Hi. I’m Wendy. As a kid my bike was part of life from the moment it arrived under the Christmas tree just before I started school. It took me around the family farm, visiting neighbours, exploring the bush and filling pockets with blackberries on the way to school. Oops.
Like many others, I rediscovered the joys of cycling years later. Bikes have since taken me to the Arctic and across the Nullarbor, filled life with laughs and interesting people and filled many of my work days. I have a few bikes but I’m mostly a commuter and tourer for now, with occasional cyclocross in winter and mountains in summer.
Cyclists are a diverse bunch but united on one thing – the need for comfort down under. Most of us have been saddle sore at some stage. (I often wonder, based on Tony Abbott’s gait, if he’s happy with his saddle.) The causes of pain vary – it could be bike fit, or knicks or simply time for your body to adapt to cycling – and there’s no universal, easy answer. But the good news is that most people do get comfortable.
A lot of women spend more than a little time reaching that happy state though. Some use ‘unisex’ (= men’s) saddles but it takes a special brand of courage to explain the problem to a busy bike shop on a Saturday morning. Even then, the range of women’s saddles on hand can be limited. And as one friend found recently, when she did all that she was referred to an entirely inappropriate squishy boat anchor model (his perception of women’s needs) and left in disgust. Another was curious about a new model but hesitant to fork out the cash on the chance it might suit.
Some shops do offer saddle test schemes, where your deposit comes off the price of a saddle you eventually purchase, but they generally only stock one or two brands. The alternative is the expensive hassle of buying and selling a succession of saddles.
I’ve been pretty lucky. I think my first really friendly saddle came on a second-hand bike and found its way to the touring bike. When its foam started to disintegrate, I migrated to a similar model that’s close enough, although I’ll keep trying for that extra few per cent. I struck gold when I bought a roadie from Darren Baum and the fitting process included trying a Selle San Marco Aspide Glamour. It was perfect and it’s been on that bike ever since.
There have been other saddle adventures. One bike arrived with a vicious domed ‘unisex’ saddle, quickly swapped out. I tried a Brooks out of curiosity but passed it on. Then a Selle SMP at a friendly bike shop – a device of unique torture for me but they are commonly recommended by fit expert Steve Hogg in Sydney. I scored another saddle on yet another bike; it looked the goods and is beautifully light but there’s no love beyond 30 km. And yet it survived a season of cyclocross on my bike and the same model graces the roadies of an elite racing friend. Yet another has one saddle on her whole fleet (well, except the dragster). The point is … we’re all different.
After seeing so many chasing saddle bliss (including blokes) I figure it’s time we turned saddle sore into saddle sweet! I can’t fit you on the bike but I can bring together a fleet of test saddles for hire and some saddle and general riding tips to guide you through the process. More people on bikes is A Good Thing. And more people comfortable on their bikes is even better. Good luck, and enjoy the ride!