Pressure mapping has certainly made for some big leaps in saddle design and the research and development process. Can you talk us through any of the more surprising findings?
KR: Using pressure mapping equipment consistently for over five years now has allowed us to understand small differences in pressure that may have big effects on the rider. For instance, if the gradient of pressure to the outside of the bone structure is very steep, this is an indication that the rider’s bone structure is running off the edges of the saddle. Think of a bright red hot spot that immediately becomes a cooler, darker colour to the outside of the bone, rather than showing a gradual change of colour.
Your first impression as the researcher might be, “The saddle is obviously too narrow, and it needs to be wider to support that bone structure.” However, sometimes a wide saddle forces the rider to sit too far forward on the saddle, and therefore the ischium of the pelvis runs off the sides. Sometimes switching to a narrower saddle allows the rider to sit on the back of the saddle as the saddle is intended, and the rider therefore gets the proper support he or she is looking for. Due to this research and the designs that have followed, it seems like an increasing number of riders are opting for unisex saddles, or saddles marketed at the opposite gender. Can you provide some insight into why gender specific saddles might not be so specific after all?
MG: Paraic McGlynn has a really good quote on this: “Your [rump] doesn’t have eyeballs.” Your pelvis really just cares about how it is supported.
We’ve found through testing that as a pelvis gets wider, it needs different things for saddle design. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if it is a wide female pelvis or a wide male pelvis, they both need the same support and soft tissue relief. The biggest difference is that the shallower pubic arch on a woman necessitates better soft tissue relief sooner, but there is no reason a more pointed male pubic arch wouldn’t benefit from the same thing.
KR: For men and women, the fundamental goal of the saddle is the same: to distribute pressure to the bone structure and relieve pressure from the soft tissues. This means that men and women alike benefit from well-designed “cut out” saddles. While the pelvic structure for women tends to be wider and shallower (front to back) than the average male pelvis, the shape of the bone structure for both vary greatly.
Therefore, the shape, width and material properties of the saddle are the most important factors that affect whether or not a particular saddle supports the rider properly.