WRITER RIDERS: MAKE YOUR BUTT FEEL GREAT
I remember the first bike that I bought when I first started cycling in 2012. A Giant Revel hard-tail. With zero know-how on how a bike should “feel”, I dumped the entire fitting process to my trusty (and rather handsome) mechanic. Honestly, the fine-tuning of the suspension made very little sense to me. ‘Sag’ meant something else, and I seriously could not tell the difference between fine adjustments. I just remember being made to get on the bike, pushing down on the handle bar and then getting off. After the fifth or sixth time, my exact thoughts were, “Meh… So troublesome. Is 5 psi going to make that much of a difference?” If the mechanic were any less good-looking, I might have stalked off.
MORE ON FITTING
Also, tilting the angle of the controls. Stem length. Handlebar width. Alien!!! So if you’re kind of new and feeling pretty much peeved like I was – just be assured that’s normal. In time to come, it might gradually make a little more sense. But for now – that’s normal. If your boyfriend / husband is the one doing the tuning for you and he seems to be making your life difficult, annoying you with questions that you don’t know how to answer – it’s because he loves you and wants the bike to feel nice. He’s not purposely trying to irritate you. And boys, please also understand that if your girlfriend / wife looks pissed off – it’s because what you’re doing now is totally illogical to her. Trust me, I’m a girl.
And back to “making your butt feel great”. I know it sounds very wrong and off-topic, but trust me, there is a point to this.
So, after Handsome Mechanic was satisfied that the bike was ready, came the biggest problem that he didn’t anticipate. Though my body was totally insensitive to all the supposedly important adjustments on the bike – my butt had to be particularly fussy. Yes, my butt was being a bitch. After a few rides, and one particularly long one to East Coast Park, it was waging war with the saddle and had lost pathetically, resulting in immense pain. Casualties included not just my butt, but also my lady parts and even my hamstrings. Handsome Mechanic could not understand why, because the bike felt okay to him. Another onslaught of repeatedly getting on the bike, getting off the bike, I-don’t-see-the-difference-though-I-know-you-did-something adjustments ensued.
His first solution that provided short-term relief was to shift the saddle back, and tilt it upwards. Strange – I thought it would cause me more agony because if tilted upwards, wouldn’t it be sticking up the, you know, wrong place? Strangely enough that seemed to work well enough for a few rounds around the carpark. But on the next long ride, it was another full-blown battle. Saddle 2 – 0 My Butt.
“Hey, maybe the saddle’s not right for you. Why don’t you try mine? It’s quite comfortable. Very light also, 120 grams only!” Handsome Mechanic helpfully offered his expensive, sleek-looking Selle Italia SLR. I might as well have been sitting on the tip of a pointy rock. Nope. Definitely nope.
And then there was this one from Fizik that I hoped would work because it looked quite pretty. But that turned out to be the most brutal killer of all. By the end of a round at Ketam Mountain Biking Trail – my tailbone was hurting so badly I was “5 psi” away from bludgering someone in the face.
When all hope seemed lost, a miraculous solution came in the form of a Dr. Air saddle. $30 from Giant Hypermart – an inflatable piece of magic. It was even more comfortable than sitting on the toilet and contemplating life after a long day at work. I felt like I could ride my bike forever. The only problem was that Dr. Air weighed 450g and was horrendously bulky (read: ugly). I knew it, but I refused to admit it because after going through the saddle ordeal, no way I was going to give up butt heaven.
Handsome Mechanic embarked on a long quest, trying to introduce me to the idea of ladies’ specific saddles. I was skeptical then, because, isn’t a saddle just some bits of foam nicely wrapped in leather. It’s a somewhat very minimalistic chair. How much Science can go into that? Turns out that the answer is: A SHITLOAD.
THE SCIENCE-Y BIT EXPLAINED SIMPLY
Ok fine, I’m not going to go into that shitload of Science. But here are the basics of what you should know.
Boys and girls are engineered a bit differently. We all have 2 boney lumps on our butts, called ‘sit bones’. It affects the spine, and our hamstrings are wired to it. The difference is, most girls’ sit bones are wider apart. This means that if they’re on a saddle with a smaller width, the sit bones are unsupported. This results in too much pressure in between. Ouch. The ladies’ saddles are generally wider to cater to that aspect of the female anatomy. On the contrary, guys have narrower sit bones. So if they sit on a saddle that’s too wide, they would be rocking about.
Having a saddle that fits the width of your sit bones properly should be the first factor you get right. In fact, if you go to a really specialized shop, there’s even a meter you can sit on to measure the width of the sit bones. This helps you to choose the right saddle from the commercially available range of 125m – 145mm.
The good news is, you can also measure the width between your sit bones at home! You will need a piece of corrugated board from a carton box (by peeling off the skin from the cardboard) and a marker.
- Sit on the corrugated board for about half a minute.
- Get off the cardboard.
- You should be able to feel two sunken imprints made by your sit bones.
- Mark out the centre of the two imprints with a marker.
- Measure the distance between the markings.
This gives you the width of the saddle you should be looking at. However, there are other factors involved. Some saddles have a cut-out in the middle, others have sloping wings and different nose designs. Ultimately there isn’t one saddle that will fit all butts, therefore it’s important to go a bike shop to physically try them out.
Yawn. Okay, back to the story. After months of friendly persuasion, gentle coaxing and sly trickery by the Handsome Mechanic – we somehow ended up at this bike shop in Chinatown. And within seconds of trying WTB’S Deva, I was sold and ready to ditch Dr. Air (K sorry, man)! My butt felt great. Not just great – awesome. So yes, the Science to engineering ladies’ specific saddles exists and it works!
I’m in no way saying that the Deva is the best saddle in the world. And I’m certain that not every girl would have gone through the same pains I had with finding a saddle. Congrats to all you people with non-fussy, generic sit bones! My point is, the correct saddle does matter. Whether you’re having trouble with sitting comfortably on your bike, or if you’re one very fortunate girl who’s never had problems and are living happily-ever-after with your current saddle – don’t dismiss this possibility.