Monday, June 23, 2008

Sinking Saddles Returns

On my last post I got a comment that I didn't see in a timely manner, so I'm responding here.

From Ket: Thanks, helpful post. I recently pruchased the specialized Jett-store measured my sitting bones. The first ride was 70miles. The next day and until the next ride a week later, my sit bones were still TENDER! I didn't want to give up on my new saddle, thinking that my soft tissue needed to "break in." I really liked the cut-out, no numbness of genital area. Several 40-50mi rides later, I'm still sore. Will my sit bones eventually toughen-up?

I actually had the same problem on the Jett, to a certain extent. In fact, as I mentioned before, I couldn't handle the Jett on the tandem. I suspect the answer to your question is: maybe. Helpful, eh? Well, there are a few fixable things and a few unfixable things that I've found contribute to seat bone soreness:
  • Legs that are tired or not as strong as you'd like. Ever notice that when you get tired, you sit on the saddle more? I don't just mean sitting down, I mean really putting weight there. You don't mention how unusual this 70mi ride was for you, but you might have just overdone it a bit with a new saddle.
  • (Unavoidably) rough terrain. If you can't stand up over it or lift yourself up over it and it hits you in the butt, it's probably going to hurt later. I suspect that if you did the same thing with the saddle without the bike, it would have the same effect.
  • High handedness. A lot of women's bikes seem designed to make you sit up. I have no idea whether this is more comfortable for people (other than in the soft tissue arena), but I find that there's a certain angle after which the sit bones are far more unhappy. Happily, at that point I'm also sitting up far enough to relieve some of the pressure on my soft tissue, giving me more room to compromise on saddle hardness.
For me, the tandem hit every single one of these points: I started doing longer rides over mountain biking terrain on a road tandem that seems to have been designed for shorter stokers who like to sit up. Not only that, I had been borrowing a Jett from a friend and moved to a brand-new one of my own. I bruised my seat bones. They hurt. I'm happily back on the Jett now, but only on my single bikes, and only after giving my sit bones a bit of a rest by rotating saddles for a few weeks. Bruising takes far too long to heal!

As for the tandem, I had to abandon the Jett (as much as I love it) and move to a saddle more appropriate for the more sit-up-and-beg stoker position. I'm trying out a Terry Butterfly now and am thus far happy with it. I did a 75 mile mountain climb (on pavement) and a good bit of dirt riding with it in the last few weeks and it's holding up well. It's not squishy enough to drop me on my soft tissue (given that I'm sitting up more) but not hard enough to punish my seat bones (in combination with a spiffy suspension seatpost). One caution about Terry saddles: they break in after a while, so look for something that's harder than you want and go on relatively short rides at first.

The short answer is that if you're not hitting any of the unfixable problems I mention above, then I'd guess that you did what I did and bruised your seat bones (or the tissue around 'em) getting a little overly enthusiastic about a brand-new saddle that doesn't cause soft tissue pain and numbness. It takes a while to heal, unfortunately, so be nice to your butt and rotate saddles for a while.

I was going to post about my new adventure with brake levers, but I've rambled too long and I'll save it for another time.
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