So time for an update on my search for a more comfortable bike saddle. When we last spoke I was trying a Specialized Toupe, an ultra-light minimalist road saddle.
My bike saddle test protocol is simple. 1. Ride the trainer three times a week for at least 45 minutes or one complete episode of Arrow on Netflix plus a few minutes for cool down. (I started out watching Lost but weird, impossible stuff kept happening. I was unable to suspend disbelief. I’m told that I can be overly logical at times.) 2. Alternate between my bike shorts with thicker chamois and my tri shorts with thinner chamois. 3. Note the good, bad and indifferent facts about each session.
I rode the Toupe for four trainer sessions. (Something about that last sentence just seems politically incorrect.) Let me summarize the first session. The good: I knew the saddle was set up right because Timmy at Rocky Top Bikes helped me set it up. The bad: I will try to keep the language PG. The ride started out uncomfortable and got worse. It was honestly painful, and I was happy to get off. The indifferent: I was indifferent about continuing but I did. At this point I would have told you that this saddle and I were 100% incompatible.
By the fourth ride, a curious thing happened. It got better. I was able to ride for 45 minutes without lifting off once, something that almost never happened with my previous saddle. So over a two-week period my view of the Specialized Toupe changed. I think there is a 50/50 chance over time that this saddle could work for me. I now understand what the bike shop folks and more seasoned riders have been telling me. You need about a month of steady riding to evaluate a saddle. If you switch saddles too often trying to find the best one, both you and your butt will become confused. You heard it here first.
More Saddles & Sit Bone Width
A recent trip to Asheville took me too close to the gravitational pull of Liberty Bicycles, so I stopped by to talk saddles. They had a gadget, a board with a gel pad, designed to determine sit bone (ischial tuberosity) width. You sit on the board then they draw a line through the center of the impressions left in the gel by your sit bones. It’s color coded so they know whether you need a narrow, medium or wide saddle. The gel at my sit bone width was yellow so medium. Of course, I made the bike shop woman get a tape measure the impressions to determine that my sit bones width is 110 mm. Now I know.
They had two saddles that they thought might work for me: the Bontrager Affinity R and the Fizik Antares. The Bontrager Affinity R saddle had a 30-day comfort trial so I could bring it back if it didn’t work out. I’ve long been interested in Fizik saddles because of the company’s spine concept which uses a person’s flexibility to determine which class of saddle they need: Bull, Chameleon or Snake. My moderate flexibility makes me a chameleon, and my medium width sit bones (for a guy) suggested the Fizik Antares. Since I had no experience with these saddles I chose to pass for now.
Ultimately I opted to order a Cobb Plus saddle from Cobb Cycling. I had two reasons. First the saddle is designed for larger riders. Second I had heard good reports about the company from some local triathletes. I consulted the company’s website and made a quick call to confirm my saddle choice and their return policy.
When the saddle arrived in my mailbox, I hotfooted it over to Rocky Top Bicycles and had Timmy help me install the saddle according to Cobb’s exacting instructions (see links below). The company includes tools, a tape measure and instructional DVD with each saddle. This highlights the other big issue in bike saddle selection: bike fit. If you aren’t where you should be on your bike, even the best saddle may give you problems.
As of this writing I have made four trainer rides on the Cobb Plus not counting the 10-minute session immediately after installation. The jury is still out on this saddle. Next week I plan contact Cobb and get some additional input for tweaking the saddle and/or my bike setup. I’ll keep you posted on the search.
Cobb Cycling Road Saddle Installation Instructions
Cobb Cycling Installation Tips Videos Link
Cobb Cycling Installation Tips PDF Link