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The question of “What is your favorite saddle?” is a very popular question in tweets, emails and in shop conversation. It is also probably one of the most user specific question around bike fit. My bits are not built like your bits, my seat bones are not the same width as your seat bones but I can give some generic feedback of my “go-to” saddles for women.
Pro advice: Make sure you check your saddle measurements prior to swapping out any of these seats! This includes height, and the distance of where your sit bones are most comfortable on the seat to the handlebars. Every seat will be different but these are good x/y starting points to measure off!
The Most Popular Women’s Saddles I Recommend
If you don’t know where to start with a new seat, start with this one.
When swapping out bike seat during a women’s bike fit this is normally the first seat I try. The channel through the middle section allows some relief on your girly parts and the wider sit bone area on the back of the seat keeps you well supported. This saddle was once on 100% of my bikes but as my handlebars went lower I had to switch to something with a flatter front to back profile and not a drop in the middle.
Tip: Make sure the area where your sit bones hit is level!
Specialized Ruby Pro
If your handlebar is lower than your saddle height than try out the Specialized Ruby. The relatively flat back area of the saddle and flexy middle section allow for a leaned over position. This saddle doesn’t have a ton of padding some if you are relatively upright it may be a bit too tough for your sit bones.
Tip: This saddle does come in different widths, so make sure to get your butt properly sized!
This seat is a bit narrow so if you are on a super upright hybrid or mountain bike the saddle may not support you properly. Saying that, this saddle has been a goto for cyclocross season for many years due gel inserts in the firm and pretty flat surface.
Tip: This saddle is not as tall as many others. You may need to move your seat up significantly.
(Yes, I like white saddles. It always makes a bike look faster in my humble opinion!)
A popular question after cycling shorts and saddle recommendations is normally about chamois cream. If you haven’t heard about it before, don’t feel too left out it basically is under carriage lube.
Wait what? Yes, a cream you put between you and the shorts.
Why do I need Chamois Cream?
I go through spurts of not using chamois cream because I forget it or forget to buy new. Depending on my shorts, saddle and bike fit sometimes it is fine. Below you’ll find a list of reasons I recommend it!
- Prevents chaffing, keeping your skin from rubbing together or rubbing against your shorts/saddle
- Many creams have anti-bacterial in side of it
- Helps with shaving bumps and in grown hair
- Many creams have a cooling sensation that is helpful if you get hot spots or are simply warm down there on a hot day
What kind of Chamois Cream do I recommend?
This is tough, at the end I recommend to try different types and to figure out what ingredients you like. I’ve never had any rash or allergic reaction to any of the ones I recommend.
This is the original to me. I remember being 16 and the only other cycling girl I knew recommending it. It because ritual and the smell still reminds me of long rides. It has a cooling sensation which is also nice.
One of the first to make a “female specific” cream. I’ve used it, and can say I can’t tell a difference..it doesn’t seem to have such a cooling sensation and smells less medicated. I have also used the standard “guys” version which works just as well for me.
This is probably the most popular kind you’ll find in any bike shop. The standard version doesn’t cool as much, and I have been using the Eurostyle for the past few months. One nice thing about this type is they sell tubes of “sample” sizes to bike shops. I like these for folks trying out chamois butt’r for the first time, or for long rides to keep in your pocket!
How to Install Chamois Cream
I’ve heard so many ways to do this, either put it on your short before you put it on, or slather it all over yourself. I’ve tried putting it on the chamois and hated it. It made it feel like I was putting on a damp diaper.
- Try starting with a quarter size of cream, I’m a fan of the squirt bottles over the scoop style jars
- I personally put it in my butt crease, the groin crease and lightly on soft tissues that come in contact with my shorts
- Don’t over do it! Start small and see how much you need!
What do you do??
What do you like? What have you used? Chime in below!
My Best Advice for Women Cyclist
In no particular order these are things I have said over the years to friends, customers and myself. If you have more advice to add please join the conversation in the comments at the bottom of this page.
Research, learn and learn some more
You may find a great local shop, but unless there is an experience girl there, they won’t be able to tell you from their own experience. Boys are made differently, even their thinking is different, which makes for some things not to be comparable. (Saddles, shorts, clothing, etc.) Try to learn from as many people as possible, test ride, and ask a ton of questions. Don’t stop learning or asking!
fi:zik Vesta Saddle
Invest in a a good bike seat and bike fitting
You should not have any numbness or pain when you ride your bike normally. If you start training for Ride Across America or something like that, it may be different. A two hour ride should be fun and enjoyable, make it so.
Also, make sure your favorite bike shorts aren’t causing problems. With a seam or stitching in the wrong place, it can cause a ton of problems.
The wonderful woman behind Lovely Bicycles posted a great article that I could never do justice. Go read over there about bike saddles and the female anatomy.
Be careful shaving down there, especially the first few times before you ride
When you first start riding, purchase a new saddle or change your bike fit, it is very important to take note of these changes when you are shaving or trimming your crotch area. This goes for any area that is touching the bike saddle. In grown hairs, shaving burns and all those things can be heightened by cycling shorts and saddles rubbing up and down for many revolutions of your pedals.
Try some sort of butt and “cooter” lube
You may not realize you are chaffing or rubbing areas. Also, many have an anti-bacteria add in. My favorite is DZ Nuts “Bliss”.
Women’s Cycling Shorts, saddles and handle bar tape/grip wear out
The same as you look at your drive train and tires, keep a good look on these things before they cause you problems.
Photo Credit: Dirt Divas UK
Find other women to ride with
Even if it is once a month and you have to drive, do it. This spring I made a vow to do my best to ride with a local women’s ladies mountain bike group the Dirt Divas or atlas ride with some of them when time allows. The social aspect, the motivating factor, the “belonging” feeling and finally to motivate OTHERS, are all reasons to do it.
Women cyclist should ride with the boys
It will make you stronger and faster.
Become self reliant
Learn how to change your tire, clean your chain and the basic lingo so you can maintain your bike with your local bike shops help. You don’t need anyone else for those basic things, plus you’ll be safer when riding if you know these things.
“There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.” – Madeleine Albright
Try to remember the first time you went bike riding with a group, tried clipless pedals or entered your first race. Make sure to smile at the start line and encourage. Competition is healthy but women will be the back bone of making this sport a success, I can promise you that one.
You are a woman, you are an athlete and you should be proud of all these things together.
The easy answer to the question “Can I wear guys cycling shorts?”
The hidden answer after that is, as long as they fit you.
For a very long time women were lucky to have various types of moderate level shorts. There has been a few companies that come to mind that have been doing women’s cycling shorts well. These companies are : Pearl Izumi, Giordana, Sugoi, and Sheebeast.
Even with these brands, for one reason or another I’ve still worn about 50-75% of the time, guys shorts. One of those large reasons are bib shorts, which is another topic in its own, I love them and not one company has made a good women’s design bib. This has left me wearing guys bibs. Other reasons are team sponsorship, right now the shops team kit are guys bibs, which is fine with me.
Reasons Not to Wear Guys Shorts
Length of chamois. The pad/chamois goes high on guys shorts as they have more “package.” This freaks some women out as it comes well in front of the pubic bone.
Chamois size. Remember that whole women’s design? That goes with shorts too. Women tend to need wider chamois in their shorts. Just make sure the chamois doesn’t end too quickly for you or end where the saddle will rub. That will leave you with several saddle sores.
Inseam length. Companies tend to put a shorter inseam on women’s shorts compared to men’s. This is another reason that I wear guys, I have long legs and the 6″ inseam on girls shorts are just too short normally.
Recommended Guys Shorts/Bibs to Try
My go to shorts for the past year since I found them. They have different materials through out the short to help with compression and the chamois is made to mate with their inForm saddles.
Gore Power Bib
– One of my new favorites if you read my article a couple days ago. One note, do NOT get the Men’s Xenon bibs as the chamois has a break in the middle. Can you say “camel toe?”
Don’t let your local bike shop confuse you, your favorite pair of shorts are two fold. The first is the dressing room test, is it comfortable? The second is to make sure it fits well on your favorite saddle. Seams away from the edge of your saddles and that the chamois doesn’t “fold” in half and start pushing up on soft tissues.
Men’s or women’s : who cares as long as it fits?
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About 3 months ago, my shop started carrying the Ideal Saddle Modification (ISM) Adamo saddles. These saddles, at first, look very goofy. There is no nose on the front of the seat and often are referred to as the tuning forks. Flash forward the last three months and these saddles have themselves on more bikes than I originally thought they would.
Originally I really thought the saddles were a joke, we would try them out on a few bikes and see what happens. The women and triathletes fell in love. All the pressure from the frontal soft tissue was separated back into your two sit bones, where the weight belongs! Women were able to get into the aero position or drops of the handlebars without cutting off circulation.
This saddle is still towards the end of the saddles I automatically go through in my fit process. I think there is a need for them, but find they can be too wide and long term will be modifying the shell of the saddle so not to hit the groin or tendons of the inside leg. Soon the saddle will go on a personal bike of mine so I can give you a true review.
Do you know any women using this seat? If so, what are their thoughts and feelings? Where do they feel pressure, if any?
A beautiful fi’zi:k Vesta showed up at my doorstep a couple of weeks back. Quickly, I snapped some photos and then installed the saddle on my cyclocross bike. Since then it has been on my goto bike for long road rides, and my daily commute.
The very first feeling of the saddle is the firm, yet padded support. This is a good feeling as I don’t like a saddle that I sink into. If you sink too much into a saddle your sit bones are no longer holding you up and the soft tissues are left holding you up. This saddle hasn’t seen more than an hour and a half of consistent ride time so we can only tell how the padded feeling holds up.
The “pressure relief channel” seems to work so far. It isn’t a cut out so if I rock into the drops I can feel pressure on my soft tissue areas but to this point there has been no numbness or pain when this pressure happens for an extended amount of time.
Look & Design
The saddle is an eye catcher. Subtle enough, but if someone walks close enough to see the top of your saddle they will stop and ask, “WHAT?!” This exact story has happened to me with everyone that has seen the saddle. My only worry about the eye catching colors are they will bleed over time into my white bib shorts.
Sitting initially on this saddle I didn’t think “this is the one,” but that never has happened before with any of my favorite saddles. There are always fine tuning with the bike fit and trying different angles and fore/aft of the saddle. BUT I didn’t sit on this saddle and feel horrible pain, nor did I feel pain after 25 miles. The jury is still out on this saddle but I will check back with you as the fit is modified and more miles are logged.
For the past few years I have named the cut out or indention in the saddles for women “cooter holes.” No, it isn’t PC but neither are all the people making saddles for women with out even having a variety of women testing them prior to selling hundreds to unknowing souls.
fi’zi:k knows saddles. They are one of the top selling road saddles for guys that I’ve seen, among Selle Italia and such. They have one womens saddle that has been on the market for some years called the Vitesse. I tried riding this saddle for a while 2 years back, and suffered. My soft tissues needed a “cooter hole” or indention, or something that the Vitesse did not have. I quickly swapped saddles back and continued on with life.
Now there is a new saddle from fi’zi:k called Vesta. They are marketing this with a “pressure relief channel” or a cooter hole. That comfortable place to put your soft tissues out of pressure and harm. Other than this, the saddle is the same shape as the prior model I spoke about, the Vitesse. The base price is $129.99, within range of most all fi’zi:k saddles, and higher end Terry saddles as well.
I hope to land one of these in my hands during the long, boring and painful base miles to see how their “pressure relief channel” really holds up.
Here at Bike Shop Girl we realized long ago that finding the right saddle is a very personal, unique and often the hardest part of bike riding. This is Part I of our on going Saddle Talk, I welcome all comments, questions and feedback on this subject. Our Intro was a short and sweet piece from about two weeks back, now let’s get talking!
Continue reading →
Cycling clothing can be very daunting, especially when you see how tight the shorts and jerseys fit. The shorts feel like they have a built in diaper and may cause “sausage rolls” due to them squeezing a bit too tight. Here’s some input on shorts, what to look for and why they cost so much money!
A few questions to ask yourself when you’re buying shorts
- How long of time will I be riding at one time?
- How often do I ride during a normal week?
- Are you looking for style or are you self conscious at all?
Now to help with the questions above.
Basics about women’s cycling shorts
Chamois (Pad): The first and most important is the chamois built into the butt and crotch of the short. As the short becomes more expensive the chamois becomes denser, multi layer and with wicking or anti-bacterial built in. The denser pad is important as you ride further. The entry level short has a nice squishy pad to aid in comfort as you start riding, it helps break in your butt. As you start venturing over 15-25 miles get out of that entry level short and into a short with denser padding. We will touch upon this as we talk about price point shorts.
Panels : A short is built of panels wrapping around your leg and butt. The more panels the better as it will conform better around your body. Higher end shorts have shaping in the panels to keep the short from binding as your leg goes up and down when pedaling.
Fabric : As any technical piece the fabric becomes higher end with the price. Softer to touch, will wick your sweat away instead of absorbing it, will keep the chafing to a minimum and should fit comfortably.
Length or Style : Shorts normally have a 6- 7 1/2″ inseam, there are shorts with a 5-5 1/2″ inseam that many women that attend spin class, have sexy legs or don’t want tan lines go with. Personally they make my legs turn into sausages right now, so I stick with a 7″ inseam. There are also things called skorts, which have an outer technical skirt – very fashionable and easy to ride in. Last but not least, there are triathlon shorts that have less padding, designed to be swam/bike/run in. We will talk about triathlon shorts in an article by themselves.
Levels of shorts
$40-50 for your basic short. These shorts have 4-6 straight panels normally, a basic chamois and are a great short to start your riding in. The chamois because of its thick padding won’t wrap around your butt as well but it gets the job done. If you ride more than 1-2 times a week upgrade to the next level for your second pair of shorts. The hand washing and drying over and over will quickly wear out this level of short.
$65-75 for your intermediate short. In this short you will start getting more panels 8-10 and depending on the brand maybe they will start shaping around your leg instead of being straight. The chamois pad will become multi layer, so it won’t be one thick layer of padding all the way through. It will be thicker near your sit bones and forward towards your sensitive tissues. The sides of the pad will be thinner with the purpose of protecting for chaffing. The work horse of the line of shorts, this can take abuse but for over 3 hour rides look at the next level.
$100-120 for your experienced short. Once you try on one of these shorts in this level you’ll wonder why you haven’t before, then you check the price tag and you remember your budget or thinking why does cycling have to be so expensive. Shorts in this price range are going to be lighter, softer, the chamois will be thicker for longer rides. The short also won’t wear out in the time the under-$100 level shorts will. They are built to last. The padding isn’t as soft, but it is supportive once you get used to the idea. The fabric will wick away your sweat and keep your dry. The chamois may have some anti-bacterial functions thanks to Bamboo or carbon weave. It’s okay if you aren’t ready to spend $100 on a pair of shorts, but if you ride long enough you’ll get to this level.
Other notes :
Underwear : Do not wear anything between you and the short. No underwear, thongs, or extras. The short is supposed to hug your body to aid in comfort.
Washing : Washing your shorts in the washing machine are okay, but hang dry so not to over heat the spandex and elastic. If any irritation starts with the chamois start hand washing with anti-bacterial soap. Sometimes the chamois can soak up your detergent and cause infections or irritation
Chamois creme : This personal lube helps with chafing, in grown hairs, and keeping things soft so not to stick. There are many varieties out there, some having a cooling sensation so be ready for it.
Shorts & saddle : Your shorts are only as good as your saddle. Sometimes your favorite saddle can also be killed by a bad fitting sort. Try different things, ask lots of questions to find your perfect match.
There are other things out there to know about cycling bottoms, capri’s, knickers, knee warmers, tri shorts and so on. As the season progresses we’ll touch upon each and everyone.
Links to good cycling short companies :
As always send your questions and comments to Girly@BikeShopGirl.com