4.07.2012

Light Bulb

So this week I had an epiphany of sorts.
Disclaimer: Boys, if discussion of "female stuff" makes you squirm, you may want to skip past the remainder of this blog entry.


In the 2+ years that I've been on a bike on a regular basis I have yet to find a single saddle that didn't lead to some degree or pinching/chafing woes up-front. For certain I cannot use any saddles that are pear or wedge-shaped (ie have a gradual transition from nose to rear). The more "T-shaped" a saddle, the better. The issue is big, honkin' gracilis muscles. On a wedge saddle these muscles end up feeling like they've been on the losing end of a boxing match and I continuously have to push myself back on the saddle, which makes my upper body wear out fast.

These muscles have always been the bane of my existence.  As a tiny teenager (equivalent to a modern size 2...oh, to be so slender, again) I wore my jeans out first in the inner thigh area...this was before I actually had inner thigh pudge.  I have relatively narrow hips, but big thighs--think sprinter (I ran the 100, 200 and accompanying relays in HS.  I always wore compression shorts under my track shorts, since this was in the days before products like Body Glide or SportShield roll-on for chafing).

But the gracilis muscle pain is the least of my concerns when it comes to a bike saddle--it simply limits my saddle choices.  My primary issue on the bike is excruciating pinching and chafing on my sensitive "girl parts."

Bontrager Affinity RL WSD
In the time that I've been cycling I have been on the following saddles: Cannondale Raven (I think this is what it was called...it was the stock saddle on my bike.  It was WAY too soft, anyhow), Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow (too pear-shaped and too wide @ 160mm.  My sit bones are in the 125-130mm neighborhood, so 145-155 is about right for me), Specialized Body Geometry Jett 143, Specialized BG Ruby 155, Fizik Arione Donna, Selle Italia Turbomatic, Selle San Marco Aspide Glamour (with and without cut-out...I DEFINITELY need the cut-out, as I instantly discerned after about 5 minute on the non-arrowhead version), Bontrager Affinity RL WSD 154, Bontrager InForm RL WSD 150, Bontrager InForm RL WSD 140.  The best of the lot is the Bontrager Affinity RL WSD.  It's firm and semi T-shaped (but still not as t-shaped as it could be--my perfect saddle would be extremely T-shaped, flat, firm, and have a dent, rather than cut-out, but this saddle does not exist--yet).  And the dent up front tears me up a lot less than the more abrupt edges of a cut-out, but it's still not perfect.  I still frequently end up drawing blood (and once the salt from my sweat gets in those wounds it's misery on a whole new level, let me tell you...).

In addition to saddles I have tried countless different shorts and chamois butters.  It's cost a small fortune, as you've likely guessed.

A few days ago I started to really give thought to the idea that maybe there's something not quite "right" about me.  I considered the things about my physique that stand out as perhaps "atypical."  One very visible feature of my shape is a pronounced bubble butt/ghetto booty/juicy onion, aka my "Zoomy Booty."  It's long made buying jeans a bit of a nightmare.  Thank heavens for Levi's Curvy and Supreme Curve jeans.  No longer do I have a gap at the back of my pants large enough to carry a small child.

Why my crotch hates riding my road bike
I discovered that there's an actual medical term for my "condition," Lordosis.  My mother, brother, sister, and I all have this same shape.  Where a more typical lumbar curve would have a person's privates mostly up and out of the way of the saddle (and concentrating the rider's weight properly on the sit bones), someone with a spinal curvature like mine is going to have that same region coming into contact with his/her saddle, since the entire pelvis is rotated downward.  Owie.  It also explains why my mom and sister and I all were diagnosed with tipped uterus (and likely why we all have endometriosis symptoms, as well).

I don't have the same issues on my mountain bike and cyclocross bikes, since those have me riding a bit more upright.  My frustration with all of this is that I LIKE riding in a more "aggressive," semi-aero position, especially since I enjoy participating in races where a more horizontal position yields to more efficient pedaling and less wind-resistance.  My back, shoulders, neck, and hips are all comfortable this way and my road bike (Cannondale SuperSix) is a performance geometry frame designed for this sort of body positioning.  But it's clear that I either need to find a better saddle for my needs or have my stem flipped back to a more upright position.  We already switched my stem from a 100mm to a 90mm, which helped a bit, but I'm still finding that my weight is ending up more on my girly bits and less on my sitbones, where it belongs.

Ergon SM3 Saddle
I have one last saddle that I really want to try, but it's not due to market for another month.  It will come in 2 sizes, including a "large" 150mm width, which would be just perfect.  It's about the most t-shaped saddle I've ever seen that isn't terribly domed from side-to-side (unlike the SI Turbomatic...domed saddles make me feel like I'm straddling a log).

According to an Ergon rep they will be offering some sort of demo program...thankfully.  I'd be happy to pay $25-30 to try a saddle, even if it doesn't work.  Generally demo programs will apply the test fee towards the purchase of a saddle if the tester decides to buy.  This would be far preferable to buying, trying, then taking a hit trying to sell a used saddle at a significant loss.

Hopefully I'm not too far from the day when I can ride my bike for hours and hours and not be thinking about my seating and squirming and shifting and standing and wincing and preferring my running shoes over my bike.