before moving on to the next.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Srode View Post
    My advice is give each one several weeks of riding to allow your body adjust to it and you to find the sweet spot for set up before moving on to the next.
    This may be key. One thing I've discovered is that a torso/arm angle of 90 degrees feels very unnatural to me. It makes the bike feel very long. My angle is usually more acute, and I think this is affecting how I'm weighting the saddle. Despite my comment earlier, I may try adjusting fit further before changing saddles.

  18. #18
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    Not sure I get the "moving saddle fore and aft" to accommodate torso. In my book there is only 1 height and one lateral position for a saddle. Any necessary adjustment means stem, bars or a different frame. Open for discussion though is the tilt of a saddle. We always set them to level, but today the trend is to tilt downward.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by GKSki View Post
    Not sure I get the "moving saddle fore and aft" to accommodate torso. In my book there is only 1 height and one lateral position for a saddle. Any necessary adjustment means stem, bars or a different frame. Open for discussion though is the tilt of a saddle. We always set them to level, but today the trend is to tilt downward.
    Saddles are built and designed differently. Some, like the ISM saddles, have you sitting on the front of the saddle. Most traditional saddles have you sitting on the back of the saddle.

    Someone like me who tested dozens of saddles would do something like I did, make a jig for finding where the saddle is 80mm wide. It's quite different on most saddles. I tried to have this point be at the same fore/aft location to start with for each saddle and then adjust from there.

    If all saddles were shaped the same or very similarly your book might apply, but that's not the case. One might even have an extra inch of padding over another, along with a totally different shape.

    So with the same exact position, you could even require two different offset seatposts depending on the design and type of saddle. Huge variation.
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  20. #20
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    I think gkski was saying that saddle forward/aft is determined by kops (or knee angle/relative positioning of hips and bb) - not that every saddle will be in the same place.

    That is part of why i said op's fit seems weird. He is likely on a smallish for his height endurance frame (as also evidenced by large saddle to bar drop for an endurance frame). But, op has his saddle forward to adjust for his preferred reach. To me, that indicates op's fit is odd.

    While odd may be ok, op is not comfortable. Odd sounding fit and discomfort suggests op needs help outside of guessing that he needs to spend $ for something (high cost saddles) that may not improve anything.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexdi View Post
    One thing I've discovered is that a torso/arm angle of 90 degrees feels very unnatural to me. It makes the bike feel very long. My angle is usually more acute, and I think this is affecting how I'm weighting the saddle.
    Just curious, how did you figure out what angle it is?

  22. #22
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    I'm with Jay and Peter.

    If all the saddles start to hurt in the first 10-20 miles, the first thing I'd do would be to lower the saddle about a half inch and see if it goes away. You mention the legs hurt sometimes fairly quickly on the ride. That's a classic symptom of over extended muscles, saddle being too high.

    Also, if you're more comfortable on the nose of the saddle, you're slightly closer to the crank and muscles feel better, that's another symptom of a too high saddle.

    Lowering the saddle will also rotate some weight off the handlebars. 4 inch drop is pretty "pro." Then again for a 36" inseam, maybe not! Its a matter of distribution of weight and center of gravity fore-aft, 60% on saddle, 40% on handlebars when on the hoods and drops.

    So before going out and spending more money on another saddle, level the one you got first, so the butt doesn't slide forward. Then lower it a good amount, 1/2 inch, and see if the muscle pains go away.

  23. #23
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    I don't agree that traditional saddle have you sitting on the back of them. O.K. sure they allow you to slide back some for seated climbing. Every traditional saddle I have seen and including some of the cutout saddles, have a dip in the middle of them where your arse should be. That's the point of measure for saddle height and given a normal length saddle, measuring from the saddle tip is your fore/aft measurement. Set up that way with a traditional saddle, then install any out of the ordinary saddle you wish to use and go from that base point. If you install the traditional saddle and can't get your saddle height and fore/aft set correctly, then you're probably on the wrong frame.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMsRepBike View Post
    When people go to a "professional fitter" they come out of there sitting half upright, using mainly the hoods to rest their hands, usually with short upturned stems and lots of spacers and conforming to all of the industry standard angles. Nobody ever comes out of there with a fit that looks like a pro's fit.
    Weekend warriors not having the same fit as a pro is no mystery. And given that pro cyclist usually have a fitter, if not a whole team helping, you're completely wrong that no one gets a pro-fit from a fitter.
    Heck, I'm just some middle age schmuck and my bike was set up by a pro-fitter about the same as many pro cyclist of my size have it. I have freakish flexibility and any decent bike shop fitter takes that into account.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by bvber View Post
    Just curious, how did you figure out what angle it is?
    Video and Kinovea. Very powerful stuff. Not quite ready to share, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by GKSki View Post
    Not sure I get the "moving saddle fore and aft" to accommodate torso. In my book there is only 1 height and one lateral position for a saddle. Any necessary adjustment means stem, bars or a different frame. Open for discussion though is the tilt of a saddle. We always set them to level, but today the trend is to tilt downward.
    I think there's actually a range of positions for the saddle relative to the bottom bracket. If you imagine the BB as a fulcrum, you can pivot your entire body around it, even to the point of a nearly vertical or horizontal seat angles. (This spans recumbent to TT bikes.) For any particular saddle (but not necessarily a different saddle entirely), this approach implies some backward or forward tilt relative to your ideal neutral position.

    Then there's fore-aft adjustment. A lower saddle moved slightly aft can have the same KOPS position. With the seat further back, you end up bending more at the torso with your weight shifted further back, using slightly different muscles.

    This variability is part of what makes bike fitting so challenging.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fredrico View Post
    So before going out and spending more money on another saddle, level the one you got first, so the butt doesn't slide forward. Then lower it a good amount, 1/2 inch, and see if the muscle pains go away.

    Will do.

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