On the racing bike there are three points of contact with the body: pedals, handlebars and saddle. Saddle is undoubtedly the most important, because it represents the main support for the cyclist, and must give back a feeling of comfort and well-being during pedaling to guarantee a better performance to the athlete.
All cyclists will have experienced at least once the “classic” saddle discomforts: in addition to rubbing irritations, we refer in particular to the tingling and numbness of the genital area; normally they are temporary and tend to disappear in a short time once they get off the bicycle, but they are in any case very nagging.
These disorders are caused by crushing and microtrauma of the pelvic area, consisting of soft tissues, blood vessels and nerve (the so-called ischiatic arch); in particular it is the pudendal nerve that, crushed against the pubic bone, determines the loss of sensitivity.
Right saddle …
The origin of the problem is to be found in an incorrect position on the saddle and in the consequent anomalous pressures to which this delicate area is subjected.
A correct sitting is therefore the best way to prevent them, but to find the ideal support is first of all necessary to have … the right saddle.
The market now offers products of various shapes, lines and sizes: therefore it is a question of finding the most suitable model for our physical structure.
The scientific bike fitting systems available at many specialist retailers help in the choice, but in general it can be said that the optimal saddle must have a width such as to allow comfortable support at the points of greatest pressure of the seat, ie the lower protuberances of the pelvis called ischial tuberosities. The right type of saddle is therefore decisive for pedaling comfort, and must be chosen based on the distance of the two tuberosities, which when seated must support the whole weight of the trunk.
… and correct position
Naturally then, once the ideal saddle has been found, it must also be mounted and adjusted in the correct way for its best use. A biomechanical analysis can certainly be of help to accurately establish crucial parameters such as height and retreat, but we can in any case point out that, based on the Colnago experience, a rather frequent mistake among cyclists is to keep the saddle too much high, and this leads to less efficient pedaling, but also to excessive pressure in the pelvic area, with relative discomfort.
A general indication, however, to be evaluated based on individual parameters (muscular, joint, etc.), is to adopt a saddle height that allows not to exceed a knee angle of 150 °, at the maximum extension of the leg.
To learn more, read also: “The correct riding position”
And the women?
To finish, a common place to dispel: it is normally believed that women need wider saddles because they would have a wider basin than men, but this concept is a “false myth”.
The female pelvis actually has a different conformation from the male one, but on average – with the same body size – it is narrower, and therefore also the choice of the saddle must be made accordingly.