Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I don't know s--t about bicycle saddles

The Specialized BG2 saddle I bought for my road bike is no longer available. I’m looking for its replacement (I’m always looking for the next everything; it’s not that I’m going to actually DO anything about replacing it, but I like to know what’s out there), and I’ve realized I don’t know anything about bike saddles.

Hear me out on this: When I bought this saddle to replace the saddle that came stock on my first road bike, I was about 200 lbs, and I was looking for a saddle with a channel because of the irritation that the stock saddle was causing in my perineum (and let me tell you, I didn’t ever want to know I even HAD a perineum until the pain got too great to ignore it). Out of dumb luck, I bought the BG2, and it felt fine. It felt fine when I was up at 220 lbs. Last summer, when I was at 170 lbs., it felt fine, and it felt fine last week when I rode at 175 lbs.

I tried an inexpensive saddle from Nashbar, and it just didn’t feel right: too hard, and the channel wasn’t right. I’ve heard that the gel saddles are initially seductive, but not really comfortable after hours of riding (makes sense), so I thought that the problem was the inflexibility of the Nashbar F1 (the plastic frame of the BG2 flexes in my hands with moderate effort).

There’s evidently an international manufacturing standard for bicycle saddles (although I can’t find a direct link) that says the saddle has to function for a 100-kilo rider, which translates to about 220 lbs. on this side of the Atlantic. Now, I’ve been up around that weight. In fact, I’ve been everywhere between about 77 kilos and 100 kilos in the past two years… and my Specialized BG2 has been comfortable for all that time, at all those weights. So the issue is not just the amount of flex.

I’ve been looking at the Brooks B17 Narrow, the B17 Narrow Imperial, and the Team Pro Classic. I’ve also looked at saddles by Selle Italia and others. And I just realized that I don’t know anything about saddles; my experience at all these weights has told me that. I guess the saddle is something you’ve really got to go in and try out… or risk buying something you later find isn’t right.

Sigh. I hate going to stores; I’d much rather buy online. But I suspect that saddles are like shoes or eyeglasses: the price savings and convenience of the online shopping is more than offset by the risk of the wrong fit.

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