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The importance of a good saddle and why you have to change it

Posted on May 24, 2012 - 1:00am by Mike Smith

Your body comes into contact with your bike at 5 points: your feet, your hands and your posterior. Whilst gloves and shoes help to protect your hands and feet, what about your rear end and the rather sensitive area between your legs?

From the original penny-farthing bikes to modern-day hybrids, the saddle has remained unchanged. That said, there were other designs; with the banana seat perhaps being the most celebrated, but the basic triangle design prevailed…

…And why not; if it aint broke don't fix it, right? It seemed to work…

The broader backend offered much needed support while sitting up, the elongated front did the same when you bent over the bars or stood on the pedals.

However, all of this changed in the 1990's with the recognition that cyclists, both men and women, who ride long distances or on rough terrain, may experience numbness in the perineal area and decreased sexual function. As a result, the public demanded a kinder, gentler saddle meaning manufacturers had to respond, altering the original design.

We spoke to Steve Toll, owner of Tampa Bay Recreation, LLC and the ISM Saddles to see what his thoughts are surrounding the importance of a good saddle and also changing it! This is what he said...

Steve: We’ve done quite a bit of testing on our saddles and the foams, and have explored many different combinations of foam and gel in our quest to bring the most comfortable saddle to the market place. ISM Seat have also spent a great deal of time with the engineers at the factory to better understand these foam and gel combinations.

How often should you change your saddle?

We have learned both the foam and gel on a saddle begins to deteriorate after about 12 months of normal use. We aren’t really sure what constitutes “normal use” but the fact of the matter is the foam and gel begin to break down over time.

The manufacturer recommends changing the saddle at least every two years. As an example they referenced the foam in running shoes. Many runners change shoes every 6 months to a year because of the wear.

What causes a saddle to wear/breakdown?

There are several reasons for this breakdown which include sweat, friction, water and sun light. In addition to this there is also the element of our design. The two front arms of the Adamo saddles are made to support the pubis rami bones of the rider. These front arms can support 80-100% of the riders weight (depending on his/her riding position) while eliminating pressure on the soft tissue area between these bones. The foam is also impacted by a riders own hip angle differences, leg length differences, body weight and any other slight difference in the human body.

The Adamo Road saddle has greater amounts of foam and gel on the front arms to make for a more comfortable ride. When they deteriorate it is more noticeable and uncomfortable. My wife’s saddle (an experimental one) needed replacement this year. It was an Adamo Racing saddle but with more foam and gel than our standard racing saddle but not as much as the Adamo Road saddle. After 3.5 years and about 6000 miles of riding she was experiencing discomfort. We changed out the saddle and all was good. When we took the saddle apart we could see the deterioration of the gel and foam.

Can a saddle wear unevenly?

We have had some experience with uneven wear too. When we see one arm wearing or crushing more than the other we quite often suspect a leg length difference. A shorter leg will cause the saddle to wear more on the short side. This is usually corrected with a shim between the cleat and the show. If you purchase a package of shims you can place two of them on top of each other, to make it level and avoid the cant. This quite often solves the problem.