Numbers, contrary to popular mathematical belief, can lie when it comes to cycling and saddle position. Numbers are a great start, but sooner or later you’re going to want to go by feel… And I’ve never subscribed to the notion of “level it and forget it”.
When you’ve got some padding on a saddle, you have a little room for error in the setup when you’re riding 30-40 miles.
Take away most of that padding and jump that mileage up by double or even triple, you better have that saddle right or you’ll be hating life. And your bike. And your shorts. And your saddle.
Now, keep the mileage up and cut the padding in half again. One look at that saddle and you wonder if two pairs of shorts would work…
No two saddles are alike… unless they really are alike. Erm… I’ve got two Specialized Romin saddles, one on the Venge and one on the tandem. I set them both by numbers, then feel. By chance, I had them set side by side one day in the bike room. A simple glance and I noticed they’re on exactly the same plane. I set the saddles next to each other and stepped back for a closer look; same plane.
Over a hundred miles (or 50 on the tandem), the heinie don’t lie.
So, I thought I might take a moment to share with you, my friends, my unscientific method for dialing in a new saddle.
First, as the process goes, the less padding, the better – you get a lot more feedback.
I like to start on a trainer with a new saddle. I’ll be in the saddle most, if not all, of the time so it helps to feel what’s going on. For the new Selle, I matched the tilt from the old saddle after setting the fore/aft. Then I set the height (36-3/8″, to be exact). Then I climbed on with the intention of giving it 45 minutes.
I lasted five. Maybe. I could feel my hips rocking a little bit. Hips rocking means the saddle is too high. I don’t know how that was possible, though. 36-3/8″ should have been dead nu… Um, phrasing. I lowered it a millimeter. The saddle could be a little farther back than the old saddle was, that would require the saddle to be a shade lower…
Another five minutes. I lowered it again. Just a millimeter. Another 20 minutes.
I could feel pressure from the nose of the saddle that kept me from wanting to ride in the drops. It wasn’t outrageously uncomfortable, just a little nag. I lowered the nose a quarter-turn on the front bolt.
And there the saddle stayed for more than a week. I thought I was done. The saddle felt okay, about as good as you’d expect from just one millimeter of padding (not much).
I’ve worn, over the last week, every pair of heavily padded bibs I own and took a few spins on medium padded bibs to make sure the saddle is where I want to it be. Last night, I’m about ten minutes into my ride and something just wasn’t right. The fore/aft position of the saddle was perfect, I’d already lowered the saddle a couple of millimeters so that wasn’t it… I could simply sense something was a little off, a little pressure where there shouldn’t be pressure in front of the sit bones. This calls for a systematic “shotgun” approach. I had a sneaky suspicion I just needed to lower the nose a pinch… I backed out the rear mounting bolt an eighth of a turn and tightened the front bolt the same amount and climbed aboard.
And the angels sang.
Once the pressure was off… um, a very delicate area that doesn’t much like pressure, and the saddle felt like a $400+ saddle should feel like. It’s still stiff, but I wasn’t thinking much about where my butt was on the saddle as I finished my ride, either.
This is why I love breaking a new saddle in on the trainer. Outdoors there are too many distractions and variables. Bumps, rough pavement, in the saddle, out of the saddle… up a hill, down a hill. Accelerate, decelerate, headwind, tailwind, crosswind, traffic, pedestrians… On a trainer, it’s just my butt and that saddle for 45 minutes. I get a lot of good feedback when all I have to distract me is a movie I’ve already seen five times.
And that’s about the done of that. I think. Maybe.
If you’ve been joining in with me on the push to spring, the goal is to be pushing hard gears on the trainer so that we’re in better than normal shape before the spring push hits. The solitary goal is to enjoy the spring speed ramp-up whilst everyone else has their tongues dangling in their spokes.
That is, everyone except those riding smart trainers on Zwift. They’ll likely be right there with you. CURSE YOU, ZWIFT!
That said, last week we were just getting into our hardest gear. This week we should be fully embracing the big gear that we picked a couple of months ago. Over the next two weeks, as the weather starts to warm up enough to ride outside, we want to be pushing the hard gear every workout, with the exception of rest days (if necessary) and an active recovery day here or there.
This phase is going to take some want to, but if you stick with it, you’re spring will be a lot more enjoyable.
Push the big gears, my friends. We’re almost there….
I was just sitting here thinking about nothing much when my mind wandered into what I might want to do differently this year for cycling. I’ve gone wireless in the past, opted to go without a speedo for a while…
With that new saddle I’ve been testing out I’ll have the Venge down to the low 15 pound range – light enough that getting lighter really doesn’t matter anymore – especially for an aero bike. In fact, the only way I could get the Venge any lighter is to go very drastic; tubular tires/wheels (call it $3,000) and a Dura Ace groupset (another $1,600-ish)… and I’d only drop a half to three-quarters of a pound from where I’m at already. Even if I had that kind of money, and I don’t, why?
On the other hand, and I’m just spit-balling here, what if I put the carbon wheels and the good saddle on the Trek?! I’m in the mid 18 pound range with the normal setup on the bike. With the carbon fiber wheels and the 110 gram saddle… It’d be down to the high 17 pound range… Not bad considering the bike was 20 pounds not too long ago.
So what would it be like to hang the Venge up for a year and ride the Trek with all of the good equipment on it?
Now that’s something to contemplate!
The only down side is what would I do for a rain bike? Swapping out the wheels would definitely be a chore if there was a chance of rain. To put rain wheels on the Trek, or alloy wheels, I’d have to swap brake pads and adjust the pad height so the pads hit the brake track on the alloy wheels every time there was a chance of a shower. Folks, I think that’s a little too much work. Still, I wonder, what would my Trek look like decked out in the finest? The notion is pretty compelling…
I have to admit, as a recovering drunk/addict, it is awesome to have my problems today!
And that is definitely sexy.
There, but for the Grace of God, go I…
Every recovered alcoholic knows, in one way or another, of “the jumping off place”, that point in one’s disease when they know alcohol is killing them, but they’re terrified to quit.
Speaking from experience, this is a lonely place.
My sponsor likes to say, when a newcomer happens on our meeting, “Let me welcome you to a new way of life. You don’t ever have to feel like you do right now, again.”
I was petrified when I quit, but I knew something had to give. At only 22, my health was fading fast. If I ate solid food twice in a day, that was a good day. I couldn’t stomach much. The rest of my daily caloric intake went to booze. I had some tests done as a part of an out-patient treatment program and the conclusions weren’t good. Apparently, my liver was swollen, which accounted for the gut I had under my six-pack, and the doctor said I had liver enzyme readings equal that of a 60-year-old chronic alcoholic. I was a drunk with a weak liver to boot. He gave me till 30 if I kept going the way I was. I wasn’t quite done… yet.
Then the trouble with the law ramped up.
I was sentenced to an in-patient treatment center rather prison. I was given the option, of course, but I took treatment (less time). I wasn’t at my jumping off place until I was well into my bout of DT’s (read delirium tremens, or withdrawals). It was only then that I fully understood how far down the scale I’d fallen. It was either quit, or die.
So I quit. I ceased fighting and asked God for help. And I went to meetings. And I won. And I kept winning. And I kept going back. Because that’s what we do to win. And I worked some steps. And I found freedom. Because that’s how it works.
My friends, the jumping off place is a good place for a soon-to-be recovering addict. That ledge is the only place from which I could make a decision to quit. The only problem is the journey to get there. That part sucks.
Keep coming back, my friends. And if you’re new, welcome to a new way of life. You don’t ever have to feel like this again. And, as my sponsor likes to say, if nobody’s told you that they love you today, let me be the first.
Recover hard, my friends.
Day two on my new saddle was a day for getting it squared away, leveled and to test its limits as comfort goes. If I’m good at anything, it’s geeking out over tiny details.
For this test, I chose to wear my lightest pair of bibs with a chamois that’s… well, there isn’t much there. They’re a nice pair of bibs, but I won’t wear them for a ride longer than 40 miles for the lack of adequate chamois padding.
I wanted to feel what was happening – that’s the only way to be certain I’ve got everything right. A thick chamois wouldn’t transfer enough… um… feedback. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
I started pedaling and noticed two things within the first minute. The nose of the saddle was just a shade too high, and the saddle itself needed to be lowered, maybe two millimeters. I made the adjustments and climbed back on. Perfect.
I spent the next 45 minutes in the same spot, pedaling away, watching Martian. I doubt I’ll have to change another thing after that… except that pair of bibs. Those won’t work on that saddle.
One final observation; that saddle probably won’t work on the Trek even though I’m running it through the paces on that bike. Not that I’d want the expensive saddle on the Trek, it’s just too lacking in padding to go on a bike that requires 23mm tires. The Venge, with its 25mm tires and carbon fiber wheels, is vastly more comfortable for such a stiff saddle. In the end, I’ll put the Selle on the Venge and take the Romin off the Venge and put that on the 5200.
I went to a bike swap meet with my wife, Sunday morning. A friend I ride with regularly had some high-end saddles, among other carbon fiber pleasantries, for sale and he offered one to me.
I was ready for something a little lighter than my Specialized Romin, but I laughed when I felt the full weight of it. Folks, the whole saddle is 110 grams. Less that a quarter of a pound. It’s less than half the weight of my Romin.
My friends, the Selle Italia SLR Tekno Flow.
The cutout is mighty big but… dude, 110 grams! My first impression was really… dude, seriously, does it matter?! 110 grams! The Specialized Romin that came on my Venge is 273 grams. So, when I put that svelt 110 SLR Tekno Flow on the Venge I’ll lose a third of a pound – on the saddle alone.
Last night was my first spin on it. Now, I can’t exactly say it was butter, because you don’t get that light putting padding on a saddle.
I chose a pair of old bibs with a thinner chamois so I could get an idea of how the saddle really felt. Folks, I don’t care if it is a $400 saddle, if it hurts to ride on it I’d rather opt for something that’s comfortable and a little heavier – I spend way too much time in the saddle to mess with something that’s even a little uncomfortable. The first few miles were a bit of an adjustment getting used to the huge cutout. Once I got the fore/aft position figured out, though, it was surprisingly comfortable. The best way to put it is it allows the hips to open up so you can stretch out. With the plusher saddle I usually ride on the Trek, the way the saddle cradles you limits how low you want to get in the drops (most “comfortable” saddles are like this). The Selle puts no limits on low – in fact, it encourages riding low on the hoods or in the drops.
Much more research will be required, but that saddle is absolutely staying in the stable. Normally, after 45 minutes in the saddle on the trainer, my butt gets a little agitated – not quite painful, but I’m ready to be done. While there was an adjustment period to the vastly more rigid SLR, there was zero agitation at the end of my 45 minute ride last night. Interesting, indeed. And did I mention? 110 grams!
When it comes to my posts about recovery, I tend to pick hard hitting topics and drive emotion into them. Recovering from addiction is a big deal in some aspects, but in others, it’s mostly just a day to day, easy does it.
When I first sobered up, the whole idea was pretty simple for the first year; don’t f*ckin’ drink. I went to a lot of meetings to make sure I would make it. The first half of the year I hit a meeting every day – sometimes two.
After that first year, the real work started and it was about fixing the other 23 hours of the day. It wasn’t so much about not drinking – I already had that down – it was about fixing all of the crap that I drank over in the first place.
Many people who fail with recovery, have a tough time grasping that true freedom from addiction isn’t realized until the other twenty-three hours of the day are dealt with successfully.
Anyone can stay clean and sober in an in-patient rehab facility. It’s what happens when we step outside that causes us trouble.
I’ve gotten to the point in recovery where I don’t worry much about alcohol and drugs anymore. My natural reaction to being anywhere near them is to recoil – to think things through. When I wake up in the morning, after thanking God for another day on the right side of the grass, I think about what I can do better today. I think about where I might have fallen short yesterday, and what I need to do to be a better me.
This is the best way I know to start a day. Focused on how I can be a better version of me. This is how I do good with the other twenty-three hours of the day.
Riding a roller coaster at a coaster park is great. Riding a roller coaster in life, not so much. We learn early on that highs that are too high lead to lows that are too low. If we smooth the track out, we don’t risk not being able to carry momentum up the next hill, causing us to slide back down to the bottom.