Overview of Saddles

Bicycle saddles have gone through some transition over the years. Thirty years ago saddles had a leather top that was suspended over a steel framework and the rails were built as springs to give a smoother ride. Later the rails became stiff and straight, while the covering was a thick leather which after many, many, many rides and oil treatments the leather would contour to your body. People at the time would sell their bike but keep their saddle because they had "broken it in" to their particular body. Racing bikes had extremely rigid, hard plastic saddle shells with a very thin layer of leather. The thinking was flex in the saddle could only mean lost energy. Foam padded seats ultimately made their appearance. The next big innovation was a saddle with anatomic bumps, followed by a flexible saddle shell that would give under jolts, to cushion the ride. The most recent evolution in saddles has been the Gel seat, using a tissue like Gel that was initially intended as breast prosthesis material for implants. All of these design changes overlook that the body adapts to nearly all saddles and there is generally a degree of discomfort associated in any saddle change that merely "goes away" as you begin to use your new saddle in earnest. Saddles, these days, all begin with a plastic shell that all the other component parts are put on. For simplicity sake we've called it a Nylon shell, (which is generally true, unless we know explicitly otherwise). Some saddle shells have the rear tail area split so the left and right side of the tail can move independent of one another. Under the seat shell are the saddle rails. The rails are what the seat post clamp fastens to. Saddle rails are traditionally made of spring steel, though there are now seats with aluminum and, in a few cases, carbon fiber or titanium rails available. The saddle rail is typically one piece of steel rod that is bent several times to form the rail assembly.

This piece runs from one end of the saddle to the other and then is bent back on itself. The same bends are repeated until the rail reaches the end of the saddle it started at. The reason we mention this is where this return curve (the bend back on itself) occurs can make a difference in weight of the saddle and load bearing. As you read the description you will be told where the "return curve" is located. The farther from the front, the less steel and therefore weight the saddle will have. The return curve is a tight bend and typically fits into a block of plastic that not only holds the rail curve but joins the two sides of the saddle together. This block of plastic that is molded into shell to hold the return curve we call the "rail bridge". At the back of the saddle each of the rail ends need to be held. They are held in a plastic block that is molded as a part of the shell with a hole for the rail end to fit snugly into. We refer to this block the "rear rail receiver". There are three areas we identify on the saddle. You will see the word "tip" this indicates the most extreme forward point of the saddle. The word nose is associated with the front snout-like area of the seat. The word tail is in reference to the rear area of the saddle. The tail on a few saddle has been "cut-down". The sides of the tail have been cut away to narrow the back to give the rider more maneuverability when down-hill or technical riding. With the sides cut away it is easier to slide the inner thighs past the saddle tail. There is a difference between the foam padding that is sold on department store replacement bicycle seats and those we sell here, and it's a distinction that maybe overlooked. Inexpensive bicycle seats are padded with a layer of foam pad cut from a "sheet" of open cell foam pad. It's the same thickness throughout so there is no way for added padding to one area without cutting a separate piece, which isn't done. The foam padding used in saddles sold here is closed cell and custom molded to the saddle shell to provide an exact contour for the leather cover to lay over. The padding is molded thicker where the body calls for it and the edges of the padding taper softly to a feather edge as it rolls down the side of the saddle to produce a smooth, continuous line on a refined and perfect saddle. There are predominately four saddle styles in current use, Racing, Mens (touring), Women's (touring), ATB (mountain bike or "comfort") . The Racing is likely the most widely used. The Racing saddle is a tiny bit longer than the other saddles and is considerably more narrow. The idea is to provide a small, defined area for the rider to sit on and eliminate all extra weight. Comfort on a racing saddle is just one, and a lesser criteria. The "Mens" saddle is really what is known as "Mens touring saddle". The Mens touring saddle is nearly as long as the Racing (professional bike racers were, for many years, only men), saddle but is wider in the tail area for added comfort. Touring, for some of you, is long distance travel on a bike and without the right saddle it could be difficult. The wider saddle gives more area to disperse your weight. The Women's saddle is also a touring type of saddle. The nose (and the overall length), on the Women's saddle is shorter and the tail is wider. The Women's (touring) saddle is designed with the idea that there are pelvic and anatomically important differences for women that can't be overlooked. (delicate enough?). The ATB (mountain or "comfort") saddle is for extremely rough, suicidal riding, or people who ride infrequently and won't permit the time for saddle/body break-in. The ATB is typically as long as a Mens type saddle but is considerably wider in the Tail area. The added width allows more area to land on (suicidal riders), or more area to disperse weight and thereby increase comfort (casual riders).
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