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Q.I’m a 34-year-old woman and am making the transition from competitive running to cycling. I’m concerned about the saddles on the more race-oriented bikes I’m considering buying. Some have cut-outs, some don’t. What are the differences, and what should I be looking for in a saddle? How much difference is there is something so small? Should I just choose one that feels right for me? Thanks!
The saddle could be the most important bike equipment choice you will ever make! There are two things that keep women off the bicycle: handlebars in the wrong place and saddle discomfort. Those two things actually go together but let’s answer your saddle question.
The saddle should provide your main area of support on the bike; however the crotch was not designed to bear weight so I believe we should use as much of the skeleton for support as possible, meaning that you should sit mostly on your ischial tuberosities(sit bone).
Each sit bone should feel equal pressure with minimal pressure on the sensitive soft tissues. All cut outs are not designed equally. Look for a beveled ovalized cutout. When a saddle fits well, your genitalia will situate into the cutout and allow for the forward flexion required to reach the handlebars. Don’t buy a saddle without considering its effect on your entire fit on the bike as a saddle change can effect saddle height and stem length.
Good luck in your shopping adventures.
— Andrew Pruitt, EdD
Founder, Boulder Center for Sports Medicine
Andrew Pruitt, EdD, PA-C, is the founder of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. Pruitt has worked with elite athletes for years and has become the world’s foremost expert in 3D bike fit analysis. His patients include some of the most formidable cyclists in the world including Fabian Cancellara, Andy and Frank Schleck, Jens Voigt, Alberto Contador, and other ProTour riders who either see Pruitt as part of their team, or fly to Boulder from around the world on their own accord. BCSM and VeloNews.com have partnered to produce cycling training and health columns on this site.