On road bikes the saddle makes a huge difference in how you feel during and after a long ride. A bad seat can wear you out and leave you in misery. Bike manufacturers tend to equip their bikes with cheap saddles for the bike shop showroom floor. These uncomfortable saddles save them money but leave us riders wanting something better! How do you choose a new saddle other than to keep buying saddles and riding them until you find one that works? Well, if you have a great local bike shop like Oakdale Bike Shop they will have some quality saddles like Selle SMP saddles and they will have some demo saddles that you can try out before you buy!
Before trying the Sella SMP saddles I read quite a few saddle reviews and came to like the concept behind the SMP design. It is unique in the full length cut out and the turned down beak with a raised rear. The sides of the seat may look uncomfortable, but Selle SMP has put a great deal of study in to matching the seat to the load carrying parts of your backside. What are these load carrying parts your ask? The actual part of the pelvis that we sit on is the ischiopubic ramus. Steve Hogg has a great discussion about this in his bike fitting blog on SMP saddles so I won't go into it any further here. The big takeaway from Steve's post is that while you can get a better idea of which seat will be the right width by measuring your 'sitbone' separation width or even waist size the final determination will be made by riding on the saddle.
I reviewed his advice and went into the LBS wanting to try a Glider seat. It seemed to be the best match based on the waist measurement chart by SMP. It seemed to work alright and was a definite improvement over the OEM seat that came with my Giant Defy Advanced One. Still, I thought that it could be better and these seats are expensive so I tried another seat, the Lite 209. The shape of the seat worked better for me and I thought the padding worked will for me. As a result I ended up choosing the Selle SMP Lite 209 for my saddle. I have done several century rides since making the choice, including the Seattle to Portland ride, and have no regrets or sore rear ends afterwards!
It did take some effort to get it adjusted correctly. The SMP seats have a unique profile shape with a down sloping beak and a dip in the middle on the two separate rails. The rear of the seat kicks up higher than a normal seat as well. This shape means that you cannot go by the traditional seat adjustment advice of setting the seat level to the ground. This would result in the front actually angling up and not be very comfortable. My current adjustment has a 10 mm drop from the back of the seat to the front of the seat as shown in the picture. Getting the drop right can be a challenge with the typical toothed saddle clamp. I found it a challenge to fine tune the angle, either ending up with it too high or too low in the front. I intend to do some slight tuning of the drop in the coming weeks and will be trying out what I hope will solve this problem. I will be cutting out a shim from an aluminum beer can to fit between the two part of the seat post clamp. The can wall is thin and soft enough to deform when clamped, yet should allow me to make smaller adjustments that the teeth of the clamp. I will let you know how this turns out!