Recently I received an Infinity L-series test saddle in awesome brilliant pink. I had heard about the saddle before and was eager to try it. Perhaps this would be the one to finally end my search for taint-bliss?
My first moment in the saddle can only be described as
So, I finally broke down and bought my baby girl Pikuro a saddle. In the end I couldn’t find one that felt good on her, so I did the only thing reasonable:
I bought a handmade, custom designed women’s saddle from the Fi’zi:k factory in Italia.
But it wasn’t all just silliness and style. However, before we get into the rationale behind this purchase, let’s take a moment and appreciate how sexy she looks.
Oh yeah. Sexy. Here’s another view.
Ok, so now that we appreciate how very important spending 190e for a bike saddle that looks that fucking good is, let’s talk about how it feels.
Several months ago I rode an Antares Varius. It’s a saddle designed for men who are either very flexible or very aggressive in their riding position and thus put a lot of weight on the forward portion of their pelvis. The varius has a central depression, Fi’zi:k’s hat tip to the cut out demanding crowd, which runs the length of the saddle and is fairly deep. When I rode it I found it saved my clitoris, but smooshed my outer labia, so I passed it over at first. However, the Arione Donna is a women’s saddle (so Fi’zi:k claims) which also features the same central groove, so I thought it might work.
Unlike the Antares Varius, the Arione Donna’s groove is much shallower. The width of the saddle, however, is designed for a wider pelvis. Between these two competing factors, I went with the Arione for one and only one reason: you can customize the colors!
At first, I thought I liked it. Then I wasn’t sure. I still have to position it all the way forward on Pikuro to account for her oversized frame. On longer rides as my bum has accustomed to the padding, I find I sink deeper and the familiar numbness in my clitoris and forward genital area returns. I can handle it when I’m fresh, but this saddle will have me wiggling and coasting seeking desperately to get some blood flow after about 30 kilometers.
When I got my new baby Kookaburra…
OHMG! You all haven’t met Kookaburra! Isn’t he adorable?
Right, so as I was saying, Kookaburra is fit with a lot of stuff by fi’zi:k. I’ll fill you in more on the details when he gets his last parts installed (he’s a custom build. yay!). His bar tape is fi’zi:k and so the pink perfectly matched the Arione Donna. Since he’s a smaller size than Pikuro, before ordering him the Selle Italia Lady Flow in matching white and pink, I tried the Arione to see if my discomfort was a matter of frame size more than saddle shape.
It turns out it’s not. As fucking sexy as that saddle looked on him — sleek and speedy as compared to the slightly flowery Selle Italia — I had to give it up. My poor genitals were crying. I actually had delayed pee emergencies with this saddle because my genitals would go so numb that when I got off the bike and the blood rushed back, my body couldn’t tell the difference between renewed normal sensation and an intense need to pee. I actually peed myself once because my body was so confused.
I feel like I’m not writing a very good review here. I cannot resist a sexy look on my bike equipment and this saddle does not disappoint in looks. I mean, look at it! It’s even got sexy hot pink “racing stripes” on the sides. These were actually cutouts to aid the wing flexion on the side of the saddle. The Arione is supposed to be soft on those black sections you see in order to flex with your inner thighs as you pedal. I never had a problem with inner thigh rubbing or soreness, so I guess it works.
Is there anything else to add? Hmm… well, all my saddle sores from the 2011 San Marco Mantra healed up fabulously while riding the Arione. That’s a plus. Oh, and the only rail options are magnanese or ki:um — both of which are heavier than their braided carbon. Women, apparently don’t benefit from light equipment.
So I guess for women who don’t have trouble with genital numbing, or who ride in a more upright position (“bull” according to fi’zi:k, but they don’t differentiate their women’s saddles because, you know, women all ride in the same position on the same terrain), this saddle is probably a fairly decent choice. Alternatively, if you find your butt likes a softer seat or you feel like you never have enough padding in your shorts (I often have the opposite problem) again, this saddle might be a good fit for you.
And finally, if you absolutely have to have the sexiest set up there is, and we all know sexy bikes are WAY faster than boring ones, then I definitely recommend the custom design by fi’zi:k. You can customize one other women’s saddle and a number of men’s saddles, but unfortunately none of their varius series are customizable. The website says three weeks for delivery, but mine came in 10 days to Japan, so I’d say it’s pretty speedy. Of course, you can save on shipping if you order in a group with some friends, too.
Last week I reserved an Avail Advanced 3 carbon frame road bike by Liv. It’s one of their newly redesigned 2015 models engineered with a combination of Giant’s frame building technology and a detailed understanding of the unique biomechanics of the female body. Unlike a men’s frame, the Liv is built to be more stable with less upper body input. The geometry is also supposed to incorporate the shorter top tubes required by a leggier build along with the required clearance of tire and pedal that can be complicated by a naive application of male geometry to female frames.
The Avail does not disappoint! This bike was smooth and clean to ride, and she practically turns herself. In fact, on slower tighter corners I had to be careful not to actively turn the handle bars or else she would almost flip inside herself. It was as if the bike knew where I wanted to go and just went there without any input from me. In reality, I think my experience was the intended change in handling where the bike is designed to be driven more with the hips. It worked out really well and I love her handling.
The tiagra components were surprisingly smooth, to. I had tiagra on my 2012 TCX 2 and they drove me nuts. They never wanted to shift into the outer ring and often would jump the chain. I upgraded to ultegra crank, shifters and derailleurs as soon as I had the chance. With the Avail and the road crankset I had no complaints. The shifting was heavier than my cyclocross ultegra, but still crisp and clean.
My only complaint with the Avail is that the disk brakes are awful! I am primarily a mountain rider and am quite accustomed to disks, but these simply refused to stop the bike. On a decently windy descent my hands were actually screaming from the effort of clamping down on the brake levers to try and slow myself enough to enter each turn properly. At first I was able to release the brakes between curves, but by the last third of the descent I was riding the brakes almost continuously because I simply did not trust them to take off enough speed for a sharp turn. Even of flat ground, fully slamming the brakes shut will not stop the wheels (no jacknifes on this bike), but only grind them to a very mushy halt.
The Avail was the first carbon road bike I’ve ever ridden. I took her with me to the Sado 210km long ride and despite her not being remarkably lighter than my baby Pikuro (aluminum all the way), the stiffness and the dampening of the carbon on the road made for a very comfortable ride. Even on my shorter commute to work I can feel the difference in my body and the extra energy it saves from not having to absorb the road vibrations myself.
Over all I highly recommend this bike. For the price (something around $1500?) it is an absolute steal. For a woman, it is unprecedented technology. Even the crappy brakes can probably get upgraded to something more snippy. All that said, though, it’s not the bike for me. Next I plan to test ride the Envy, baby sister to the sexy Propel aero road frame. Can’t wait!
As a side note I also tried a new saddle with the Avail. It’s Giant’s contact saddle with some technology I know nothing about. After 210 km on my Mantra, I just couldn’t sit the same seat anymore and I discovered something. My butt likes padding on a saddle! The Mantra is shaped really well to care for my clit, but not so well for my backside. I will be revisiting the Fisik chameleon and possibly looking into some other squooshier saddles in the near future. Wish me luck.
Comparing it to my Mantra, you can see it has a seriously beautiful cutout and a wider, flatter flare at the back. At the same time, the length of the cutout is actually shorter and the nose a little bit wider. Riding it around gave the type of feeling one would expect from such a set up.
My butt was clearly happier on the SLR Lady Flow than on the Mantra. I could feel my sit bones resting smack on top of the smooth, flat platform of the saddle. At 185 grams, you’d think it would be made out of a single sheet of carbon fiber, but it actually has quite a bit of padding — not squishy, but firm and supportive.
I put about 250 kilometers on this saddle. Fifty of those kilometers were a single, long, interminable hill climb out in Yamanashi prefecture. The rest were my usual commuting mix of tempo, sprint and general spinning. I do a lot of dicking around on my cross bike (Pikuro) and so I’m in and out of the saddle a lot, even on the road. I track stand every stop light.
At this point I have to qualify my review. I’m giving it a “5/5” review because it was every bit as comfortable as the Mantra. What’s that, you say? I thought you said your butt was happier than on the Mantra? It is. But my clit is not. Despite the beautiful cutout, something in the shape of the saddle constantly tipped my pelvis forward. My clitoris and upper labia were squished up against the front edge of the cutout and no matter how high I tipped the saddle back (embarassingly high), scooted it forward, or tried to tuck my pelvis under consciously as I rode, my genitals were subjected to that same frustrating numbness that makes me fear for their continued viability.
As a final caveat, I should also mention that my bottom is a veritable wasteland of saddle sores and razor burn. I’m training for the longest ride of my life (by a factor of two!) and I’ve put more miles in the saddle in the last two weeks than I would average in a month at any period of time in my life before ever. So there is a decent chance that if my butt wasn’t already trashed that I would be more willing to weight it, thus taking the pressure of my genitals subconsciously. It’s also possible, and I know this happens to me with fatigue, that my recent training has done a number on my form and my core muscles’ ability to support my pelvic area. For these reasons, and because the saddle is exactly the colors that I want!, I am considering buying it anyway even though the overall performance does not actually improve over my current setup.
The fi’zi:k antares versus for chamaleons is a great saddle. It made friends with my butt pretty immediately after hopping up on the bike. The padding level is enough to take the edges off, but not mushy. It has a pretty light feel, and a simple but effective shape.
Unlike the Mantra, the fi’zi:k was not love at first sit, but it also gave me roughly the same riding sensations for up to an hour and a half of pedaling. The saddle is flat on the top and gives good support to the sit bones. It doesn’t ride up between my pelvic bones like the Mantra, either. At the same time, the center cutout is not as effective as the Mantra’s. It runs the whole length of the saddle, which means that my clitoris was happily supplied with proper oxygen throughout my whole ride. On the other hand it is a straight cut out with no flare so while my clitoris got some needed pressure relief, my labia had to bear the weight in return.
One other feature of the Antares bears noting: the nose is significantly wider than almost every other saddle I’ve ridden. I wasn’t bothered by the additional width. It felt comfortable and secure. Whether the saddle is made of particularly slick material or it is just tapered very well from butt to nose, I didn’t notice any additional friction from the wide saddle, just a presence in my mind that I’m sure would go away if I could put in a few more hours on it.
Over all I wish I could have had more time with the antares. I put in one 25K ride and two 10-15K rides and didn’t have any difficulties at all. The cutout protects my precious clitoris even if it isn’t as kind to my labia, and the back of the saddle is very gentle on my sit bones. It’s a great saddle and I would almost say it wins over the Mantra except for the fact that given the choice between risking sexual dysfunction (Antares) and risking saddle sores and ass bruises (Mantra), I have to go with the latter. The discomfort levels are close, but the location is always going to have to err in favor of the genitals. That said I highly recommend this saddle to any female riders serious enough to put in the time and the distance and interested in protecting their lady-bits along the way.
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”