Being a bike fit studio with a sports medicine background, we see our fair share of poorly fit bikes. More often than not, we find that along with a poor fit, cyclists are sitting on a saddle that is not ideal for their particular anatomy, posture, and range of motion deficits. We have found that what may work for one individual can be disastrous for another. Much like a fingerprint, each cyclist brings to the bike a unique pedal stroke, anatomy, and list of previous injuries that can all affect how he/she sits on a saddle.
Looking at the saddle pressure data above, you will notice that a change in saddle resulted in a much more stable pelvis with no high pressure points, symmetrical pressure on the saddle, and more loading on the pubic rami due to better pelvic positioning. Listed below are the top 3 injuries we see in our office due to poor saddle choice.
1. Low Back Pain.
Keep in mind, the lumbar spine is connected to the pelvis so where the pelvis goes, the lumbar spine follows. Therefore, low back pain can be caused by two dysfunctional movements of the pelvis on the saddle: too much side to side movement whipping the spine or the pelvis posteriorly tilted excessively, thus rounding the back.
Ideally, the pelvic rami and the front portion of our sit bones are anchored on the saddle. When saddles are too narrow, the sit bones can fall off the edge causing side to side movement of the pelvis.
The shape of the saddle can cause some cyclists discomfort in the soft tissue area. In order to avoid compression on the soft tissues, the cyclist will rock his/her pelvis backwards, thus rounding the back. Hard efforts or climbing will increase force on the pedal, however, with the low back rounded, the core is not in position to stabilize the spine from the equal and opposite reaction of the pedal pushing back up into the cyclist. Repetitive flexion of the lumbar spine will cause fatigue and eventually pain in the surrounding musculature and spine.
2. Anterior Knee Pain.
Just like the back, a posteriorly tilted pelvis can cause knee pain. When the pelvis rocks backwards, the cylist can develop quadricep dominance and glute inhibition during the pedal stroke. Overuse of the quad can pull on the patella tendon either creating patellar tendinitis/osis or bursitis. Combine this with an alignment issue of the patella (due to any number of things), the patella may become depressed awkwardly into the groove of the femur resulting in Patellofemoral pain. Ideally, the cyclists should be able to rock their pelvis forward, engaging the glute muscles. However, this position is compromised when the soft tissue area is compressed due to a poor choice in saddle.
3. Numb Hands or Neck Pain.
Once again a posteriorly tilted pelvis can be the culprit of pain on the bike. Since the spine is unable to remain in a neutral position due to the cyclist sitting straight up on their sit bones, the back rounds into a C-curve, bringing the trunk AWAY from the handle bars and setting up the neck to look more down than forward as well as causing the scapulae(shoulder blades) to rotate forward on the ribcage. With the scapulae winged out and forward and the neck cranking up to see the road, muscles such as the Trapezius become overworked, fatigued, and tight. Furthermore, if the pedaling action isn’t holding the cyclist up because they are unable to maintain neutral spine, the arms will lock out causing undue pressure of the hands on the handlebars. Artery and nerves can also become entrapped in the axilla (armpit) from the protracted (forward) scapula position.
Many shops and fit studios offer a risk-free saddle testing program giving you the opportunity to try out saddles before you buy. At Press Play Performance Labs, we use saddle pressure analysis to find the right fit and saddle for each individual to help narrow down the saddle options before he/she takes them out for a test ride. This gives us the most scientific process to determine which saddle may be the right fit for an individual.Read more →