Saddle shopping

This isn't the bike shop I went too.

A couple of years ago I was having trouble with all the saddles I owned and tried a few new ones, the San Marco Rolls and San Marco Regal.  Both saddles fixed my saddle sore problems and the Regal provided a decent level of comfort.  This year something seemed to change.  I’m not sure if it was me or the Regal but I wasn’t able to get comfortable on it, especially in a more aggressive position.  I began researching saddles the Specialized model called the Romin kept coming up.  My Dad was doing the same thing so we decided to drive to a far away bike shop that had a wide selection of specialized saddles and check them out.

I’ll give you a complete rundown on the saddle I bought later when I’ve got more miles on it, but I’d like to document the saddle shoping experience at the bike shop which will go unnamed.  First off I’m automatically skeptical of most bike shop employees, I’ve been told a lot of nonsense in a completely matter of fact way by guys who may ride a few hundred miles a year.  A good rule of thumb to follow, if they act like they have all the answers they probably don’t have any answers.  I tried to keep an open mind though for this trip.

Specialized uses an impressively small amount of materials to package their saddles, basically just a plastic card so that you can get a good look at the saddle from every side.  After spending several minutes taking in all the sizes and variations we asked salesman #1 a question about the Romin and sizing.  He looked me over and said it was a great saddle, everyone was riding it.  They come in 3 widths and he was riding the widest a 155, I should probably be too.  When I asked about the Specialized butt-o-meter thing he told me to sit on it.  I did and he glanced at it, “Yeah 155.”  My BS detector was going off.  The guy had barely looked at it, and even then I don’t think there were any marks to measure.

Salesman #1 walked off and came back a few minutes later, he looked almost kind of let down we were still standing there looking at saddles.  I told him I was really interested in the saddle but scared to pay over a 100 dollars for a saddle I had never tested.  He told me again that it was a good saddle.  I asked if there was a bike in the shop with one on it so I could at least sit on one.  He said no, no bike in the shop had that saddle, and then he lumbered off with a bored expression on his face.

It took me about 30 seconds to spot a Specialized Tarmac with that saddle mounted.  I sat on the bike and immediately thought the saddle had a good fit, if I could have mounted the bike in a trainer or took it for a little spin I  would have been super happy.  Salesman #2 came out of hiding and asked if I needed any help.  I told him I was interested in the saddle on this bike, and like  #1 he said, it’s a good saddle we’re all riding it.  I started asking about size and he said, almost everyone rides a 143, the middle size.  We went to the butt-o-meter and he spent several minutes showing us how to sit on it and how to measure the marks.  My measurements came out near 143, my dad’s closer to 155.

My Dad went on to ask salesman #2 about bikes and frame sizes #2 was much more interested in talking bikes or at least didn’t act bored and wander off from us in the middle of a question.  He was one of those master frame size fitters whose so good he can size you up from a quick glance.  He told my Dad he was riding a way to large bike, he should be on a size 54cm  Most people around 6 foot ride a 58, or maybe a 56, or 60 depending on their inseam, but a 54 is probably way to small.  The guy was absolute about it though.

I spent several minutes walking around the store looking at incredibly overpriced merchandise.  Carbon wheel sets that cost more than twice what a new bike costs, 25 dollar tubes of chamois cream,  and clothing that I couldn’t even begin to afford.  If the only option for me to purchase bike stuff was a LBS, I’d have nothing or be broke.

Finally as we were about to purchase our saddles we encountered salesman #3 who come flying into the sales floor from the back like a hurricane, this guy reached out for an enthusiastic handshake and asked we he could help us with.  He acted like we were old buddies and treated us with the utmost friendship.  I could tell he was a racer from his lack of body fat and buldging leg muscles.  We asked about the Romin and he told us he was racing one and loving it, could hardly tell he was sitting on anything until 80-90 miles.  We talked components and he proved to be very knowledgeable.  We talked about Cannondales, of which he had unbridled enthusiasm; he was a die hard fan.  During our conversation at no time did he act bored or talk down to us.  This is what a bike shop salesman should be like.

I bought the 120 dollar Specialized Romin expert in a size 143 and my dad got the Comp in 155.  When I got home and tried to explain to my wife why I needed a 120 dollar saddle I ran into wall.  I talked my way over it when I explained how to saddle was designed to maximize blood flow to the neither regions.

 

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About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Rants, Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Saddle shopping

  1. jrezz71 says:

    Hey Matt, I hope the saddle works out for you! A couple of years ago I did a lot of reading about saddles and visited a lot of bike shops to see what they’d recommend. It seemed like the majority of shops in my area were pushing thick gel seats, as I was a “big guy”, which was contrary to everything I was reading on various bike forums.
    The more I read, the more Brooks kept popping up people seemed happy with them once they were once broken in. My biggest gripe with Brooks was finding a LBS listed on Brooks website as a stocking dealer that had any saddles in stock. I finally broke down and ordered up a B17 Champion Special, sight unseen. I’m glad I bought it, as it’s a good fit for me and has proven to be quite comfortable.
    John

  2. Forrest says:

    There are a bunch of bike shops in Seattle, and most of them, well, you could walk in and have the same experience. Turns out it pays to shop around for a good shop, as much as for a good bike.

    I hope the saddle works out for you. For future reference, though, Fizik (sorry, Fi’zi:k, with goofy punctuation) has a demo program for their saddles. Some shops that sell them have a pill of loaners. I wasn’t happy with the one that came with my last bike, and I bought another one, a popular one, to replace it, but that wasn’t quite right, either. The shop took it back, and lent me another one. They told me to bring it back after a week, and either buy one, or borrow a different one. That was a year and a half ago, and I’m still happy with what I wound up with. If you find yourself needing a new saddle in the future, or get asked about one, I’d suggest borrowing test saddles to see whether they get along with your butt before laying the money down. Not every shop will let you … and that’s why most people don’t know it’s an option to begin with.

    • Matt Gholson says:

      Yeah good advice, I have the fortune and unfortune of living in the hinterlands, the closest shop is an hour away, this one was 1.5 hours drive, which makes return trips kind of a hassle, but I was kind of hinting around at testing one and got nothing. I know of another shop would have gladly loaned m any saddles they had laying around in the store, but we called and they didn’t have the one we were looking for.

      • Forrest says:

        Bummer. And, yeah, driving three hours to test out a saddle isn’t the most convenient option, either. I wonder how much that’d add to the cost with today’s gas prices…?

      • jrezz71 says:

        My local Specialized shop will gladly put any saddle you’re looking at on your bike or a store bike and let you cruise around the parking lot on it for a while.. not as good as a week long test ride, but better than nothing.
        I bought my Brooks from wallbike.com, as they offered a 6 month ride on it and if you don’t like it exchange it or return it deal.

  3. Matt Gholson says:

    I once bought a brooks saddle for wallbike too. A special Red model, paid 80 bucks for the saddle and care kit. One of the best saddles I ever owned until I started getting awful saddles sores. I tried an imperial and it didn’t help.

  4. Steve says:

    Interesting post. I’ve been in enough shops to recognize each of the character types you came across. Finding a good LBS is like finding a good car mechanic or a doctor – you build confidence and trust over time. Until that happens, you are always wondering if you are being swindled and/or dealing with an incompetent.

  5. Jim Russell says:

    Saddle comfort is a personal choice I suppose. I bought a couple of cheap saddles via Nashbar that had lots of foam or gel that claimed to be quite comfortable, they were not. After an hour or so I was miserable. Ironically the skinny and firm stock Bontrager saddle on my Trek 2.1 seems to fit my butt quite well; if wearing decent cycling shorts the saddle isn’t too bad.

    I am also leery of bike shops; although some have been very helpful, a few seem more interested in selling me their outdated inventory even when I made it clear this is not what I needed.

    Only done a few rides this spring, my wife and new baby have kept be really busy, hopefully in a few weeks I will have some time.

  6. James C Wise says:

    you said “neither regions”. does that mean you have blood flow to nowhere?
    jc

  7. Matt Gholson says:

    LOL, That would be a bad situation. Just signed up for BRAG!

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