Bicycle Fitting and Seats: The difference between ooh and ouch

A proper bike fit can make all the difference between a good ride and a great ride and when done well, it can also help to boost your efficiency. A number of things come into play during a fitting. To start, you'll be asked about your riding style, where you may be noticing problems, want to see improvement, etc. We'll also go through some basic flexibility evaluations. 

That information let's us know where we may need to tweak things. We'll take a look at how well your frame fits your height and move onto your saddle and adjust the height, position and angle. Possibly the most important aspect of this step is making sure that your legs are able to fully extend with each rotation without overextending. Improper extension can cause knee pain and discomfort for many cyclists. Correcting this early will keep you riding comfortably and without injury. This may involve taking a look at adjusting your cranks and pedals as well.

One of the most common reasons people either avoid or abandon cycling is pain and discomfort brought on by bike seats (also known as saddles). Misguided attempts to fix this have lead people to adding seat pads, and buying over-sized squishy seats and saddles that offer poor support. These efforts often leave riders with pressure in places they didn’t anticipate while sitting incorrectly on the saddle itself. You might be surprised to learn that the correct seat to avoid riding pain isn’t necessarily a big softie.

Bicycle seats are not a one-size-fits-all item. Perhaps the reason people avoid biking or getting the right seat is because talking about the discomfort you experience with your seat brings up certain anatomy you’d rather not discuss publicly, but, believe us, we’ve heard it all and truly empathize, so much so that we offer a saddle trial program.

Before we get into that, there are three basic concepts to keep in mind when contemplating what seat will fit you best.

Size Matters

If your seat is too narrow, your body’s weight won’t be properly resting on your sit bones (a place well insulated with muscle and fat, build for just this purpose) and distributing it between your legs... this will result in pain and discomfort where you really do not want it (read: “down there”) for both men and women. Long term use of the wrong saddle can cause numbness and in some cases permanent nerve damage. The right width should be roughly equal or greater than the distance between your sit bones plus a centimeter on either side to give you the play you need.

It's Not Just Size that Matters

The relative roundness of your seat will make a big difference in your riding experience. Flatter is generally better because it leaves more room between you and the seat and reduces the amount of pressure in places you don’t want it. 

Firm or Squishy?

This is where a lot of newbies make their initial mistakes thinking softer has to be more comfortable. But selecting a saddle is all about reducing pressure… the softer your seat, the more your sit bones will sink into it and add pressure to your softer tissues. Generally, firmer is better.

Solid or Cut-out?

When you follow the guidance for width, roundness and softness of your seat and you continue to have pain in the soft tissue, you may want to look at trying out a seat with cutouts or indentations down the middle. 

 

The Infinity Saddle Fitting Program:

Our saddle fitting process is really pretty simple. We’ll ask you three questions:

1. What type of riding are you doing?

2. How flexible are you?

3. How long do you normally ride (or want to ride) for?

The next step is the measurement of your “sit bones” which are the bones in your backside that you sit on. Once we have your sit bones measured, we’ll recommend the best option(s) to fit with your style of riding and anatomy. You’ll take home a demo saddle, give it a go and report back with the results. Sometimes the initial suggestion solves the discomfort, sometimes we need to refine and tailor the selection just a bit more. 

Once you’re paired up and settled into the right saddle, we’ll swap your demo for a brand new model. The small fee you pay at the start of the program ($40) is put towards your final saddle purchase. 

In addition to the right seat, you’re going to want to take a look at what you’re wearing while riding. Proper bike shorts can significantly cut down on chafing. You’ll appreciate how the right shorts fit with your cycling experience and with a padded interior (or chamois) you can further add to your comfort. Additionally, there are a number of products out on the market that you can pair with your chamois to offer the least resistance between you and the fabric.