As women’s issues with bike saddles are not openly talked about, I admit that for years, I’ve suffered from saddle sores, bruises, and even raw spots thinking they were just the natural consequence of spending hours and days on my bike. On all of my multi-week bike tours, it got to the point where I could barely sit on my saddle without grimacing in pain, let alone sit in a chair.
So when Ergon offered for me to test out their new women’s series saddle line, I jumped at the chance. The saddles come in four styles — two for road (SR Pro Women and SR Sport Gel Women) and two for mountain bike (SM Women and SM Sport Gel Women) with one being a bit more race oriented than the other. From there, each saddle comes in two sizes — small/medium and medium/large. To get the right size, I would first have to measure my sit bones.
You can get this done at your local bike shop using purpose-built tools or you can easily do it at home. All you need is some corrugated cardboard, a pen, and a ruler. Sit on a stool with a piece of corrugated cardboard beneath you. With your back straight and your shoulders rolled back, pull yourself down on the stool to create more pressure. You can even rock back and forth a little to dig in further.
Look at the cardboard and you will notice two distinct indentations where your sit bones are located — circle both of these. Grab your ruler and measure the distance between the center of each of these indentations. That is your sit bone width. Then depending on what type of riding position you adopt on the bike, you will want to add a couple of centimeters to that number. For example, on a tri bike you would add nothing since you adopt a super aggressive position whereas on a mountain bike, you may want to add around three centimeters for a more upright position. I added two centimeters to mine for a moderately aggressive road position which put me in the medium/large saddle sizing for the SR Sport Gel Women’s Saddle.
At Sea Otter last week, I had a chance to speak with Janina Haas, one of the (all female!) designers of the new women’s saddles. She walked me through the design process, including feedback from the Canyon-SRAM women’s cycling team.
The first thing you will notice is that the saddle is flat. While you may think tons of padding is a good thing, it actually tends to cause havoc when cycling more than short distances. As you sink into the padding over time, pressure builds up causing numbness and pain. For this reason, the Ergon saddles are flat with small amounts of foam or gel padding in strategic places for support.
Next you will notice the long center relief. Compared to men, our pubic arch (where the two halves of the pelvis meet) sits lower and at a wider angle. We also tend to rock forward more with our pelvis. This means on unisex or men’s saddles, all of our soft tissue gets squished as there is not enough clearance and pressure gets concentrated at the front.
To accommodate our unique anatomy, Ergon created the center cutout which is positioned far at the front of the saddle to relieve any soft tissue pressure. The saddle flanks (the V where the nose meets the seat) are also wider to help distribute any pressure away from the soft tissue and over to our sit bones. And to further support our forward pelvic position, Ergon raised the rear of the saddle to perfectly cradle our sit bones.
I have over a thousand miles on this saddle now and can safely say my under carriage (as the Brits like to call it) has never been happier. I no longer get saddle sores, have no problems with bruising even after multiple days on the bike, and healed all the prone-to-get-raw areas. I’ve enjoyed this saddle so much that I plan to buy a second one for my gravel bike.
If you want to try before you buy, Ergon is hosting tons of women’s events across the country so check out their Facebook page for one near you.