But what I wanted to write about today is my saddle saga that has been going on for over 3 years now. I have recently had a proper bike fit (had one before, but was not done correctly), which has changed the way I cycle, the way I feel on the bike and has brought me closer to an aerodynamic position. I ride a Condor Baracchi 2009. I have tried many different saddles, and just a week before my first long race, I think I might have just found what I was looking for.
I have long legs, a short torso, hypermobile joints and a slightly lordotic lumbar spine. What this means is that I automatically stand with my bum slightly sticking out backwards (like a duck) due to this, which if on the bike means I am sitting more on the front of my private parts than on my seat bones, when in road position. Getting on the aerobars, whilst using the 'classic' style saddles was rather numbing after 10 minutes.
Selle italia Gel flow
I have tried a few others before (going from the factory saddle the bike came with, to the sofa-style version in desperation) but none worked, either I became too numb or just too uncomfortable. The Selle Italia Gel flow saddle was made for women, has a thin slot in the middle for some relief and is not too soft but not the usual bench hardness either. It was my very first long-standing saddle that I liked very much when riding in road position. For any beginners, I think this is perfect. This saddle has been really good to me, have used it for the first 3 years of having my bike, commuting across London and inspecting as many potholes as it was unfortunately possible. But I survived. And then came the triathlon camps and the need to use my drop down bars, and eventually my new clip on aerobars. So I realised that sadly the Selle was not ticking all the boxes there and so I needed to get a new saddle.
ISM Adamo - Road and Time Trial
OOh the Adamo saddles... much debated, loved and hated and the same time. So these saddles look very different from the classic saddles, have an 'unfinished' nose, and are meant for more aero/aggressive riding style (TT). Fortunately there is an online store that let's you try it before you buy (www.trybikestore.co.uk), which is very important especially with these saddles. So I have tried the Adamo Road and most recently the Adamo Time Trial saddles. It is crucial that these saddles are set up on the bike the correct way - you will most likely have to lower the seat post a bit and the saddle has to be moved forward (there are specific guidance videos on youtube as well as on the trybikestore site). Although I tried to go with it, and do the recommended 2 weeks of trial on these, I felt more like a Western movie character walking bow-legged, than someone who is on the way to find their favourite saddle. The nose of these Adamo saddles (or at least of the Road and the TT) are much wider than the classic ones, so I constantly felt both sides pinching me, giving me bruises on my inner thighs. I slid forward, backwards kept my head down but it was not getting any better. I have since seen people using cable ties to pinch the nose narrower on the saddle, but someone I think if I spend a good amount of money on a saddle, I don't want to have to alter it myself. So I had to give up on the Adamo. I went back to the Selle saddle.
No, these are not a type of saddle, but they have been extraordinary in getting me through hundreds of kms on the bike. I have the Assos Fi_13 Lady shorts - no internal seams, no annoying pouch, just bliss. And they made the aero position ridable for a little while on the Selle italia as well.
But 90 or 180km really does warrant for maximum comfort. So the Adamo saddles were created by a guy called John Cobb, who later on sold it to a company I believe, and it has become ISM Adamo. John Cobb, however, did not stop there, but has been busy designing newer saddles, using research and his experience. And then there were the Cobb Saddles. After mulling over the options, I have decided to give another 'noseless' saddle a go, the Cobb Fifty Five JOF (Just Off Front). I was expecting to be in a lot of pain after the first few rides, but instead here I am, writing this blog with a grin on my face. The Cobb JOF is much narrower than the Adamo saddles on the front, and maybe a few mm wider than my Selle. It has a harder and flatter surface in the back, but the difference it made in the aero and the drop bar position is immense! I can hardly feel it is there at all, the aero bars are just crying to be used. Absolutely fantastic and I have, for the first time, understood what it means to be more occupied with leg strength than 'downtown numbness'. The railing is much longer, providing a lot more possibilities for positioning. The seat post was brought down by 1.3cm, and the saddle moved forward (in comparison to the Selle). So is this a happy end? I truly hope so.
One of the first 'DON'T's in triathlon is not to change anything a week before any race, let alone a half ironman. But this time I really am thinking whether I should just go with my new Cobb saddle rather than the Selle Italia I have done all my training one... I might just be going absolutely bonkers though. Is this what tapering does to your brain?!? I can't stop but think about what someone once said to me: 'No risk, no fun'