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COMFORT + EFFICIENCY = PERFORMANCE

This blog is attracting more hits than I ever thought likely. So far the U.S is no. 1. A population of 300 miilion means a lot of bike riders, Then close behind is Australia, then the U.K. No surprises there. Then before strong cycling countries like Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Belgium, is Romania contending for  fourth place with Canada. I don’t know a great deal about Romanian cycling but it seems they have a lot of keen cyclists hitting the net. This post grew out of the enquiry below in the Comments section from Mircea, one of our Romanian readers. It is worth reading because Mircea has a brain and uses it to make some insightful comments, particularly regarding relative pelvic shapes / proportions. While reading, please keep in mind that English is not Mircea’s first language, though he does a good job of getting the message across.

G’day Steve,

i don’t know the best title for what i want to write, maybe Pelvis-Placement into the body riding locomotion, something like that. i’ll write here, and after you can place it wherever fits better. thanks!

Everybody’s speaking about sitting on seat bones, but looking at the pro riding i see that almost all of them, most of the time, they sit on the perineum . And for TimeTrial looks like all of them sit on the perineum. This is what i see and i do not understand. Also for myself, when i ride my bike, i feel like if i want to push harder then i had to sit on the perineum. I asked once a woman pro rider about that and she reply “no, we all sit on our seat bones”. I am not convinced, my eyes tell me something else. I am so confused!…

For me it looks like you can stay three ways on the saddle:
1) only on the seat bones. maybe slightly touching with your perineum and pubic bone;
2) on the seat bones and the perineum / pubic bone, like a 3 point platform;
3) only on the perineum /pubic bone.

When we stand vertical on our legs, in a biped position, our pelvis has the seat bones a little down from the pubic bone. Some more, some less. From outside, just from aesthetic point of view, i think most people like when the seat bones are placed high (but this is something else). But now, here, i want to talk only about locomotion, physical, practical point of view. So looking from profile/side, we can draw a virtual line between seat bones and pubic bone (it is more like an arch). This virtual line would raise in front of the pelvis and would droop in the back of it. So this line will not be perpendicular with the vertical, but at an angle. Now, sitting on a saddle, because we want our pelvis to sit on our seat bones (maybe slightly touching the perineum/pubic bone) and to tilt forward, this virtual line would be very close to horizontal. If we tilt the pelvis more then we will touch hardly our perineum (pubic bone). My ideea is that the more your seat bones are lower on your pelvis, the more your pelvis will be tilted forward (assuming we sit mostly on our seat bones). I think this is an advantage because you can work better your glutes. People who have high seat bones on their pelvis must sit on their perineum (pubic bone) for having the same pelvis tilt (angle). Otherwise said, one with lower seat bones will have a flatter lower back when sitting on a saddle, but one with high seat bone will have a curved lower back (which leads to some pain, i think); so, for having the same flatter shape the one with high seat bones will, again, tilt more but he will sit mostly on the perineum (pubic bone). These are my opinions from what i see around and what i feel.

I would like to know what do you think about this placement of the pelvis, about this relation/transition between seat bones and pubic bone? I hope you understand my english (it’s not my language), the terms i used 🙂

Also, what should happened when you move your hands form brake hoods to drops on a road bar? Does your pelvis move/tilt a little bit, or it should stay in the same position and only the spine would arch more?

I like a lot Fabian Cancellara. For me it looks like, compared to the others, he use more his glutes. He is very stable on his bike, his lower back looks quite flat (very little arch), and his legs (knees) realy look like pistons. I think this has to do with his pelvis being more tilted compared to the others. But to perform with this pelvis tilt, you should be realy flexible in the hip joint and in the hamstring muscle, which i heard that Cancellara is. He use quite a lot of saddle setback, now on his bike he has: 73° seat angle, 20mm offset seat post, and his saddle maximum back. Now, if this is the case, how to achieve this pelvis tilt but still being comfortable?… i do not know.

Mircea

 

Good observation and equally good questions Mircea. I’ll tackle your questions one at a time. Firstly, I need define a few terms  that you’ve used for other readers. If viewing the pic above:

The Sit Bones or as you have called them, Seat Bones (properly called the Ischial Tuberosities) are the bulbous, bony projections immediately above the  right hand side of the M and over the P of Selle SMP embroidered logo on the seat. This is where the hamstring muscle group originates.

The Pubic Bone (which you have incorrecly conflated with Perineum) is the bony projection immediately above the ‘a’ in  Dynamic on the side of the seat above.

The Ischiopubic ramus is the bone connecting the Ischial Tuberosity and the Pubic Bone on each side.

The Perineum is the area of soft tissue (and structures underneath it) between the anus and the genitalia.

Now to answer your questions which I have cut and pasted in bold text.

Q. I would like to know what you think about this placement of the pelvis, about this relation / transition between seat bones and pubic bone? I hope you understand my English (it’s not my language), the terms I used.

A. Mircea, I understand you well. Your English is fine. Certainly far better than my Romanian! Re what you’ve said above. You may well be right. While all humans have the same basic pelvic anatomy, there is wide variance in proportions and shape. What you are saying is that the profile as viewed from the side of the ischiopubic ramus (the part of the pelvis linking the sitbones and the pubic bone which contact the seat in the pic above) can vary markedly in shape. In some people it dips lower and is more rounded and in others it is flatter. You are correct but I cannot tell you in detail how that affects the way different riders sit on a bike for 2 reasons. One, I don’t examine that area of my fit clients and I’m sure that you can understand why. Secondly, it is only one part of the functional make up of a human being. Yes, it has an influence  on how comfortably a particular rider can lean forward to the bars, but so does the shape and  range of motion of the sacro iliac joints  and the flexibility of the muscles that affect the hip and low back as well as the riders ability to extend their spine and neck..

Given that I don’t know in detail what the pelvic anatomy of any client is, I work with what I can see and test and try to ensure that a fit client leaves with a seat that they are comfortable and securely seated on. Sometimes this is a matter of trial and error. These differences in shape, function and abilities (and the position that they currently hold) explain the phenomenon we are all familiar with where a rider will think a particular seat is the most comfortable device ever mounted on a bike while another will think it an instrument of torture. Still others will have a spectrum of opinions within that range . Positional parameters play a part in this too, a large part, but I think the basic answer to your question is that there are large variances in human anatomy that for obvious reasons cannot be known beyond a certain level of detail with any fit client, and so trial, error and rider feedback play a part in achieving the ‘right’ seat / human combination in any particular case. At least until I get my X ray vision working or fit clients allow me to be much ‘friendlier’.

As an aside, see the pic above. The sacro iliac joints (SIJ’s) are the joints immediately in towards the centre line from the pins located half way up the pelvis. A good range of movement of the SIJ’s allows a rider to point their ‘tail’ and have a lower torso than if they have a poor range of movement in these joints. There is large individual variation in SIJ mobility and this too plays an important part in how the rider contacts the seat.

Q. Also, what should happen when you move your hands from brake hoods to drops on a road bar? Does your pelvis move /tilt a little bit, or should it stay in the same position and only the spine would arch more?

A. There are too many variables to give you a yes / no type answer. Some of the variables are –

  • The physical relationship of the brake hoods to the drops can vary markedly depending on at what height the brake hoods are positioned on the bar
  • Some brake hoods are far longer than others. Sram for instance are shorter than Shimano. Campag are different again.
  • Bar drop can vary as much as 40+ mm on road bars
  • Bar reach can vary from around 65mm to around 100mm on road bars.
  • Above all, the position the rider currently holds, how functional / flexible they are and how they achieve that flexibility is a variable.
  • The profile of the long axis of the seat will play a part.

My feeling is that the rider should be able to exercise all of their hand placement options comfortably. A recreational rider may spend hardly any time in the drop bars but they should be positioned in such a way as to allow them to do it without discomfort for a reasonable time frame if they choose to do so. What changes an individual rider will make in body position to reach from brake hoods to drops will be like everything else that happens on a bike……… individually variable. The aim is always to allow the rider to be ‘themselves’ in as stable, comfortable and powerful way as possible. For some this will mean a movement in forward tilt of the pelvis; for some it will mean spinal flexion increases (which is okay providing it doesn’t cause potential for problems, which if they occur, usually affect the neck first) and for some it will be a combination of both. If you are asking as to which is ideal; in a rider with good function, I think the majority of change should occur with a combination of forward tilt of the pelvis and and sacro iliac joint movement allowing a flatter back.

Q. I like a lot Fabian Cancellara. for me it looks like, compared to the others, he uses more his glutes. He is very stable on his bike, his lower back looks quite flat (very little arch) and his legs (knees) really look like pistons. I think this has to do with his pelvis being more tilted than the others. but to perform with this pelvis tilt, you should be really flexible in the hip joint and hamstring muscle, which I heard that Cancellara is. He uses quite a lot of saddle set back, now on his bike he has: 73 degree seat tube angle, 20mm offset seat post and his saddle maximum back. Now, if this is the case, how to achieve this pelvis tilt but still being comfortable?…………. I do not know.

A. Firsty it is an assumption that he is comfortable but without knowing him, I think he is because he smiles a lot. So for the purposes of discussion, we’ll take his comfort as a given. Okay, a 73 degree seat tube angle (STA) with seat jammed all the way back yields an ‘effective’ STA of 72 degrees, give or take, depending on seat choice. That is not strange or unusual and human variance and function dictate that a much wider range than that is needed to allow the cycling portion of  humanity to ride a bike comfortably and powerfully. I’ll call 73 degrees a midpoint, which in my experience it pretty much is. The further you move in either direction from 73 degrees, the lesser the percentage of people who need a particular STA. 72 degrees is not ‘unusual’.

Having seen Cancellara on TV numerous times, I agree with you. His position is low and long and the way that many people think they would like to look like on a bike. I don’t know what seat he rides but unless it is an SMP or other brand with large perineal cut out, there will be contact between Cancellara’s perineum and the seat. Contact and uncomfortable pressure are two different things and from the outside looking in, some combination of function, pelvic shape and proportions and seat shape allow him to do as he does. The gist of what I’m saying is that all of your points are good ones but we are not workng with full knowledge, even of ourselves, when we ride a bike. Unless we have had extensive imaging procedures, none of us knows what the detail of our own, or our fit client’s pelvic shape is, or how it differs from the hypothetical norm (assuming that there is a norm). So we are left with the tools that all of us have; the ability to feel pressure and the ability to individually decide on what is acceptable in the pressure continuum that has Ideal Comfort at one end of the scale and Agony at the other end..

The pic below is illustrative as it shows the front view of the other two photos. It is not just sit bone pressure felt on a seat. One of the reasons I am a fan of the SMP range is that most people sit on a seat and feel diffuse pressure with a localised increase at the sit bones, or less ideally, the perineum. When you sit on an SMP seat, you will feel sitbones and the entire ischiopubic ramus without the perineal pressure that can accompany this for many people. SMP have simply removed the middle of the seat. They have wide range of seats with differing profiles as viewed from side, with differing padding thickness and different seat widths. While there is no seat that suits everyone, the great majority of people can achieve ideal comfort on the individually ideal model from the  SMP range (assuming the seat is well positioned for them) because it removes the potential for perineal pressure that concerns you from the riding equation.

What I try to do when fitting an SMP is by trial and error, find width and profile that best matches the curve of the base of that rider’s pelvis. I doubt my customers are interested in me making an intimate examination of them, so this is way that it has to be.

While on the subject of seats, a story from the past. Years ago when trying to determine which seat was best suited to a rider, I used to get the rider to sit on a flat wooden chair that I had sprinkled with talcum powder. They would carefully sit, contact the chair and then stand again. The pressure of their sit bones would be obvious in the talcum powder and I would then measure the separation of the sit bones and try and match that to an appropriate seat width.  What I found was that there was a correlation of sorts between pelvic separation width and seat width around 75% of the time only.  With the remainder, people with wide separation were more comfortable on seats narrower than I would have expected and people with smaller separation were more comfortable on wider seats than I would have expected.

I always assumed and still do, that the seeming anomaly of 25% who chose seats not obviously of the ‘right’ width was caused by having a curve of the ischiopubic ramus that allowed them to sit comfortably on seats that ‘seemed’ not to suit them. So trial and error is still the best way. Additionally, the ischiopubic ramen narrow from rear to front so the further forward the rider can roll their pelvis, the narrower the separation width between the ramen.

I know I have not given you the definitive answers that I suspect you wished for, but this has been the best I can do.

Note: Often, more specific answers to your questions can be found in the Comments below or in the eBooks section and FAQ page.

To learn more about bike fit products offered by Steve, click here.

Do you have a bike fit success story? Please go here to share.

Thank you for reading, return to the Blog page here or please comment below.

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This Post Has 94 Comments

  1. G’day Steve,

    …Wooow… :)… I’m happy! I’m glad that you took seriously my questions about this subject. No, you gave me/us more than enough answers. I learned about sacro iliac joints, didn’t know that some of us can “point their tail”. Also learned that there is no problem in touching the seat with the perineum, “contact and uncomfortable pressure are two different things”. And learned many other things…

    Thank you!…
    Mircea

    1. G’day Mircea,
      You’re welcome. I took longer than I promised to get to
      your question and for that I apologise. I don’t have much time at the moment
      but wanted to give a detailed answer to your thoughtful questions.
      Thoughtful in the sense that you mentioned aspects that very few people ever
      think about. Often I wonder how many people are interested in the detail of
      bike fitting but it appears more than a few are, including yourself, and
      for that I am grateful.

  2. What a great post Steve, as always. Next up please post some tips on how to position the SMP seats correctly – levelling, nose tilt, how to measure seat height, etc.

    1. Okay Yuri,
      I’ll put it on the list. Give Mircea some credit for his
      thoughtful questions. Thanks for the positive thoughts though.
      Regards,
      Steve

  3. HI Steve,
    Great post! I have wondered about those questions for years. Are there any major differences between women and men when fitting them on a saddle, particularly an SMP?
    Thanks Bea

    1. G’day Bea,
      The basic gender difference is that the male perineum is about
      twice the length of the female perineum because female genitalia is located
      differently. That means that women are potentially far more sensitive to
      seat pressure of the wrong type than men. To clarify, SMP’s are great seats
      but they make a wide range of profiles (as viewed from the side), widths and
      padding thickness’s with the only constant being a huge full length perineal
      cutout.
      I have put a lot of women on Lite 209’s and Avant’s without encountering
      many problems. The only other gender difference I note is that women seem to
      be more sensitive generally. What I mean by that it is that it is a rare
      women who feels at home on an SMP Dynamic for example. The Dynamic is
      basically a Lite 209 with less padding. Apart from that, no major
      differences between genders with SMP’s but many and often large differences
      between genders on many other brands of seats.

      1. Feeling very comfortable on my Dynamic .
        Was not too bad on Stratos, but after a year or so, changed to Dynamic, and it’s like blessing. Raving about your fitting to all my friends and customers Steve!
        Klara

      2. G’day Klara, g’day Bea,
        Bea, I stand corrected. Klara loves her Dynamic
        as you can see. Klara is hard core and a tough chick though. Try before you
        buy. There will be a post on SMP set up in the foreseeable future.

        Klara,
        Thanks for letting Bea know about the Dynamic and very glad that you
        are happy.

  4. Thanks Steve, I appreciate your answer… and yes we are more sensitive! I hear of so many women giving up on cycling because they can’t get comfortable. For me it took YEARS to find the right saddle, I did have an SMP for a year, but I wasn’t 100% happy. I have ended up on an Adamo for all my bikes, road and TT which has brought joy to my cycling.. Thanks again Bea

    1. G’day Bea,
      Adamo’s are a good seat for the right person and I’m glad that
      you found one that allowed you to maintain your interest in cycling. In the
      next few weeks, there will be a lot of articles loaded under the
      Publications tab. There are two that will be of particular interest to you –
      ‘Sensitive Issues’ and ‘More Sensitive Issues’.

      1. G’day Eric,
        I didn’t mean anything mysterious. Like all seats, Adamo’s are
        comfortable for some but not for others. There are several models which vary
        in width and padding density.
        One Adamo benefit is that from time to time I have a rider who specialises
        it TT’s or pursuiting, but the position that they need contravenes the UCI’s
        ‘seat setback must be at least 50mm’ rule. Adamo’s are the minimum length
        the UCI mandates for a seat but the design is such that the rider can’t
        really sit on the rear 1/3 or so of the seat. Effectively, that means that
        the rider can have the position in space they need and stay UCI legal
        whereas almost any other seat set to allow them the same body position in
        space would not be UCI legal.

  5. Steve, you said: There is large individual variation in SIJ mobility and this too plays an important part in how the rider contacts the seat.
    My knowledge is rather limited, but don’t the SIJs (in and of themselves) have v limited mobility? Is it the mobility/flexibility of the adjacent structures (pelvis to femurs / pelvis to lumbar vertebrae) which is critical?

    1. G’day Trevor,
      Both statements are correct in my experience. It is true
      that the SIJ’s are a fibrous joint and have little movement relatively
      speaking. How ever, one of the assessments I do is for SIJ range of motion
      and there is large individual variance. Some of this is probably due to
      hereditary factors as I believe there are individual differences in the
      detail of SIJ surface shape . Additionally, and as you so rightly imply,
      there are so many muscles that cross the SIJ that the function (dysfunction)
      of those muscles affects SIJ mobility.

      When assessing a client’s SIJ mobility, what I’m looking for is 2 things.
      Relative SIJ mobility and particularly, any marked difference between left
      and right sides. The relative SIJ mobility impacts on how much that
      particular rider can flatten their lumbar spine on the bike, while any marked
      differences in mobility between left and right side impact on on seat pelvic
      symmetry.

      When SIJ range of motion is limited, the hip, pelvis and sacrum function as
      a unit on that side with a marked hip drop on each pedal down stroke on that
      side. This isn’t the only reason for hip dropping though; just one potential
      one.

  6. Hi Steve,

    Just a question about a creaking seat/seat post. I told you a while back that I had bought one of the 3T Palladio seat posts to hold up my SMP Dynamic saddle. It took a while to set up (which you agreed was a pain) but it has been all good for months. The last week or so I have been getting an increasing creaking noise from my bike which took me a while to work out it was the coming from the saddle/seat post. I took the saddle off and cleaned the rails of the saddle & cups of the seat post, applied some Tacx assembly paste to the rails then reassembled it. I also tightened the 8 screws on the underside of the SMP which weren’t overly loose & greased the seatpost bolts before re torquing. I have tightened it slightly over the recommended 5nm. It has stopped the noise to a large degree however not fully. I have marks on the rails & the seat isn’t slipping back at all. It definitely is coming from saddle as it doesn’t happen when I stand up & pedal under load. Not sure what else to try other than maybe grease up the “difflock” mechanism ie 2 sets of gears. I’d appreciate any suggestions when you get a chance. It’s just one of those irritating noises you don’t want to hear whilst riding your bike. Have a good weekend.

    1. G’day Darren,
      I suspect it is the overly complicated ‘difflock’ but the
      other possible culprit is where the rails enter the seat body at the front.
      Give that area a squirt with WD 40 or something similar and then flex the
      front of the seat to move the stuff around. If that doesn’t solve it, pull
      the post clamp arrangement apart and grease all mating surfaces. Don’t use
      the Tacx assembly paste. It is designed to stop glossy finish carbon fibre
      posts from slipping. Use normal bike type (or general use) grease.

    2. Darren & Steve

      I also noticed creaking sound from my 7 month old SMP plus. I took the saddle off and placed on a flat surface. When pressing down on the right hand top of the seat at mid point in the rails it creaks but when i press down on the left hand side there is no creaking. Furthermore when pressing down on the right side i can feel the foam compress and deflection of the shell, however when pressing down on the left side i can feel only the foam compress and no deflection of the shell.

      I weigh 90kg and have replaced 2 prior saddles with cracked shells. The creaking sound they make and slightly spongy feeling when riding hard is quite noticeable and gradually gets worse.

      Based on the above, I presume there is a crack in the shell near the internal opening of the seat at mid rail. One of the resaons i purchased SMP plus is that i presumed it would be very robust.

      Was wondering if anyone else has experienced this.

      Regards
      Greg

      1. G’day Greg,
        Have your other seats all broken on the right side?
        If so, I would be investigating what it is about the way that you sit on a bike that causes that.
        One possibility that you might want to check is to look at the cantle plate of your SMP. You will see that the rails are held in place at the rear with a small fitting on each side, each of which is attached with 4 self tapping screws. Check that the screws on RH fitting aren’t loose.

        Otherwise, no, this is outside my experience. I have yet to see an SMP shell crack from other than crash damage.

      2. Steve,

        Thanks so much for your reply. I did check the mounting screws etc on the smp plus and they were all ok. The first saddle that broke was fizik aliante but not sure which side it broke on as i returned it to the shop, 2nd one was Specialised Alias 142 which broke on left side.

        I am 49 years old 1.90m and 90kg and the 2 previous broken saddles were vey flimsy in comparison to smp plus so I am not surprised they broke. I am based in Brunei which only has one decent bike shop and no fitting experts. Furthermore the locals here are generally very small in stature so the shops tend to stock narrow fizik and specialised saddles which means purchasing saddles on line by research, trial and error!

        The original saddle on my bike (Scott Speedster S10, 58cm) was scott road saddle (like a flat piece of plywood), 2nd saddle was fizik aliante (broken), 3rd specialised alias (broken), 4th selle italia max flite gel flow (not comfortable) , 5th brooks team pro (which after one ride gave me numb genitals for 2 months!), 6th selle smp plus (now broken) was purchased as it is the widest saddle i could find with good reviews on perenium safety.

        I note your comment on sitting position and this has proven to be a major issue for me. I only started cycling again about 18 months ago after not doing any cycling for 25 years! I dont race (except with myself!) and ride 50km on hilly course every 2nd day.

        I found your advice on set back for neutral balance (instead of kops)very useful. Due to frontal knee pain (just below knee cap esp on left knee), I have experimented with raising the saddle to achieve the supposed ideal 145-155 degree at full extension. However I noticed this resulted in left foot rotating laterally on the pedal at bottom of stroke (a symptom mentioned by someone else on your blog) and also new pain above both knees on the outside (presumably due to over extension). It also caused my left knee to brush the top tube and right knee to move away from the top tube and sometimes colliding with elbow during gear changes (indicating i was sitting skew on the saddle). In addition when riding in the drops this position resulted in an uneven cadence (left side feeling like it was lagging)

        Having read all your posts on set back/ height/tilt/cleats etc etc, I realsied that this higher saddle position was too high as it did not consider hip/knee/ankle angles required to cope with full load nor did it consider my personal physiology. I dropped it gradually by 15mm back to where it was about 6 months ago. As a result the pain above the knees is mostly gone, my knees are more evenly spaced from the top tube but the cadence when riding in drops still a bit uneven. If I drop the saddle further to even the cadence the frontal knee pain reappears.

        The difference in my riding position now to what it was 6 months ago is that saddle tilt is up 6mm (which moves the effective seating position back maybe 10mm), longer bar extension (140mm instead of 130mm), bars with deeper drops, cleats approx 5mm further back.

        I realise now that i must have a right side bias (my right hamstring, lower back etc) is much tighter than my left and that raising the saddle most likely exacerbated this. From your post, right side bias is hip down and forward. Would this normally result in left knee closer to top tube and right knee further away as logically it would appear it should be the other way around? Pls note my cleats are all the way back on both feet (SIDI size 46).

        Returning to the original issue with the smp plus. Perhaps a combination of right side bias and saddle too high for a few months has put undue stress on the right side of the saddle. The measures I am now taking are;
        1. purchase new smp plus
        2. try dropping saddle height 3mm
        2. stretching more!
        3. trying to equalise pressure on left and right pedals as for sure my left leg is ‘lazy’ compared to right.
        4. concentrating on pulling my right knee in when riding

        So sorry for the ultra long post! I really appreciate the advice we can obtain from your site in an interactive way.

        Greg

      3. G’day Greg,
        Your story illustrates why I give no credence to seat height recommendations based on “the angle of the bend of the knee should be X at the bottom of the stroke”. If recommendations like that work, it is by accident, not because of any inherent merit.

        It is important for you to find out why you do have a right side bias. Has anyone ever checked you to see whether one leg is shorter than the other?

        You mention that your cadence in the drops is still uneven. I assume that means when compared to you sitting with hands on brake hoods of bar tops. If so, that indicates that reaching down to the drops is exaggerating the tendency to pelvic asymmetry that you already have. It would be worth your while trialling a shallower drop bar or a higher bar height or both.

        And yes, stretch!
        Regularly after exercise when warm.

        I’ve got to do a post on stretching sooner or later. The key to stretching is that most people stretch too hard. On a 1 to 10 scale with 10 being agony, stretching should be 30 – 90 second duration at level 2 or 3 intensity. A mild stretch only. An hour of stretching, properly done, should be the most relaxing hour you spend outside of bed every week (2 – 3 times per week). When we stretch we are trying to permanently lengthen muscles.
        The inelastic component of muscle fibre is collagen. Collagen does not
        respond to force. It responds to duration. Too many people stretch too hard
        and create micro tears in muscle fibre which make them sore, less likely to
        stretch, and beyond a point is counterproductive.

        If unsure of a good stretching regime, there is a new eBook in the Bike Fit Products section of the store called Flexibility for Cyclists by Fred and Kele McDaniel. I have used it for a couple of years now and have found it to be more time efficient for equal results than the yoga classes I used to go to.

        The other thing you should be doing is getting yourself a pair of eSoles. Arch support is a big deal. Particularly when there are left / right asymmetries as you indicate.

        And the likely reason that your left leg feels ‘lazy’ is that you are hanging or twisting forward to the right which makes the left leg overextend. When this happens, the right knee can move further from or closer to the top tube depending on individual pattern of compensation.

        Check leg length. When the knee of the twisting forward leg sits further out, often (not always) this correlates with a shorter leg.

      4. Hi Steve,

        Thanks again for your reply. I have not had my legs measured by anyone. However today I measured lower leg myself by sitting on wooden chair with both feet spaced apart at hip width, tibia vertical and femur approx parallel to gound and put spirit level on top of knees. The left knee is higher by approx 6mm (i.e it is level with a pencil laying down on top of the right knee). Therefore it would appear my right lower leg is approximately 6mm shorter than the left.

        I also tried measuring upper leg difference by laying on my back with feet up against the door at same height, hip width apart, femur vertical and tibia approx horizontal. I then placed sprit level on top of the knees and it was level indicating upper legs are the same length.

        Since my last message I have ridden the same 50km course 3 times. Each time i lowered the saddle 3mm until the cadence on drops was even. In this position I can achieve higher cadence but with a lower gear. However the frontal knee pain has reappeared particularly after the last drop of 3mm. This lowest position is where my saddle was approx 1 year ago and due to frontal knee pain i started progressively raising the saddle……

        Based on the shorter lower right leg measurement and the frontal knee pain resultant from saddle height low enough to obtain even cadence, I was wondering if i should consider shimming the right shoe. If so should i try your standard 3mm shim or thicker custom shim? (My pedals are shimano ultegra).

        Regards
        Greg

        P.S. I took the rails off the smp plus and sprayed WD 40 inside all the contact points and the creaking is now gone. It appears the shell is ok so you were right!

      5. G’day Greg,
        In your shoes, I would suggest 3 things. Firstly, a scan or x-ray to determine definitively if there is a bone length difference. Second, an assessment by a quality structural health professional to determine whether there are any significant differences in flexibility between left and right sides in hips, low back, hamstrings and hip flexors. Lastly, have someone who is a keen observer stand behind and above you while you pedal under reasonable load on an indoor trainer and see what your pelvis is doing. As in are you dropping on hip.

        Front of knee pain is usually lack of extension, though poor cleat position and too little seat setback often play a part. If you are dropping the hip on the side of the leg that appears shorter enough to cause front of knee pain, I’m surprised that the other side is not protesting. Sore hamstrings, tight lower back, that sort of thing.

        Once you have established whether there is a bone length difference, then yes, shimming is the way to go. I’m not detracting from your efforts to self diagnose, in fact I encourage you to, but there is a margin for error with the methods you have used as all rely on symmetrically functioning pelvis which may or may not be the case.

        if as you suspect comes to pass, that you have 6mm or so shorter lower leg on one side, then yes, you will need to fully compensate or very close to
        it. The only other factor that may add or subtract a functional component is
        if there is a significant different in arch heights between feet.

      6. Hi Steve,

        Thanks again for the reply. I will consider having my bones measured via xray etc and purchasing rollers for video from rear view.

        Re arch height, with both feet flat on floor hip width apart I placed sprit level across the top of both feet (above the arch) the right arch is higher than the left by approx 6mm. The gap under the arch on the right is also significantly higher than the left but hard to measure accurately. I usually need to buy shoes with space in the front in order for them not to be tight over the arch esp on right foot. That is partly the reason i moved the cleats all the way back on my SIDI shoes (in order to get ball of foot over pedal spindle). How would higher arch on right foot likely affect riding position/posture and also if combined with shorter right tibia?

        The frontal knee pain I am now experiencing since lowering the seat is mainly in the right knee (which is the opposite to what i expected). I dont have any hamstring soreness or lower back pain even when the saddle was 2cm higher. I will try to put saddle slightly further back and see if any difference.

        Regards
        Greg

      7. G’day Greg,
        Functional differences in foot morphology have an impact on functional leg length. So having a higher arch foot on your shorter right leg subtracts a measure from the ‘effective’ difference in leg length. Bear in mind that your left arch is likely only lower because you have spent a lifetime of walking and bearing weight while leaning to the right because of the shorter right leg. That may mean that if the left arch is properly supported, the ‘effective’ leg length difference increases back to something approaching the measurable difference.
        That your right knee is loaded with the lowering of the seat suggests that perhaps you are dropping the right hip. I would more or less expect that with a lifetime of compensating for a shorter right leg. So you may have to raise your seat height a bit as well as shim the right foot. I know that sounds counter intuitive but the basic approach to these matters is typically best done by removing or minimising for any challenge to your position on the bike that can be identified. In the case of a shorter leg, that almost always means a shim of some sort is part of the solution.

      8. Hi Steve,
        Thanks for your reply and valuable advice
        1. Cleat Set Back
        I am now looking at purchasing Speedplay pedals and cleats so I can purchase your Speedplay extender plates to obtain more cleat set back. Looking at Stainless options for Zero, Light Action and X, I am thinking Light Action is out as only 7.5 degrees float. I note X has 25 degrees free float compared to 0-15 degrees adjustable float for Zero. The price of Zero is slightly less than X! (I guess the sale volume is much higher as Zero is a later model) I heard that zero’s have more resistance to release than X’s but I dont mind that. I am concerned 25 degrees free float on X’s may allow foot to rotate too much? Do you or your customers have any preference for Zero or X?

        2. Esoles
        My SIDI size 46 inner soles are 286mm long. Is it compatible with size 46 esoles? Also I may purchase SIDI size 45 Mega shoes in future as size 46 is a bit long but still tight in arch. If so will I be able to trim the toe of the esoles to fit SIDI size 45 Mega? Alternatively should I order size 45 esoles or will they move around too much in size 46 shoe?

        3. Right Side Bias
        I am ordering rollers in order to video myself to assess extent of likely drop of hip on right side. I will video again after cleat adjustment and with arch support. I will also order your 8mm thick Leg Length Compensator for speedplay pedals and as a trial insert on the right foot in place of the standard 3mm thick extender plate thereby providing 5mm additional effective leg length to right leg to compensate for what appears to be 6mm longer left leg. I will raise saddle accordingly and video again etc.

        4. Saddle Set Back
        After 3 rides with saddle further back I find the position more comfortable and cadence faster & smoother (but one gear lower) than with the saddle further forward and higher. Once I move the cleats back say 10mm would it be normal to move the saddle slightly forward to maintain same leg extension and if so how much?

        Regards
        Greg

      9. G’day Greg,
        Re Q1: Someone has given you the wrong info. Zeros and Light
        Actions have the same amount of float assuming the Zeros are set to wide open. Dimensionally the cleats are identical with the differences being: A: that the the Zero has grub screws which can be screwed in to limit float to varying degrees whereas the Light Action does not
        B: the spring tension on the Zeros is higher meaning more effort needed to engage and release.
        The X Series require the least amount of effort of any of the 3 road Speedplays to enter and exit. There is no ‘click’ when releasing. The heel has to be turned out so far to release that the heel out movement needed to release will never happen inadvertently. To summarise my usage of Speedplays with clients.
        Zeros – males over 60kg and females over 65 kg for any purpose of road riding.
        Light Action – males under 60 kg and females under 65 kg because many people in this category find the extra spring tension of Zero cleats hard to over come when entering or exiting the pedals, particularly when new to using Speedplays. There is a lot of individual variation in this but more or less, that’s about right as a recommendation.
        X series – for those who want REALLY easy exit and entry or for those who need a range of rotational movement not available in other pedals.

        Re float; assuming foot correction is ideal and and assuming a reasonably stable pelvis on seat, and neither of those assumptions may be safe, then a riders’ feet won’t float around. Float is only taken up if one or other or both of those things in less than ideal OR if a conscious effort is made to rotate the feet. Customer’s experiences?
        I put a lot of riders into Speedplays and often the initial comment is “There’s a lot of float” or similar. By the time I have the right degree of arch support in place and the right amount and location of wedging and if need be, shimming, then it is no longer an issue. If you are not confident about being able to get those matters right, then I’d suggest the Zeros.
        Re Q2. Sidi nominal shoe sizes are smaller than average. A 46 Sidi would
        normally use a 45 or 45.5 eSole. The 45 and 45.5 are identical. It is just
        that the boxes can come labelled with either size even though there is no
        difference. If you do go to a 45 Mega, yes, it is fine to trim the eSole.
        Use the Sidi insole as template. Re using one size eSole too small; no the
        insole doesn’t wander around because the arch support module locates the
        eSole under your foot. That provides of course that you take reasonable care
        when putting your shoes on.

        Re Q3: No problem.

        Re Q4: Once you get your cleats back the further 10mm that you are seeking,
        re evaluate seat setback separately using the procedure outlined in the post
        on seat setback. Whether you will need a further change in seat setback post
        cleat movement will depend on many factors and in my view, there is no
        accurate ‘rule of thumb’.

      10. Steve,

        Thank you very much for your further advice.

        1. Speedplay pedals
        Your comment that with proper set up, lateral foot rotation on pedal should not be significant, is very logical. I will order the Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals and cleats. The float specs for the Speedplay pedals were taken from the Speedplay brochure; http://www.speedplay.com/pubs/Speedplay_brochure_2009.pdf
        I assumed “unrestricted free float” = “release angle” which for light action is shown as 7.5 degrees.

        2. Esoles
        I will order size 45 to fit my size 46 SIDI and if necessary trim them if I change to size 45 Mega in future

        3. Indoor Trainer
        I decided to order CycleOps Jet Fluid Pro Trainer to analyse/adjust riding position instead of rollers as the bike will move around too much on rollers to get decent video. Also my wife may like to use the indoor trainer with her mountain bike.

        Regards
        Greg

  7. Thanks Steve. I’ll try what you suggest & hopefully this will stop creaks. Good win by Bunnies on weekend. I didn’t see game but saw field goal by Sandow….cracker. Shame he’s moving to Parra he seems to be coming good.

    1. G’day Darren,
      yes, let me know what happens. All grist for the mill. Re
      Bunnies; the incoming coach has a job on his hands. Plenty of talent but no
      structure that lasts 80 minutes. Next year will be interesting. I hope the
      Cowboys can hang on until Thurston returns. Bowen has had a rejuvenation
      pill or something!

  8. Hello Steve,

    This article has really caught my attention since I just ordered a new Adamo seat since my old seat is putting too much pressure on my perineum and I have had some lose of circulation due to that. Based on what I read the Adamo has great reviews in regards to not stopping the circulation in most of the positions on a bike. My question is would you recommend the Adamo or the SMP for complete perineum relief. The Adamo weights a lot more and since I race i would like to save weight where I can but not jeopardize my lower region which is more important. Also is there anyway to know when the seat is perfectly adjusted to your body while just looking? Thanks for the help I really want to figure this out otherwise I might just need to stop riding.

    Shaun

    1. G’day Shaun,
      Before spending money on a seat, have a look at the posts on seat height, seat setback, cleat position and bar position. All of these things can have an impact on on seat comfort. Foot correction does too, but to a lesser degree. I see a lot of people changing seats when often it isn’t the seat that is the problem, but rather where it is and how the rider is forced to bear their weight on it.

      This may not be the case with you; I have know way of knowing but think it worthy of mention.

      To the rest of your question. Adamos are a good seat for many people but all the models are very similar. SMPs come in a wide variety of widths and profiles and I think as a range, are superior ot Adamo’s. I’ve got to say though, that with SMP it is crucial to get the right one and set it at the right angle relative to horizontal. Adamo’s are less finicky when it comes to getting the adjustment right.

      No, there is no way of knowing whether a seat is perfect for you by just looking.

      Your last sentence implies that your seat discomfort is a major issue. If that is the case, the general solution lies in an improved position. A change of seat may or may not need to be part of that. Go through the posts I’ve mentioned, apply the info in them and reassess.

  9. Thank you very much Steve. I actually have gotten professionally bike fitted a couple of months ago and I do feel my body position is much better on the bike but in regards to the type of seat I use that wasn’t changed during the bike fitting. I also have a severe problem with my feet going numb and to this day have not found a solution even the fitter who I believe was very good and studied under Andy Pruit could solve my problem and suggested maybe to get an MRI. He actually moved me to look pedals which he said would distribute the pressure better but in all reality it didn’t do anything. At this point I’m going to switch back to my Speedplay pedals and go with the extension plate which gives you a bit more forward and backwards adjustments to play with hopefully after a few years that will be the solution. As for the seat I already purchased the Adamo so I guess I’ll try it out and if it doesn’t give me the relief then I’ll move to the SMP. Thanks for the help you have inspired me to keep on trying to figure this out.

    Shaun

    1. G’day Shaun,
      Foot numbness and perineal pressure together! I can’t help but be suspicious of your seat height and cleat position as this combination of problems usually has a component of both those issues. When you get the Speedplay extender plates, read and apply these posts in this order.
      How to Avoid Bike Fit Hell
      Seat Height: How Hard Can It Be
      Power to the Pedal: Cleat Position

      Let me know what happens.

      1. Hey Steve,

        Well I’ve given your words a lot of consideration and have decided to change my seat to an SMP my only problem now is choosing which one. I was riding on a Specialized Rolf 130mm which was comfortable besides the perennial pressure. I believe that either the Dynamic or the Evolution would be best but I’m not sure. The Evolution is not as wide as the Dynamic but I just want to make the right decision without having to buy two seats and add more to my collections. To be honest I was also using the Adamo Racing which is ok but like you said its not really a racing seat more like a time trial seat. I believe you understand whats best this is why I’m asking you and not the guy that fitted me before.

        Thanks again,

        Shaun

      2. G’day Shaun,
        I appreciate your faith but what’s wrong with sticking with
        the ISM if you are happy with it?
        Re the 2 SMP’s you have mentioned; the Evolution is likely only the best choice if you are unusually lightly built and skinny hipped. It has the same shell as the Composit but the shape of the padding and the way the the tumblehome drops quickly from the centre means that the effective width of the seat where it is ideal to sit on is very narrow.
        The Composit has the same over all width but the tumble home is much less meaning that it suits wider pelvic bases than the Evolution. That said, the Composit is very hard and puts a lot of people off because of that.

        So what I’m saying is that unless you are small and lightly built, you are probably better off with the Dynamic.

      3. Hey Steve,

        Thanks again for the advise it’s not that I’m not happy with the ISM but I just wanted to get a seat that gave me full relief and the ISM doesn’t really do that for me. It does put all the weight on my sit bone but the way its shaped makes me feel funny during a long ride. The Dynamic looks like it would feel better during longer rides than the Adamo I’m hoping. In any case I wanted to make the right decision before choosing an SMP seat and knew that you understood them well. I guess I’ll go with the Dynamic since I don’t think I’m lightly built but more in the middle. I weight 161lbs and am 5ft 8in so I am a little big but it’s more weight that I need to loose since I haven’t been riding in a little while. Now that I’m back I plan to ride at least 8-10 hrs a week hopefully. Thanks again with the help it’s real nice that you can help people like this. It’s a lot easier than traveling to Australia.

        Regards,

        Shaun

      4. G’day Shaun,
        At your weight and height, you shouldn’ have any problems
        with the Dynamic. Play around with the angle relative to horizontal. Basically more flexible equals more nose down to a maximum of 5 degrees. Less flexible means less nose down to a minimum of 1 – 2 degrees. A single degree of angle can make a large difference in comfort.

  10. Steve,

    Any idea on what saddle tilt angle works best for Prologo Scratch Pro saddles for a rider with tight piriformi and hips? Thanks

    1. G’day Mark,
      No I don’t. Pick the angle of seat that is comfortable.
      Typically, this will be 1 – 2 degrees up at the nose on most seats but there are plenty of exceptions. The angle of your seat is not going to address your piriformis and hip issues. Best case it will soften the impact. The 100% solution is to educate yourself about the problems, work our or be directed to the root causes and address them off the bike. You can only function on a bike as well as you function off the bike. In fact, on a bike we have less tolerance for issues like you mention be the rider is locked into a largely fixed relationship with the bike.

  11. Hi Steve,
    Creaking with saddle/seat post has stopped. I did as you suggested re spraying where rails enter front of seat and greasing “difflock” mechanism.
    It didn’t work straight away and I thought I had actually broken the tip
    of the saddle by being over zealous in trying to work the WD40 in there as there seemed to be too much play and the noises were still happening. However after a few rides no more noises which is excellent as they were giving me the you know whats. I did notice however on the weekend the saddle had moved back about 5mm in the rails. I find I have to use more torque than the 5NM recommended with the Palladio post to keep it secure. I’ll keep an eye on it. Thanks for your help Steve.

    1. G’day Darren,
      Glad that you got a result. It normally takes a while for the lube to work its way into the cantle plate and nose where rails locate. Re seat post torque. One problem with SMP’s is that as they have that rise towards the rear that functions as a ‘back rest’, they can over time slide backwards in such small increments that it isn’t noticed day to day. The only solution is to tighten the post a lot.

      Cowboys are looking good for September. I’m afraid that Souths have run their race. Next year……………….. Say hi to Des and Kerry.

  12. Hi Steve,
    Have read a lot of your blogs over the last couple days. I have been having serious issues with hamstring pain and excruciating saddle pain. We are going to lower the saddle again….. My question about saddles is this: I have gone with a narrow saddle as I feel like most are too wide. What I feel on even the narrow saddle is that it feels like my hamstrings are mashing into the side of the saddle. By the end of the ride the other day the mashing had led to a dull ache. I am wondering what you have to say about this. I am female, only 5 feet tall and have narrow hips.
    Delaine

    1. G’day Delaine,
      If your hamstrings are “mashing” into the side of the seat, it sounds to me like you are sitting off the back of the seat. Many women with comfort issues on a bike do try and sit almost on the rear edge of the seat to prevent genital pressure and contact with the seat. The problem with sitting off the back (if this is what you are doing) is :
      1. The hamstrings can get hammered
      2. The reach to the bars increases markedly.
      3. Sitting like this lessens the rider’s stability on the bike which usually means various aches, pains and discomforts in an attempt to enlist whatever musculature is possible to regain stability.

      The other thing is are you riding a bike with 700c wheels?
      If the answer is yes, then at 5 feet tall I would be VERY surprised if the bike is even close to fitting you.

      So the general thrust of what I’m saying is that your issues may not specifically a seat problem, but may well be a bike that isn’t going to fit well.

      Give me as much info as possible and I’ll attempt to help.

      1. Thanks Steve! I do sit off the back and am trying very hard to move forward! I am riding 700c wheels. I guess my husband needs to buy me a new bike!
        Delaine

      2. G’day Delaine,
        You are likely to need a custom frame with 650c wheels and
        some care taken with choice of seat. 165mm cranks are the shortest crank size available from major manufacturers. You are likely to need cranks much shorter than that also. Probably in the 155mm to possibly 160mm range. I’d suggest having a look at Lennard Zinn’s website and High Sierra Cycles website for info on short cranks.

        I hope hubby antes up for a bike that fits well. Best of luck

      3. Thanks Steve! Where does one even start on having a custom frame build? That seems a daunting task! Can you suggest a builder in the U.S.? Thank you for all the time you spend on the blog! I have learned a lot reading your articles!
        Delaine

  13. Hi Steve,
    In your recent reply to Shaun re: Less flexible means less nose down to a minimum of 1 – 2 degrees are you talking about the flexibility of the rider and a minimum of 1-2 degrees meaning a minimum of 1-2 degrees up or down? A less flexible rider would benefit more from a nose up?

    1. To clarify Mark,
      The SMP Composit, Dynamic, Forma and Lite 209 are
      designed to be ridden at any angle from level to nose down 5 degrees. Which is best for any rider is a matter of trial and error. One correlation I’ve found in most cases is that the people who bend forward well with least lumbar flexion can cope with a greater nose down angle than those who bend forward less well and / or do it with a lot of lumbar flexion. The less flexible people can have their nose down 5 degrees if they wish to but often there may be unintended negative consequences.

      1. Thanks Steve,

        What are some angles for other saddles…particularly Prologo Scratch or something like a Fizik Aliante? Would these be more nose up (maximum of 5 degrees)? Thanks.

      2. G’day Marc,
        I don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of what is required
        with every brand and model. Always there is an individual component as to what works best. Most seats work best in the range of seat nose down 1 degree to seat nose up 2 degrees. SMP’s are an exception.

  14. Gday all. This is a FYI post – a sharing experience.
    I have SMP Dynamic (great seat – thanks Steve!) and I bought 3T Dorico Pro setback (25mm?) seat-post for it. I have been having a number of issues on this seat-post combo – seat sliding, tilt hard to control, hard to secure cradle bolts, etc. Close examination revealed that seat-post clamp cradle does not match the rails on my SMP Dynamic well at all. So 3T post been junked – replaced by a Thomson Elite seatpost where SMP Dynamic rails fit very well. No more tilt issues, no more sliding rails issues. I dont know if its SMP Dynamic rails problem or 3T seat-post cradle but visual inspection suggests the cradle is the problem (it does not look straight) else I would not expect SMP Dynamic to fit snug into Thomson Elite cradle either…. Plus I have same Thomson Elite post with SMP Stratos and SMP Evolution seats on other bikes (and Fizik Arione/Aliante seats before SMP) so with so many different seats I blame the 3T Dorico Pro seat-post. Caveat Emptor. Dont assume the seat will fit the post.

    1. G’day Yuri,
      I’m planning a detailed post on SMP’s but have not got to it
      yet. SMP’s cannot satisfactorily be paired with 3T Dorico posts. SMP’s have seat rails that have a much different angle relative to the upper than most other seats. There is not enough adjustment in the Dorico to allow the nose down angle that many SMP riders need without having the rear of the two fixing bolts quite loose.

      The other seat post that doesn’t work well with SMP’s is the proprietary Pinarello seat post supplied as standard with Pinarello Dogma frames. There is no substitute because the Dogma will only accept the Pinarello post.

      1. Hello Steve,

        I have the pinarello prince would the stock seat post work well with the SMP? I just purchased it but it didn’t arrive yet, that wouldn’t be cool if it didn’t fit into the seat post.

  15. Is there a process when selecting a SMP Saddle? I currently use the Specialized Expert Toupe 143mm on all 3 of my bikes. It works okay, but I’m thinking I could be more comfortable. Any suggestions on the selection process for the SMP Saddle line. Want to stay with a light saddle, but still need something to save my bum from a rock hard surface. I’m in the process of applying some of the techniques that I have read in Steve’s Blog.

    1. G’day Stone Cutter,
      Toupes are a good seat that suit a lot of people.
      Their only weakness is that the light shell will sag over time. I would suggest sorting your position out before you try an SMP. Most seat problems can be resolved with a good position. Once you’ve achieved that to your satisfaction, then try and SMP as doing so at the moment will only add another variable to what you are trying to work out. There is a post in the works about SMP’s in detail but I can’t say with certainty when it will go up.

      If you like the Toupe and find the width fine but that it is too hard, try an SMP Lite 209. Despite the name, they aren’t light. The carbon railed version is significantly lighter and absorbs a lot more shock. I’ve got Composits on 3 bikes with one of them being the carbon railed version. Composits are unpadded and there is an amazing difference in bump absorption between the carbon and steel railed versions.

      1. I like the hardness of the Toupe. I feel with the 143mm width that my legs are not swinging like they should…I’m getting some leg rub. I am considering the SMP Dynamic when I do purchase. Concerning the carbon railed version, is it worth the extra cash for the absorption properties of the carbon rails? At 170 pounds, do I need to be worried about the carbon rails failing? I use a Thomson Elite set back seatpost. I use Speedplay pedals, and after reading your Blog on Cleat Position, I adjusted my cleats as far back as possible (about 3mm) without the use of the Speedplay fore/aft extender. Probably purchase the extenders based on the amount of adjustment I had available. I’ll play with that for now, understanding that my seat height will need to be adjusted. I wear a Sidi Narrow 47 cycling shoe. What about saddle fore/aft adjustment after the cleat adjustment? Will I need to make any adjustments to the saddle fore/aft position?

      2. G’day StoneCutter,
        Re seat rub; the Dynamic has a wider mid section
        than the Toupe and if seat rub is the issue, the Dynamic may not be ideal for you. If you like hard seats, then the Dynamic has only thin padding.
        Re carbon rails; they are unlikely to break under your weight. The carbon rails are much more comfortable and how much emphasis you should place on that is down to the road surfaces that you ride over. I’m your weight and cope comfortably on the rock hard Composit with steel rails (though it took me 3 weeks several years ago to come to grips with it). However, my other Composit has carbon rails and almost feels like it is padded.

        Re seat movement post cleat movement; treat it as a separate issue. Once you have moved your cleats, re check your seat height and seat setback using the procedures listed in the various posts on those matters.

  16. Steve,

    I am curious into what your opinion was to the UCI trying to demand a “horizontal” saddle for TTT in the TdF? I think it is absolutely ridiculous for them to say that a saddle that is angle down provides the rider with more lumbar support, and therefore the ability to push a larger gear. How much would it effect these riders’ power output by changing the tilt of their saddles moments before the TTT. Cadel Evans said he had to raise is saddle tilt angle by 2mm, wouldn’t this theoretically change his hip/back/knee angle and overall fit?

    1. G’day Marc,
      In the past the UCI has banned seats with backrests and I
      think the current ban is some sort of extension of that. I think the arbitrary way that the UCI makes ad hoc decisions regarding legality of bikes and positions is a bad joke but that is the way that it is.

      What effect on output moments before a TT?
      No idea. Still, unsettling for the riders who have trained in a position for some time to have to make last minute changes.

      Yes, raising the seat nose would change various body relationships but I don’t see that as the major problem. The last minute application of this ‘rule’ halfway through the season is the major problem.

      A quick look at UCI history (and these are only the ones that I remember). Moser broke the hour record with disc wheels which were clearly illegal under the UCI stipulation of the time that spoked wheels were necessary for a legal bike. But the UCI said “okay, they are single spoked wheels” which is semantic bullshit.

      Lemond using aero bars which were illegal under the “only 3 points of contact” rule at the time but they were passed by a UCI Commissaire.

      Making Spinaci and similar aero bars road legal and then banning them a
      couple of years later.

      Passing the brake levers of the first version of Mavic Mektronic prior to
      production and then banning them as soon as Mavic had produced them.

      Bringing in the 3:1 aero profile rule without warning part way through a
      season.

      And so on, and so on and so on.

  17. Hey Steve,

    I started experimenting with the saddle tilt and for some reason when I lowered the saddle tilt from about 3 degrees nose up to 1 degree nose up I experienced numbness…any ideas of what could have caused this? I went back to my old, but I was just wondering since I saw you said if someone rides a saddle nose more nose up than 2 degrees there is something wrong..but it seemed to work for me. (I guess the saying is right..”if it ain’t broke don’t fix it).

    1. What sort of seat is it?
      Dropping the seat nose 2 degrees causes a shift in how you support your weight. Having the seat nose up 3 degrees rolls your pelvis back and increases lumbar flexion. That it feels comfortable at an angle of 3 degrees nose up, but not nearly so at 1 degree nose up almost certainly means that you have your seat too far forward.

      1. Steve,

        It is a Prologo scratch pro Ti 1.4 Saddle. When I have it any lower than nose up 3 degrees, I don’t feel it is level…and when it is saddle nose up 3 degrees I feel very comfortable in the “hammock” sweet spot.

        Is lumbar flexion necessarily a bad thing if there isn’t any pain in the low back? Don’t riders such as Lance Armstrong and Johan Van Summeren ride with a lot of lumbar flexion? I just feel when the saddle is more nose down I get low back pain.

        Would a saddle with more nose up tend “help” not “fix” a rider that does not bend forward well because of tight hips and back and/or have a short torso length.

      2. G’day Marc,
        I can’t see you and if you are comfortable, I would be the last person to tell you that you are wrong. However, I will say that often, when people need the seat nose higher than average to feel like the seat is level, the real issue is lack of seat setback. In your case, without personal contact, only you can decide.

      3. Steve,
        So I take it you are not a believer of John Cobb’s claims to riding saddle nose up to angles up 10 degrees? I saw this on his website and it sounds counterintuitive, which can sometimes be the case with bike fitting…just wondering your thoughts.

      4. Ok,
        Well I wouldn’t go as much as that high nose up…that’s why I was asking if you have ever heard of that.

      5. Marc,
        My concern is this. The site has become a time pit and while I’m happy to answer serious questions in an effort to help people, this doesn’t fall into this category. I’ve got no time or interest in commenting on every idea out there unless it is relevant and has wider interest. You ask a lot of questions and tell me that you are interested in bike fitting. The best way to further your interest is to get first hand experience. If you want to know what a seat set 10 degrees up at the nose is like and what effect it will have, do it to your own seat and you will find out as much as there is to know first hand.

  18. Hi Steve,
    speaking of saddles, i would be interested in knowing your opinion on leather saddles. I have tried some, and contrary to most peoples experience, i like them when they are new. I am quite heavy at 95kg, and they start sagging very quickly specially after some wet rides and after that i find it difficult to set them up correctly. Also it is hard to get enough set back. I see people riding completely sagged brooks and i really do not know how they manage.
    I recently rode paris brest on a smp lite 209. It is a very nice saddle but only up to 900km: can you ask for more to a saddle? Does this mean that it is the right saddle but i should change riding style, like standing on the pedals more often?
    I am now taking some time off the bike, in the mean time i drilled some holes to place the cleats in the arch position to experiment this autumn, i’ll let you know how that works out,
    Thanks a lot for your help
    Ranieri

    1. G’day Ranieri,
      I’ve never had much luck with leather seats at a personal level but know plenty who swear by them. The biggest problem with most leather saddles including most of the Brooks range is lack of set back. The seat rail placement relative to the seat upper effectively pushes the seat upper forwards as compared to almost any other seat; often substantially. The Brooks Swallow is an exception only because the seat shoulders are so bar towards the rear that reasonable setback is possible.
      To get the best out of most leather saddles, the rider will either genuinely need a steeper than average seat tube angle or is best served with a custom frame designed around the leather seat. Brooks are heavy but well made and the tension of the leather can be adjusted with a spanner or allen key depending on hte model. Most of their lookalike competition are lower quality and sag quickly and easily to the point where they run out of tension adjustment.

      The SMP Lite 209 was good for 900kms. I’m impressed. I’ve fitted a lot of PBP riders and find that riders over 65kg always have seat comfort issues at some stage. 1200kms is a long way to ride in one hit. I think the common discomfort is a product of bearing significant weight on a small area for a long time. I think at 95kg and finding the seat okay up to the 900km mark is probably as good as it gets. The longest I’ve ridden in a day is 430 kms and that cured me of any interest in ultra endurance riding! Maybe the same will happen to you. (only joking)

  19. Steve,

    Very insightful discussion. Currently riding an SMP Pro on two bikes, and overall very happy. I am considering what a slightly narrower SMP would do for me in leg motion. I haven’t seen you reference the SMP Pro in any of your posts and wonder how you compare it to the Lite 209 for fit.

    1. G’day Jeff,
      If you are looking for a narrower seat than the Lite 209, I’m not sure why you are looking at the Pro. It is a wide seat and supposedly should suit larger riders but have a look at the shape from above. At the rear it is flat on either side of the perineal cutout for a short distance and then drops off steeply at the sides. This means that it doesn’t provide nearly as wide a platform to sit on as a first glance suggests. For those that need a wide seat in the SMP range, I far prefer the Avant because it offers a wider effective platform.

      If you are looking for a narrower seat than the 209, have a look at the Composit. They are a great seat for those not particularly wide hipped and who can tolerate an unpadded seat. The Evolution and Stratos are built on the same shell as the Composit but are effectively much narrower in terms of platform for the same reason as the Pro; they drop off quickly from the centre cutout.

  20. D’day Steve,

    I’m afraid I wasn’t clear. I’m currently on the Pro, and considering a narrower saddle. The next narrower down per SMP’s spec is the Lite 209, but as you say, the width isn’t the whole story, the profile/shape is. I’m wondering how the Lite 209 fit compares to the fit of the Pro. I’m reading into your description of the profile of the Pro that because of the dropoff at the rear the difference between it and the Lite 209 isn’t as great as the 10mm width spec might indicate?

    1. G’day Jeff,
      The Pro seems to be designed for large people and more upright comfort style riding. The Lite 209 is for medium to large people and is a performance seat with plenty of firm padding. There is much more dip in the profile as viewed from the side than on the Pro which means that the rider can ride with 209 more nose down and with a flatter pelvis; assuming they are reasonably flexible. How tall are you and what is your weight.

  21. Thanks, Steve for the additional info. 6′ even, 200 lbs. I’ve gradually moved my saddle back farther and am more comfortable that way. A few other measurements in case that’s helpful. Saddle height 78.1cm, setback 9.8cm (72 degree SA and in the middle of the rails with a Fizik Cyrano post), saddle tip to bar center 59.7cm, saddle-bar drop 5.5cm. I lean toward being more stretched out than having a lot of saddle-bar drop.

    Thanks for the insights and your open sharing of your expertise!

    1. G’day Jeff,If the 200lbs is all ‘real’, then sight unseen and assuming you are a moderately wide hipped, stocky build, then Glider may be the pick for you. If the 200lbs means that you are carrying excess and are not moderately wide in the hips, then more likely the Lite 209.

  22. G’day Steve,

    Hmmm… real…. :). In my best days 35 years ago, nordic ski racer @ 168-172 lbs if that helps with the story Not sure how to assess “moderately wide in the hips”. We may have taken this conversation as far as we can via the web unless you think otherwise. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

    1. G’day Jeff,If your lean, mean weight was around 170lbs at 6′, then the Lite 209 or the Dynamic is a safe bet. They both use the same shell and rails with the Lite 209 being generously padded and the Dynamic being lightly padded. Which one you choose of the two will depend on whether you like a really firm seat (Dynamic) or a firm but well padded seat (Lite 209)

  23. Steve,

    First, let me state my appreciation for the time you have been willing to spend, the patience you demonstrate, and the wisdom you share so freely with all of us punters. (On that note, I really think that you should add a PayPal ‘donate’ button to your blog. I assure you that the information here has real value, and hopefully people recognize this and are willing to cough up some dough to demonstrate it..)

    Secondly, you refer to your intention to do a blog post about SMP saddles. Something that would be extremely helpful, and why SMP don’t do it themselves is beyond me, would be a simple table describing how all the various models relate to each other. For example, just knowing that the 209 and the Dynamic share all features except for padding, is quite useful.

    Thanks and kind regards.

    1. G’day Erik,
      Thank you for your kind words. It’s funny that you mention a
      ‘donate’ button. I have been trying to reconcile the amount of time that I’ve spent writing posts and answering questions with a burning need to ride my bike and spend spare time with family. I haven’t done much of either for some months as the site has been my major non work focus. I need to generate some sort of income for the time spent if I’m to continue to put the time in. I don’t want advertising and have canned the idea of subscriptions and am so far resisting the idea of ‘pay per view’. You suggestion might work. I’ll talk to Jason The Web Guy and see where it leads.

      Re a post on SMP’s; I’ve wanted to write one for some time and keep getting distracted by other matters and subjects. Same with a post on knee pain. I’ll make sure that they are the next two major posts.

    2. Hi Erik- Yes, the donate button may be a good idea as Steve is very generous with his time… Perhaps too generous. However, I would also suggest his eBooks in the store… “Tales From a Real Bike Shop” is a very fun read! Or, the bike fitting Q&A eBooks have lots of info. It’s a win-win, Steve gets something for his time (and “real” beer) and you get a good book.

  24. Indeed, ‘Tales’ and the Flexibility manual are on my list of items to purchase. It’s just that donating at the blog is a clearer ‘Quid Pro Quo’ feedback mechanism that directly supports Steve’s blogging time.

  25. Hey steve,

    Just wanyed some info if you don’t mind, wish you were in QLD lol.

    In Toowoomba and have Borrowed a real SMP Stratos, only one they have. I find that i have a narrow sit bone. I have test the Fizik’s Arione CX and a Prologue Scratch. The Scratch no good, but the Cx was ok, just wondering on how you would compair the Stratos to the CX? It’s a little narrow but for race and comfit feel?

    Matthew

    1. G’day Matt,
      It’s hard to advise on matters like this. I’ve never done
      more than sit on an Arione CX briefly and Stratos don’t suit me. The only way you will find out is to try them yourself. Preferably on a longer ride so that you can fiddle and adjust.

      1. Steve,

        Thanks for the quick reply.

        It is a hard issue due to not used sdifferent seats.

        I wen out on the smp this morning for 50ks (wife ha to go to work) and it felt ok bit it felt like my thig was rubbing against the seat.

        It’s weird. I’m 6’2 and 78kg have play comp sport all my live but I seem to have a narrow tail bone. Even when I run the inside of my legs chaff.

        The arione was good and I felt the difference to the standard seat straight away. The smp I’m not to sure on. I ended up with some knee pain towards the end but this would be a fitting issue. Due to. Dodgy knee to start of with.

        Also sorry but while I’m writing this. I see in another article that u said about uneven hips and legs. I feel like I’m sitting on one side of my tail bone more. Would this be due to uneven lengths ?

        Matthew

      2. G’day Matthew,
        Yes, it could be because of different leg length but it is more likely due to other pelvic asymmetries. It can also happen if the seat is too high or there is any other challenge to your position. We will attempt to compensate for any challenge to our position with the problem being that all of our compensatory mechanisms make us function more asymmetrically.

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