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2 Minute Expert

Is your Saddle Too Long?

Words Cam McRae
Date Feb 6, 2020
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If you’ve been mountain biking a long time you’re accustomed to the idea that the accepted wisdom may have no underpinning; no science, no research, no testing, and no validity. I’m talking about skinny tires, narrow bars, long stems and permanently fixed saddles. We did things because we did them. I remember getting a set of perfectly flat titanium bars that were dead straight, and chopping them down so much my brake levers almost touched. Why did I do this? Because narrow bars were the way to go man! If narrow is good, I’m going all in on narrow!* This has happened over and over again.

*Now that I think about it, narrow bars may have been the rage because they made riding 150mm stems possible

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This poor Kona Stab Dee-Lux is clearly feeling inferior beneath the Scott Octane DH, with a saddle so long it needed two seat posts.

Unless you started riding within the last couple of years, you likely know this feeling; you’re climbing something steep with poor grip and the struggle is balancing grip and front wheel lift. Part of the solution was to slide forward onto the narrow nose of your saddle, which is always comfortable and only rarely seriously damaging to reproductive health. Saddles have long front portions for this reason, and some designers made that front section flatter to reduce the aforementioned damage.

Sometimes ideas simply hold over. What once had merit becomes redundant, without anyone noticing. Stefan ‘Sacki’ Sack, owner and designer at BikeYoke, noticed that he hadn’t needed to move forward on his saddle for a number of years; ‘Well first of all, I was working at Bionicon where we have the geometry adjustments. And then modern bikes, they are so comfortable to climb with that I never found myself needing to go forward with my butt. So why do we have the same design as 10 years ago”

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Short saddles are a thing in some road circles, TT specifically. Trials and bmx riders also know the joys of the stubby saddle.

That long nose on your saddle? The pointy one, that is actually quite sharp on some saddles? When was the last time you slid forward to climb something steep? If you’re riding a bike from 2012 or earlier, it might have been recently. Otherwise I’m guessing it’s been awhile. So maybe it’s time we chopped that superfluous proboscis?

What’s the downside to long noses? A longer saddle may get in the way on bikes with steeper seat angles, particularly when the post is slammed and the bike is angled steeply downward while cornering. Also if you have been stabbed in the leg, or somewhere more intimate, by a long pointy-nosed saddle you may see the merit in a shorter and more bluntly-nosed perch. (A reader pointed out that riders who have challenges with standover get more access to the portion of the top tube where clearance is greatest with a stubbier saddle.

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Guess who's making a shorter saddle? BikeYoke's Sagma is shorter than most.

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The Sagma also has some other unique features, like swapable elastomer cushions, which allow your saddle to rotate slightly while you pedal and absorb some shock that would normally be absorbed by your nether regions and replaceable rails.

So a shorter one will get out of the way and not poke you where you haven’t been asked to be poked. At least not by your bike. Beyond that, much of the bicycle’s grace lies in the omission of all that is unnecessary. Strap whatever you want on your commuter or touring bike, but a mountain bike is at its best when there’s nothing extra. Maybe that should hold true for your saddle as well?

*Actually, the BikeYoke Sagma has swappable elastomer cushions and replaceable rails... but you get the point

Bike Yoke’s new saddle chops about 40mm (1.57”) compared to most others, which won’t change your contact patch on the leather at all. The only part you’ll lose is the part that sticks out… between your legs. The Sagma, which comes in 130mm and 142mm widths, is 242mm long. It's got everything you need, and nothing you don't.* Apparently. I haven’t tried one yet but this makes sense to me.

*Aside from the aforementioned extras that is...

Obviously if you are happy on your 1992 brodie, with 26” wheels, a 450mm bar and 160mm stem, you have no need for a shorter saddle. Otherwise, why the long nose?

We'll be getting a couple of BikeYoke Sagma saddles to test shortly. Until then, you can find more info here...

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Comments

Timer
+1 Cam McRae
Timer  - Feb. 6, 2020, 1:36 a.m.

But wait, what is going to catch me when dorping to falt from up high?

Reply

Hollytron
+6 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Carlos Matutes Cr4w JVP Cam McRae
Hollytron  - Feb. 6, 2020, 8:16 a.m.

Cycling is full of these dorping allegations these days. Who is at falt?

Reply

JVP
+4 Timer twk Dan Luix
JVP  - Feb. 6, 2020, 10:02 a.m.

MTB had a serious dorping problem in the early 2000's. Now that enduro racing is the thing, people don't openly dorp any more.

*long live freeride*

Reply

slimshady76
+5 Andrew Major Nouseforaname Dan Skyler AJ Barlas
Luix  - Feb. 6, 2020, 3:55 a.m.

Betteridge's Law of Headlines: If it's a question, the answer is NO.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+2 IslandLife Cam McRae
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Feb. 6, 2020, 5:07 a.m.

I put a Specialized Power saddle (another ‘crop nose’ model) on my daughter’s bike, because the long nose of a traditional saddle covered the lowest part of the toptube, greatly increasing the stand over height, and forcing her forward when dismounting.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 6, 2020, 6:27 a.m.

Another good one!

Reply

JBV
+1 Cam McRae
James Vasilyev  - Feb. 6, 2020, 9:13 a.m.

i put a Spesh power arc saddle on my mountain bike and liked it so much i put another on my road bike. apparently, my arse is similar to Sam Hill's, i love these saddles.

Reply

morgan-heater
+1 Cam McRae
Morgan Heater  - Feb. 6, 2020, 9:14 a.m.

My wife actually had the same problem on her small giant reign, with the seat dropped, it forced her forward far enough that she couldn't really dismount forward if she needed to.

The Sagma looks like it still has about 2 extra inches that could go away without any problems, though.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 6, 2020, 4:14 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

IslandLife
+1 Cam McRae
IslandLife  - Feb. 6, 2020, 9:29 a.m.

Did the same for my son, for the same reasons... but bought the SDG Jr. Fly.  Made a big difference.

Reply

andyf
+2 Tjaard Breeuwer Cam McRae
andyf  - Feb. 6, 2020, 10:24 a.m.

I'm going to give the Sagma a try. I'm not concerned about stand over but with the 76 degree STAs on my current bikes, the nose of my WTB Volt/Specialized Phenom is in the way when I ride out of the saddle without dropping it. It'll be nice to switch between standing and sitting without being poked like I did for so many years on bikes with 73-74 degree STAs. 

The suspension/rail technology seems pretty interesting as well.

Reply

mammal
+1 Cam McRae
Mammal  - Feb. 6, 2020, 11:42 a.m.

Just run a Spongy Wonder, and call it a day. 

I recall my LBS digging up some advertising on them around early 2000's, and their tagline was something to the effect of "Ride comfortably, without jostling the boys".  20 years later, they're still selling somehow.

https://spongywonder.com/

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Mammal
Cam McRae  - Feb. 6, 2020, 9:38 p.m.

That's the sort of saddle you'd make a buddy ride on his stag.

Reply

mammal
+2 Cam McRae Andrew Major
Mammal  - Feb. 7, 2020, 8:10 a.m.

That must be standard stag practice, considering they're somehow still in business.

Reply

xy9ine
+1 Cam McRae
Perry Schebel  - Feb. 6, 2020, 1:18 p.m.

i like the theory. skootching up on the nose of a conventional saddle & supporting most of your body weight on a couple square inches of perineum just sounds like a bad idea when you think about it.

Reply

andy-eunson
+3 Tjaard Breeuwer Mark Andrew Major
Andy Eunson  - Feb. 6, 2020, 4:34 p.m.

I think some of those short saddles came about due to the ridiculous UCI rules governing saddle set back for road bikes. Short riders and very tall riders often can’t set their saddle in the optimal place especially on a tt bike. I tried the short Specialized saddle but it wasn’t the best shape for me and too firm. But it was fine on my cross bike. But road saddles are designed for a more bent over riding position and usually don’t make good off road saddles. I don’t scootch forward very much except for really steep short pitches. Steep being 30% or so. My Chameleon has a static seat angle of around 71° but I have a relatively low saddle height of 69cm from the bb so I don’t loop out ever. Plus (oh horrors how can that work) I have extended the rear centre as much as the adjustable dropouts go. The short chainstays for everyone needs to die. It’s stupid. It does nothing except shift a riders weight too much to the rear. Oh. I know, let’s make reach really long. Dang. Now the effective top tube is too long. Oh. Let’s crank the seat tube forward so far that we need short nosed saddles that don’t rattle between your butt crack when you stand up. Seriously though I don’t think a 71° is good  and maybe a 74 ish is more logical. But taller riders (not me) need longer stays and not a steeper seat angle.

Reply

cyclotoine
+4 Tjaard Breeuwer Cam McRae Timer Andy Eunson
cyclotoine  - Feb. 6, 2020, 8:21 p.m.

Speaking as a tall person. I need steep seat angles and longer chainstays. I've always fitted zero offset saddles and pushed the seat forward to get into the pedalling position I like, even on flat ground. I still have the saddle as far forward as I can safely put it on my 75-76 effective bikes. The short saddle pictured on the TT bike is designed to "hang-two" so when you're bent over in the aero bars you're not crushing your sex organs or restricting blood flow to them. Triathletes having been using short saddles for a long time. They spend a long time planted on the saddle.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Andy Eunson
Andrew Major  - Feb. 7, 2020, 8:18 a.m.

Can’t believe I’m reading positive comments, on NSMB, about how the saddle-pissers set up their energy drink soaked death traps... Those lemmings would climb over each other to run metre long saddles that crushed their junk if you could prove there might be a tiny aero advantage in some ultra-specific wind condition only experienced on Mars.

Let’s talk BMX, trials, trails, unicycles, penny farthings, Dirt-roadies, road-roadies, touring, randonneuring, any Fun branch of cycling.

Reply

syncro
+1 Andy Eunson
Mark  - Feb. 7, 2020, 5:01 p.m.

Depending on the climb, I'll slide forward on the seat every once in a while. I also have my saddle set up with the nose pointed down a bit which makes it way more comfortable for climbing. Best of both worlds imo. I've had a few people question my choice of seat angle with the idea that when you're riding down hill with a seat that's tilted down you'll slide off, but how often are you actually sitting on the saddle when riding down hill?

The other thing to consider is that you can use the nose of your saddle to help control the bike on the way down. I recall this being mentioned a few times over the years,

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 9, 2020, 10:36 p.m.

What are your angles? The last time I saw you out, 'modern geometry' didn't spring to my thoughts.

Reply

syncro
0
Mark  - Feb. 9, 2020, 11:20 p.m.

I don’t know the angles off hand but that bike is a 2015 Instinct which does duty as the xc bike. I don’t have the flip chip set to slack and for sure the geo is not like a 2-3 yr old trail bike, but it’s not exactly a relic either. It suits me well for what I use it for. Might a shorter seat provide some benefits? Maybe, but I hardly ever stand when I climb and that ability to slide forward an inch or two for maybe 5m of trail the odd time it happens serves me well. I can think of 2 or 3 spots where it happens and with the nose down it’s not unbearable. The rest of the time the nose down position works well on the climbs. 

I’m not a gear whore by any stretch of the imagination and suffer a bit from cheapoitis so getting a new seat would only happen if I needed one or it was some major revelation.  I’m still not on Cush core and only got onto a dropper with the new bikes this past year.  Shit, I was still riding that old SX Trail I bought off of you in 2005 until the fall of  2018. I definitely got my money’s worth out of that bike.

Reply

Gbergevin
+2 Cam McRae Tjaard Breeuwer
Gbergevin  - Feb. 8, 2020, 8:03 a.m.

I bought a Sagma pretty much as soon as they were available stateside...and they're still barely available stateside. I bought it because I needed a saddle, having worn through the cover on an old race face, loving all things Bikeyoke, and liking all the cool features it's got.

I've got two rides on it, a short day bike rip, then I moved it over to my gravel bike and did a 20 miler.

Initial impressions - it's short, it's light. Short is obviously the point of this advertarticle, but I was really paying attention to the length when I bought it. I usually run old school long saddles, I'm a scooch forward guy... It's also light. I don't weigh or spend much money on seats, usually, and this one has all sort of extras in the design, so I was surprised how light it felt in hand.

It also feels strikingly normal. The foam bead passing thing is unobtrusive...just feels like a seat, firm, moderately thick padding. The rail suspension is stiff, doesn't seem like much in hand. 

On the bike, same story - padding and rail design don't lead to a feel that this is some kind of radical seat.

In use... I like it! My butt and more importantly junk agree with the shape. It seems to want to nose down a bit, and it has some harder edges to watch for, but it was easy to set up and get comfortable. 

Only complaint is the cover has developed a weird crease where those beads are compressing. It might just be ugly, but it also looks like a great place to turn into a rip... I'll watch it. Going to try to do a longer gravel ride today.

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Feb. 10, 2020, 12:13 a.m.

Just  buy a Chromag Trailmaster LTD and be done with it.

PS you can ditch your nappy / diaper shorts in the process.

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