19 Mar 2015

19 March 2015 [2] More rambling

I am getting on well with the Vetta saddle. Though it hasn't quite disappeared completely at all times. The absence of  attention seeking is a sure sign of a potentially comfortable saddle. It is too soon to make any firm decisions yet. Though I am really hoping to break my dependence on Brooks leather-clad armchairs. I am still trying to get my head around how to measure saddle position [height and fore-and-aft] when there are so many factors to take into consideration. The sit bones rest on the back but many [most] saddles have at least some sag [deliberate or through wear] in the middle. How the sag relates to the soft tissues is difficult to be certain. I am still of the opinion that Brooks comfort comes from lowering the pressure [per square centimetre/yard or mile] of the rider's crutch against the supporting leather. The closer the fit the greater the area of support. The worse the support the higher and more localised the pressure on the sit bones. With extremely rare exemptions only the leather saddle [and possibly rubber] conforms well to the rider's unmentionable anatomy.

Modern saddles are all but rigid whatever the manufacturer's blatant lies sales hype. However flexible the carcase itself, the rails support the saddle at either end to produce a rigid triangle incapable of any real flexure. The San Marco flexes nicely at the rear when not actually clamped up on a trike or bike. Add the saddle pin and all the flexure simply vanishes. The triangle formed by the rails and saddle top is in-deformable! Geometry demands it! You can't just press down on the corners of a triangle and expect the hypotenuse to stretch! It is incapable of stretching. The rails are the only thing which can still flex but are usually far too stout to do so. In the standard saddle form only a material capable of stretching is able to flex enough to conform to the rider's rest areas. Stiffness and rigidity under tension is not a remotely desirable trait in saddle carcasses. Rubber or [eventually] softened leather are however, well proven. To further exaggerate the problem of rail stiffness the saddle clamp covers a large section of the rails. This greatly reduces the potential for desirable flexure in the rails.  

If saddles are to become soft enough to accept road shocks then the rails should be reduced to mere stumps in the middle. Leaving the normally rigid carcase to bend down at the ends to provide suspension. Steel rails are the worst offender in removing any chance of natural suspension due to their stiffness in the common diameter. If Brooks saddles really were hammocks then they would be comfortable right out of the box. The leather has to be broken in before it is flexible enough to absorb road shocks. The rider's sit bones are supporting the massive inertia of the rider's body mass. So they remain almost still while the bike/trike bucks on uneven road surfaces. Your sits bones are acting like stiletto heels bouncing on a thin bit  of skin and it hurts! Lifting your bum off off the saddle provides the superb suspension system of your bent legs. Suddenly you can ride over potholes and cobbles without discomfort while the bike below you, freed of your fixed body mass on the saddle, can jump about all over the place.

The height of the supporting carcase above the clamp also varies quite considerably. With the Brooks being relatively deep at about 45mm. While skinny, modern saddles look remarkably shallow. Under 30mm. Even to the point of making it quite difficult to get a normal [Cinelli] saddle clamp to fit under the low roof of the carcase. Saddle setting [height, tilt and longitudinal] is important for efficient pedalling and to avoid potential knee problems. Yet the saddle manufacturers keep moving the goal posts. It used to be said that pros would take their shoes [and their saddles] when they moved from one team or bike to another. How they cope with sponsored saddle contracts I hesitate to think. Re-badged saddles by another maker or unique 'specials' for a particular rider has been suggested in the cycling press.

Saddle soreness has always been the final arbiter of the length of my own rides. Only the Brooks B17 offers the necessary comfort in my experience and then only under specific saddle conditions. I find a sagging saddle more uncomfortable than a flatter spine. Which makes a fully broken in saddle more undesirable than one "frozen in time" at some desirable point in its progress. Tying the flaps [skirts] stiffens the saddle spine in both benign and unfortunate ways. It certainly stops the unwanted sagging but removes some useful suspension. The stiffness adds to road shocks being sent up through the saddle.

I had another idea which would surely be instantly banned by the UCI since no drugs, blinkers or extended, unpaid holidays abroad were involved: A rocking [see-saw] saddle pin! With large screw adjustment stops fore and aft for adjusting while "on the go." The gentle rocking on a central pivot would allow the rider to choose a slightly nose down saddle for tri-bar/triathlon/ TT/racing on the drops without that nasty localised pressure at the front.

While a simple shift of weight backwards would allow a very slightly nose-up saddle angle. Which would be much better for comfort while sitting up on the hoods in the bunch or when climbing. Any angle between the two could be easily arranged by the rider's, deliberate weight shifting to enjoy maximum comfort. An adjustable friction device at the pivot would be easily arranged. This would avoid over-sensitivity to the rider's accidental weight shift. Just don't mention it to the UCI!

Sky hook, bike rack outside an Assens discount supermarket. This bike rack is wrong on so many levels! Stop laughing at the back! Note the arrowed bars which deny any normal cycle tyre the ability to enter the provided slots between the supporting bars! 

This bike rack is positioned exactly where the laziest car owning customers will always park nearest to the shop entrance. Making the rack all but useless for much of the time because of lack of access and inability to fit a full length of bike at right angles between the wall and all the parked cars. 

Now add in the cars parked outboard of the shopping trolley cage arranged just to the left of the bicycle rack. Almost every car will be parked very close to the railings. Which denies access to pedestrian or cyclists to pass along the railings to get to the supermarket entrance. 

So, even if you did somehow manage to park your bike using the prop stand, you stand little chance of being able to get your bike or trike back out again from behind all the parked cars which arrived after you left your bike/trike at the rack! You will also be expected to walk the long way around all the parked cars to walk between the rack and the shop entrance. Only in [cycling friendly] Denmark!  I kid you not! The Danish cycle rack manufacturer's sticker is still present on their modern [non-functional] installation art but I will save their blushes too by not mentioning names to protect the guilty. 

Another 20 miles in a sickening, stinking, toxic, muddy, anti-social, farmer's paradise on mud earth. Remember how we [rural dwellers] must suffer so that you may enjoy your routinely tortured and antibiotic-resistant bacon.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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