How to choose the right woman's saddle | Health on the saddle – Selle Italia
Saddles for ladies

Saddles for ladies


Women’s saddles are different from men’s, but in what way? What body-shape factors must be taken into account when developing a ladies’ saddle so that female cyclists can have a long happy ride whatever the circumstances?

The university Professor Luca Bartoli, specialised in applied ergonomics in sport and director of the Ergoview Research Centre, has helped us to shed some light on the matter.

How to choose the perfect saddle for ladies: better big or small?

One important point that perhaps not everyone is aware of is that the female pelvis might have a completely different shape to men’s, but it is not actually wider.

So, we can explode a common misconception here: women do not need bigger saddles, they need smaller ones.

The Ergoview Research Centre debunked the myth of wider female saddles by comparing hundreds of male and female x-rays and this special study showed that the distance between the sit bones in the female pelvis is greater. But, given that women are physically smaller and this goes for the pelvis too, the actual distance between the bones is less than a man’s. So, from a cycling point of view, that spells out as a smaller saddle.

The map of a saddle

Taking this as a starting point, we set out to develop a Selle Italia range especially for women. There were some other important considerations to be factored in, though.

For instance, women’s external genitalia are positioned further back on the pelvis as compared to men; therefore, to avoid discomfort, the load points must be located in a different “geographical” place on the saddle so that pressure is effectively relieved.

In other words, what is needed is a much larger central cut-out channel, positioned slightly further back as compared to a male saddle.

The importance of bearing the load

Another reason why women should primarily use saddles with a larger central cut-out channel can be found in the special contour of their pelvis.

The average woman has a pelvic anteversion, meaning that her hips tilt forward compared to the rest of the body.

With pelvic anteversion, the ischiopubic arch (the little bridge that connects one sit bone to another) is almost completely absent and this causes close contact with the saddle surface.

So, support provided by the two sit bones to the upper part of the body ceases to exist, increasing the pressure on the pubic symphysis.

Unless a saddle has the right anatomical contours, the soft tissues around the ischiopubic arch, the blood vessels and nerve endings around the groin area which were not designed to be weight-bearing, run the risk of being painfully crushed against the saddle surface.

The Q angle

Although our legs may seem straight to us, in actual fact they are not perfectly aligned to the rest of our bodies. Here too, there are differences between men and women.

In practice, as measured against an imaginary vertical line passing through the mid-knee, the femur is slightly offset towards the outside. This is what is known as the Q angle.

In women, this angle is 2-3 degrees wider than in a man; therefore, at the front of the pelvis where there is contact with the saddle there is more space between the two femurs.

This means that women require a special design; a saddle tapered between the nose and the rear is suited to men, who would otherwise have chafing and rubbing between the inner thighs, but the same does not apply to female cyclists.

Studying exactly how this works is the first step towards developing friction-free technology.

The correct padding for the saddle

Padding, on the other hand, is not a gender issue.

It is mainly linked to the ride time with a padding-ride time ratio shown by a bell curve, or Gauss curve.

Put more simply, for short rides (not in excess of 2 hours) a thick padding is best because the supporting subcutaneous tissues are not yet conditioned to the pressure.

On the other hand, for a medium-length ride (between 4-5 hours) less padding is needed otherwise a bouncing effect could lead to soreness.

Finally for a ride longer than 5-6 hours (for example a randonnée tour) thicker padding becomes necessary again.




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