Women’s Cycle Saddles are specifically designed to provide comfort and reduce injury. So we asked CES Sport rider Laura Addie to share what she knows. Laura is the reigning Ironman Age Group World Champion , and so the following article explains why women’s cycle saddles are different. After Laura’s intro, we then look a little deeper into the process of buying a saddle.
Over to Laura…
Ensuring you have the correct fitting saddle is vital for comfort and health, whether in training or racing. Cycling can cause many issues if you are not fitted to the equipment correctly; however, women suffer from unique problems due to anatomical differences. For example, media sources quote up to 91% of women suffer “down below” when cycling.
The saddle’s shape is usually the leading cause; however, finding the correct saddle can take a lot of trial and error as it is dependent upon many different factors such as; body type, duration of riding and biomechanics.
Women’s Cycle Saddles – Common Problems.
The vulva and soft tissue around the sit bones are usually the most commonly affected areas with problems such as; skin irritation, ingrown hairs and chafing, tissue swelling, and yeast infections. Numbness is also a common issue experienced by women; numb areas almost always indicate too much pressure in the wrong place.
A lack of lymphatic drainage causes swelling due to prolonged pressure. Take this seriously as a vicious cycle of reduced drainage and more swelling is common. In addition, it may require a period of rest to let the inflammation settle. Swelling in the labia can occur on the inner and outer sides of the lips.
Infections are also a common issue experienced by female cyclists as bacteria multiplies quickly due to sweating and tight-fitting clothing. In addition, the hot, moist environment can trigger an overgrowth of yeast. These infections usually present as unusual discharge, odour change or a burning sensation when urinating.
Chafing and sores can range from small spot like sores to large painful boils. Consistent pressure in the same place will irritate and inflame your skin, leaving it open and prone to infection. Preventative measures such as chamois cream and anti-bacterial creams can help reduce friction between the skin and clothing to avoid chafing.
Women’s Cycle Saddles – How to Avoid Problems
Pressure or saddle mapping is a proven way to determine the correct fit. A pressure map helps qualify how much pressure occurs. For example, if you’re sitting upright, a wider fit saddle will help support the sit bones. However, when cycling in a more aggressive position and leaning forward, greater support is needed at the front of the saddle to cushion the pelvic bones and reduce pressure through the soft tissue.
It is much easier to deal with and resolve these common problems at the onset, so don’t ride through the pain, hoping it will stop. Most issues can be fixed easily with minor tweaks to position and bike set up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and talk about any problems you might be facing. Getting the right fit for a saddle is completely normal and something that needs to be sorted for riding comfort and general health.
You can read an excellent article here for a more detailed look into the issue.
Laura Addie – Instagram
A Buyers Guide To Women’s Saddles
With anatomical design being an essential part of comfort and wellbeing, we have compiled a checklist for anyone looking into new saddles. The following section explains saddle fitting in more detail and signposts some quality products.
Cycle Saddle Fitting Guide
So what is a pressure map, and how does it work? A saddle pressure fit can transform your riding experience as part of an overall bike fit. A pressure pad is placed over various saddle types to determine trouble spots. Of course, there is no point in measuring the pressure points on the saddle if the whole bike is set up wrong, so make sure to have your bike set up professionally at the same time.
The pressure pad on the saddle is linked to mapping software on a computer. As you shift positions, so the pad records increase of pressure. Green areas are safe; yellow is a trouble spot. Having set your bike up, your bike fitter can now measure pressure when you are on the drops, on the hoods, and when increasing intensity, such as during a sprint.
The correct saddle for you will be the one that indicates the greenest areas when riding in all three positions. You can see a saddle fit happening here.
Which Cycle Saddles Are Best For Women?
We cannot stress this point enough. The best saddle is not chosen by the manufacturer’s name or even the price. The best saddle is the one that has the least pressure points when riding in the three popular positions; hoods, drops and sprint.
That having been said, here are a few pointers to some of the best manufacturers of quality products. Always have your saddle fitted before buying, especially if you are competing.
- Selle Italia – Visit their website here
- Bontrager – Visit their website here
- Fizik – Visit their website here
- ISM – Visit their website here
- Prologo –Visit their website here
- Specialized – Visit their website here
For a comprehensive review of women’s saddles, you can pop over to cyclingweekly.com
Rubber side down!