I have been hunting for a female pelvis appropriate saddle for three years now. Let me just say that if you want to see sexual discrimination in sports, look no further than your local bike shop. Women’s saddles are their own category as in you have “road racing,” “downhill,” “dirt jumping,” “mountain” and “womens” saddles in the catelogues and shops. So the first thing you learn when saddle shopping is that women don’t need sport specific saddles. We must not be serious enough about our riding to need a saddle that caters to our actual ground conditions or riding position. The second thing you learn is that women have pelvises made of rock and eyes on their butts because a women’s specific saddle is often just a fluffier wider men’s saddle with floral detailing. Now, I’m not a fast rider or a professional rider, but I am a serious rider and I love my genitals. I want a saddle that will not give me clitoral erectile dysfunction, which means I want a saddle designed to support a female pelvis that contains a vagina and vulva and clitoris, not a male pelvis with a dick and ballsack. Try explaining that to a bicycle shop employee and he will inevitably start fidgeting and averting his eyes
…because there are almost zero women in the bicycling industry that women can talk to about buying saddles for women! And it’s not socially appropriate to draw attention to your genitals in a cross gendered commercial situation, so how do you explain to a man that unless a saddle is made with female genitals in mind that it is, no matter what the manufacturer wants us to believe, in fact a men’s saddle designed to support a male taint and male genitals? Buying a saddle as a women is an eternally frustrating endeavor.
I’ve spent many hours searching the web for good bike saddle reviews, but I’ve come up empty handed. And without the ability to actually try a saddle out, it’s really quite impossible to know if a saddle is any good. What’s worse? Any halfway decent product is going to be upwords of $100 (US), so most people can’t afford to get the wrong saddle either. What’s a woman to do?
Well! A woman is to go to the great big bicycle shop in Shinjuku, then Shibuya, then Fuchuu, then Kunitachi and try out all the saddles in stock! I’ve tried two different models so far and as my gift to women cyclists everywhere I’m going to post my reviews to this site. First, however, I would like to describe my San Marco, which has served me well for two and a half years, but is starting to get a little uncomfortable around now.
I bought the San Marco in 2012 as a replacement for the stock seat that came on Pikuro, which was more like an instrument of torture than a seat, really. It cost me a good $200+ at the time. Pikuro is a 2012 Giant TCX2 cyclocross bike with some serious attitude and a lot of pink and I use her for mostly everything and for commuting in particular. At first, the San Marco was love. Riding around the city (3 miles and shorter spurts), I never needed a pad and sometimes I would even forget that I was sitting on a saddle at all. It really fit me well. I never experienced numbness or tingling in my legs or my clitoris/labia and when I leaned forward to use the drop bars the saddle actually became more comfortable. I attribute this comfort to the amazingly wide and smoothly tapered center cutout. For some reason a lot of guys have been telling me that cutouts haven’t proven to be beneficial in terms of blood flow to the pelvis and perineum, but I think they’re just talking about their own ballsacks again because it doesn’t make sense to me how not pressing on the vulva with the full force of your body weight for hours on end can fail to be good for the genitals.
In addition to commuting I would occasionally take her for a 40-mile loop around Valley Forge national park. This was where the San Marco’s true strengths and weaknesses came through. On the out leg of the trip I never had any difficulty. In fact, I could ride out in a thin layer of spandex running capris and experience zero discomfort whatsoever. The problems only ever arose on the return trip where the bare padding of the saddle would start to cause hot spots on my taint and sit bones. I would try wearing padded cycling shorts, but I found that shorts with padding over the genitals would relieve the butt pressure, but cause numbness in my clitoris. Ultimately the San Marco is a great saddle for medium length rides, but at its best it could only ever give me 30 miles before the discomfort would set in and become intense enough to seriously affect the quality and pace of my ride.
Recently I’ve noticed a serious change in the way the Mantra fits my bum-region. While it still provides the fantastic and so far unparalleled blood flow critical to the continued functioning of my genitals, it has started to cause pain in my sit bones at much shorter distances than in the past, and now requires the use of cycling shorts at almost all distances. Specifically, the Mantra will actually ride up between my pelvic bones, forcing them apart and creating hot spots against the inside of the bones, towards the anus and taint region. I attribute this to the sharp downcurve that the saddle displays towards the back as it wraps around and under the carrier posts. It’s still a great saddle and it’s possible that with some more aggressive butt padding I might be able to overcome this small fault. However, this new trend in discomfort is in fact the source of my renewed search for a saddle capable of supporting a female pelvis.
Because the San Marco has served me so well for so long, I will be using it as a basis of comparison for my other saddle reviews. My goal: a saddle that is wider or flatter in the rear than the Mantra, but with an equivalently large relief zone towards the nose. Updates will be posted and tagged “saddle review”