I really hate bicycle seats, as regular readers know. So do lots of other people, if the constant discussion about how to find a comfortable bike seat is any indication. Bike seats are designed horribly for human comfort, and it seems as if it’s generally accepted that if you are going to ride a bike you are going to have to deal with things like saddle sores, chafing, numbness, loss of testicles (some dude wrote in to my Bicycle Times article and complained strenuously that I’m a rotten person for not caring about all the male riders who have lost their testicles from sitting on bike seats, so this is for him. A shout-out to your testicles, the abused sad sacks of the industry, shoved aside [back? up? really, how the hell do men ride bikes? mystery] and forgotten for the sake of the bearer’s desire to ride a bike), and general pain.
Well, I do not particularly accept this. I like myself and I want to ride a bike in comfort, not drone on and on “I suppose I always have to be in pain…” like a freaking two-wheeled Eeyore. I have been researching and reading and clicking on every single “how to choose a bike seat” article out there. Most of them are comprised of the following highly useful suggestions:
1. Make sure your seat fits you correctly. We have no advice on how to do this, it’s just really important.
2. Get a good pair of very expensive shorts.
3. Use a ton of chamois cream.
4. Don’t use too much chamois cream.
5. Make sure the seat is well-padded.
6. Don’t get a seat that’s too padded.
7. Ask your friends what saddle they like.
8. Don’t listen to your friends.
9. Get a highly expensive bike fitting and if that doesn’t help start over at #1.
10. If none of these tips work, switch to a recumbent (which, by the way, is not allowed in any bicycle races and not even really considered an actual bicycle. Prepare for ridicule and scorn. You only ride a recumbent because you can’t ride a REAL bike. LOSER)
Despite the extremely helpful nature of this type of advice, I find myself still suffering from bike seat discomfort. Every now and then someone sends me information on a revolutionary new bike seat sure to fix all my woes except it isn’t available at this time or is not even produced yet. I wait with bated breath.
So I don’t have any magic bullets to give you if, like me, you are constantly battling with bike seat problems. I do, however, have actual, practical, real advice on how to pick a bike seat, if you, like me, suffer from the princess and the pea syndrome. Sure, the Iron Asses out there don’t have to worry about this stuff, but here are some actual things to look for in a bike seat that may just make a difference for you. Don’t buy bike seats with:
Do not by a bike seat that has a seam anywhere on any – ANY – point that contacts your body. This seems so obvious to me, yet so many seats have seams all over the place. You just spent up to $200 for fancy seamless bike shorts and then you’re gonna plop your fanny right on a bike saddle crisscrossed with seams? I don’t know about you, but I can definitely feel those seams.
I can see it now: bike seat manufacturers, sitting around a conference table, a beautiful, seamless, newly created saddle in front of them. “I don’t know,” says one. “Looks too plain.” “I agree,” says another. “Let’s jazz it up.” “Yep,” agrees a voice, “No one will know we made it if it’s plain black like tha.” “It’s settled then,” comes from the head of the table,” put all kinds of logos all over it. But don’t screen them; they’ll wear off with all the thigh rubbing. Embroider the crap out of that thing. We want everyone to KNOW who made it.” And off they go, sewing away. Never mind that you only see the fancy stitching when someone’s ass is not on the saddle. If the saddle happens to be used by one of those people who takes billions of pictures of their bicycle, posed on a trail, posed near a tree, propped up in the snow, newly washed and gleaming, newly muddy and a mess, put up on the roof rack, leaned on the bar, etc., etc., et-fucking-cetera, someone might see a picture of the bike seat. Otherwise, it’s just a peek of vinyl poking out from beneath an ass crack, ball sack, or sweaty crotch. A crotch that is likely aching from the friction of the stitching rubbing away at delicate skin at every pedal stroke. Seriously. No stitching.
3. This bulge.
“But Jill,” I hear you saying, “That’s pretty much every seat on the rack.”