Cycling and Saddle Height – You Learn Something New… Erm… Every Few Years. A Tale of Excessive Butt Pain On a Tandem and How I Finally Fixed It By Getting My Saddle High Enough
I ride a pretty spectacular tandem with my wife. We bought a Co-Motion Periscope Scout and had it fitted with road components – a 10sp triple crank with Shimano 105 components. It’s a heavy steel bike, but it’s absolutely beautiful. The welds are utterly gorgeous and it’s adorned with top-notch equipment. The quality of that bike is phenomenal and it’s truly a joy to ride and the steel frame is unbelievably comfortable. There’s one problem, though… it was less than easy getting the saddle right. On a tandem, it’s not like you can just get out of the saddle to climb a hill, relieving your butt of the pressure of sitting on it, so you tend to spend a lot of time seated and pedaling.
Unlike a standard tandem, with a Periscope from Co-Motion you can fit anyone from 4’2″ to 6’2″ on the back…
I’ve had, ever since we brought the bike home, saddle issues with it. Whenever we go beyond 40 miles we’ve had to schedule a late stop so we can give our keisters a rest. I’ve tried three different saddles, a Selle Italia low-end saddle that came with the bike, a Specialized Romin road saddle and finally, a Specialized Toupe sport saddle that originally came on my Diverge AL Sport gravel bike. That Toupe was the best fitting saddle I’d had on the tandem but I just couldn’t pass that 40-mile mark without baboon heinie issues.
A few weeks ago my wife and I did our normal Sunday Funday tandem ride and I told my buddy, Mike that I’d switch bikes and ride home with him for some extra miles. Immediately on getting back I parked the tandem, went in the house, changed shoes (road shoes for the road bikes, mountain for the tandem) and wheeled out my Venge. On hopping on the bike, it felt weird… like I was off balance and the bike wanted to rock side-to-side as I pedaled. I knew exactly what causes that sensation. The saddle on the Venge was higher than the Co-Motion. After 37 miles on the tandem, then hopping straight on the Venge, the difference was plain as day.
Now, I know the Venge’s saddle is perfect. The amount of time, detail and attention that went into getting that saddle in the perfect location borders on the ludicrous. Long story short, I ended up recently raising the saddle on the Venge because I refused to believe that my legs were 1/4″ shorter at 50 than they were at 42… my measurement used to be 36-5/8″ and I was all the way down to 36-3/8″ after lowering it for “feel” over a few years’ time. I raised the saddle 1/8″ (or 3 mm) and couldn’t figure out why I ever lowered it in the first place. Then I raised the saddle on the Trek to match (then lowered the nose by 1/4 turn of the front saddle mount bolt). Well, after riding the Venge, I raised the Co-Motion’s saddle to match the Venge, too… and our first ride since was Sunday… and nirvana.
My wife and I rode 46-1/2 glorious miles on the tandem and I felt fantastic through the entire ride. Oh, there were minor adjustments as the ride wore on, but there was no point at which I simply wanted to get off the bike so I could get off my butt for a minute. A first – and our only stop was at about 14 miles (give or take).
So, after a considerable amount of effort in getting the saddle on the tandem right, I can tell you a saddle too low is just as bad and painful as having it too high. To describe the difference in pain is quite simple, though. If the saddle is (slightly) too high, you’re going to feel like you’re bruising your sit bones, or the bones right in front of the sit bones that form the hip. This pain is ugly. On the other hand, if the saddle is a little low, the pain will be “hot” on your keister… I like to call it baboon or tandem @$$. If you can coast and stand up for a second, the heat goes away and you’ll be good for another few miles but it’ll invariably flare back up again, this is the pain I’m talking about. The saddle won’t be so low that your knees hurt (at the back of the knee… if the back of the knee hurts, raise, if the front hurts, lower), but you’ll feel more like you’re riding on a heating pad that’s set to “scorched sphincter”.
Now, this will work for a single bike just the same. If you’re feeling like your butt’s on fire after 30 or 40 miles, it just could be you have to raise your saddle a little bit… just not too much.
Just a thought. And some experience sprinkled on top.