I’ve written about this topic in the past, butt it keeps rearing its ugly head – and this time I’d gone radical in the name of… being a weight weenie! Of all things. Now, after enough double entendres in one sentence to choke a chicken, it’s time to get serious because this really is no laughing matter. The truth is, I’ve got a much better understanding of how saddles work – and more important, how the width of a saddle can have an affect on the sitting area. Because I’m still riding on one.
My true saddle width is somewhere between 128 and 138. A 138 is plenty comfortable but I’ve ridden quite a few centuries on a 128 with nothing but glowing reviews. My Bontrager Montrose Pro Carbon saddles aren’t all that special, either. They’re contoured rather than flat with minimal but fantastic padded support, and they’re light. 140-ish grams if I remember. Just shy of a third of a pound for a saddle. There are lighter saddles out there, down to 80 grams, but I tried a minimalist 110 gram saddle with virutually no padding and I just couldn’t make it work (and it wasn’t for a lack of effort). I have thousands of miles on those saddles and I learned something I didn’t know over the last few weeks.
I used to ride a Specialized Romin 143 that I thought was the cat’s pajamas. I had one on my race road bike and one on my rain road bike, and put tens of thousands of miles on them. At first, the local shop set me up with Specialized’s Body Geometry fitting. I’d done my best and was excited to see how I stacked up against all of the glorious video equipment and high-class software analytics that could be thrown at bike fitting.
The shop lowered my saddle two millimeters after the three hour fitting process.
Over the years and six to ten thousand mile years, I developed a sore spot on my left inner-thigh bone, just forward of the sit bone (my left leg is a little shorter than my right). I simply lived with it for years as it wasn’t a full-time pain. It was fleeting. A few years ago it stuck around for a while and I decided to lower my saddle a couple of millimeters to see if that would fix it. That worked for the most part.
Until I found a Bontrager Montrose Pro Carbon on sale for around $120. The Romin I had on the Trek at the time was heavy – 276 grams or a little less than two-thirds of a pound. The Montrose had a 138 mm width, though, and I was supposed to be a 143. I threw caution to the wind, figuring it was worth the risk to drop that much weight with so little money (they normally ran around $300). When my saddle came in, I fitted it on the Trek and rode it for the first time, it was glorious.
After giving it two months with nothing but good to say about the saddle, I went back to buy a second for my Venge. You find a saddle that feels that good, it doesn’t matter the brand mismatch. Sadly, they were out of the 138 but they had 128s in stock. I gave it a go. I dropped even more weight off the Specialized and the feel wasn’t all that different from the 138. I expected the 128 to hurt a little because it wasn’t wide enough, but that worry turned out to be unnecessary.
And once I had both Montrose saddles on my road bikes, I found I could raise the saddles, comfortably, back to the old shop setting. 36-5/8″ (93 cm or 930.2750 mm) and I don’t have that pain on my left inner thigh bone just forward of my sit bone anymore.
That is, I didn’t have that pain anymore until I started riding my gravel bike that has a 143 mm Specialized Romin 143 mm saddle on it and I hit a bump… and that’s when it all started to make sense.
The pain I’ve been experiencing gets worse the wider the saddle gets, too. My Trek originally came with a 155 mm saddle that had me so sore I thought it was a running injury. As it turned out, after a few days off the bike, the pain subsided – then flared right back up after riding again.
The point is, saddle width is a little tricky to diagnose and it can present as other things, such as a saddle being too high. There’s also a difference between finding something that’s livable and something perfect, as was my case with the small difference between a 143 and a 138 mm saddle. The more I ride, the more that little bit mattered.