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Pedal Science Blog: Road or Triathlon Saddles?

Welcome to Pedal Science, the weekly bike fitting blog by Nick Thomas of The Endurance Coach. This week our resident bike fitter Nick Thomas talks about saddles!

Saddle comfort is essential in achieving the optimum riding position and finding the right saddle can prove to be a frustrating process. As more people compete in triathlon there are increasingly more saddles produced specifically for use on time trial bikes. Before deciding on a saddle it’s important to understand the benefits of tri-specific saddles and when they would be a suitable option.

A time trial bike positions the rider further forward to increase power and improve aerodynamics. There are two main consequences of this riding position:

  • The leg angle is closer to vertical than on a road bike
  • The back achieves a flatter profile as the torso is more extended

The result of these changes is the pelvis being in a more anteriorly rotated position. This means the pressure under the rider is moved anteriorly slightly in front of the ‘sit bones’. For many people this isn’t a problem but for some it can lead to discomfort and/or numbness in the groin or further down the leg. The result is reduced power and a slower bike split.                           

Tri-specific saddles have several features which can potentially alleviate this problem:

  • The nose is slightly declined to accommodate the angle of the pelvis
  • There is often a split down the centre of the saddle to reduce the pressure between the legs
  • The nose is often more cushioned to distribute the pressure over a wider area

There are further points to consider when deciding whether to use a tri-specific saddle:

  • Tri-specific saddles are often shorter than road bike saddles and the rider also sits further forward on the saddle so it’s essential the saddle fore-aft position fits the rider’s position, not vice versa
  • Correct saddle width is also essential and many models are available in a range of widths
  • The angle needs to be adjusted so the rider is stationary and not slipping forwards while riding

Conclusion:

Saddle choice is very individual and it’s essential the right saddle is chosen and fitted correctly. Many shops offer trial saddles to experiment with so take your time and find the model which enables you to cycle consistently, maintain riding position and without discomfort. If you’re experiencing discomfort when riding a time trial bike a tri-specific saddle would be worth considering.

Nick Thomas is the resident bike fitter at The Endurance Coach. He is a fully qualified bike fitter and expert in lower limb mechanics, holding a BSc (Hons) in podiatry. You can contact him using the email address: nickthomas@theendurancecoach.com or see more about his fitting services by GOING HERE.



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