Could my saddle be too firm?

I got out this evening for an 18-mile ride on the Veloway, which was about all I could handle after the MS over the weekend.  It was a good ride, just what I needed to ease back into the biking routine after the MS ride left me with a sore taint.

I’ve got a new pair of Sugoi shorts with the largest chamois pad I’ve seen.  It didn’t seem to matter.  I was struck by the fact that my bottom started complaining after about the same distance when I did the century ride last fall. It’s the soft tissue that gets sore — the perineum.

I’ve written before about my Specialized Alias saddle, and how much I like it.  But I gotta say, after about 50 miles, my bottom starts to hurt.

specializedaliasThe Specialized Alias saddle.

So — it may be time to start rethinking the saddle.  The Alias is firm, like a racing saddle.  It could be that I need to go to something with a little more padding so that when I do longer rides, I come through them without any soreness. The problem is, how much (or how little) padding do I need?

I like to window shop as much as anyone.  I’ve been attracted to the WTB line of saddles.  Wilderness Trail Bikes seems to be primarily a mountain biking line, but they do have saddles for road biking.  Most are reasonably priced, too.  They carry a little more padding than I’ve presently got. Could be worth dropping a few bucks on one to test it out.  Most retailers will take back the saddle after a reasonable try-out period.

The other thing that occurs to me is that I might need a real bike fitting.  I’ve done some tweaking of my saddle position since I got the bike, so it’s not in the same place it was when they fitted me at the time of purchase.  However, their fitting was rather cursory, and I wasn’t impressed with the process.

A shop in Austin is known for its fitting services, and the price is right, too.  Any thoughts about new saddles vs. a professional bike fitting?  Which way should I go?

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15 thoughts on “Could my saddle be too firm?

  1. I’d consider both a saddle and fitting. I was having a similar problem around the 50-mi mark as well. When I bought my new bike a few weeks ago, I upgraded the saddle to a selle italia flight gel. Gives a racing profile but with gel inserts. You’ll see a love/hate on most reviews, but it worked for me. I spent a lot of time on the fitting and we talked also about pelvic tilt, specifically compensating for a weak lower back which was causing me to slouch into the saddle and increase pressure onto the crotch instead of the bones that are supposed to make contact with the saddle inserts. The MS150 was the trial for the new saddle/fit and I was pain free (at least in that spot).

  2. You know where I stand on this one (no pun intended). Go for the bike fitting first. You could be set up so that you’re not sitting on your sit bones, which would cause your discomfort. And since you like your saddle, this would give you another opportunity to keep it before trading in.

  3. I agree with Weiland. Check your seat angle and position first; of course, this is best combined with a full bike fit. I would change saddles as a last resort. I’ve ridden many centuries on a Fizik Arione, which isn’t exactly known for it’s padding. And I have almost no taint pain!

  4. I’ve never gotten a professional bike fitting, although I have considered it.

    I tried a few saddles (including WTB models) and then I got a Brooks. The old school leather look isn’t for everyone, but I love it. More importantly, I find it incredibly comfortable. It did take a while to get the saddle position and angle where I like it, and there was a break-in period, but now I have on occasion ridden 40+ miles on mixed pavement/gravel, in the PA mountains, without a chamois, with no issues whatsoever. It gets more comfortable the more I ride it.

    The downsides: Brooks saddles do require a little more effort to set up, and a little more care than a normal saddle, but not much. And, they are hefty (in weight and price).

    Of course, this is an area where everyone’s experience differs. I bought mine from http://www.wallbike.com where they have a 6-month unconditional replacement guarantee. In my experience, some LBSes carry them, others don’t.

  5. I second Apertome’s observations. I can ride all day without a chamois on my Brooks saddles, but I have about a 5 mile limit on the Flite. With a chamois, the Brooks is the most comfortable mountain bike saddle ever (for me), and is my choice to use in 24 hour races and on epic off-road rides.

    Definitely not for weight weenies, though…

  6. Sorry I missed you again at the VW yesterday.
    We have discussed bike fitting on some of our rides. I had it done by one of the best in town and it made a huge difference. No more back or forearm pains. Turns out my bike frame was the right size but the wrong geomentry for me. After replacing the stem and changing spacers it has worked well for the past 2 years. Best $60 I have spent on the bike.
    Saddles, make sure that what you have is level to the ground. I have a couple of them that you might want to try out, including a brand new Selle San Marco.

  7. I would also agree that changing saddles should be more of a last resort. Look to better shorts and to moving the saddle around till you can consistently feel your sit bones on the widest part of the saddle. Good luck!

  8. I initially purchased a Speciaized Alias and hated it. It felt like right away there was pressure on perenial. The lbs returned it for me and I went with the Specialized Toupe and love it. I purchased the gel version, but also the saddle has a lot of flex, which make it super comfortable. Make sure your saddle is completely level also, and consider the Toupe. Talk to the lbs about return policy, most good shops will let you bring saddle back if you dont like it. Also check out the SMP saddles.

  9. Apparently the Alias comes in 3 widths (130, 143, 155 mm)…wrong width perhaps? Plus odd that your perineum got sore with the slot.

    Also, some RoadBike reviewers complained of virtually no padding.

    I’m breaking in a Fizik Aliante…came highly recommended but is a bit expensive. So far so good…after I leveled the saddle per one of your prior posts…thanks!

  10. I also ride the Specialized Toupe (non-gel). Bare bones and super light. But flexible. I’ve found (as the others have suggested) that bigger, heavier padded saddles are not the answer. It is the positioning and the fit. The Toupe was pretty painful at first, but broke in nicely and I think your rear end adapts to the saddle as well. If you typically ride 20-30 miles a ride, you will always get saddle sore/pressure on 50+ mile rides. On;y solution is adding 50+ rides to your quiver on weekends.

  11. I’ve heard, and it makes some sense, that padded saddles can make the problem worse. The thinking is this: with a firm saddle, your sit bones carry your weight, but with padded saddles, the sit bones sink in and more weight is being carried by the tissue surrounding and between the sit bones.

    For the first time ever I’m having problems with taint soreness, which set in after 40 miles the last couple of times I rode more than that. I’m not sure if I just need to adapt to the seat, or if my geometry (bike or body) has changed.

  12. Pingback: Riding without goals « Bike Noob

  13. The Alias is not a firm racing saddle. You’re probably sore because there’s too much padding between your new shorts and the saddle padding. Alot of people seem to think more padding is better. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Seat angle,width and shape could also be the issue. But all of that doesn’t matter if you go buy the shorts with the biggest padding. Quality chamois in your shorts are just as important as the type of saddle for your riding style and butt type. I can honestly say I’ve never heard of soft tissue soreness from a Specialized saddle given the cutout. Perhaps you also have a saddle too small for you in addition to the other probable issues.

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