Broken saddles and saddle maintenance

I broke my saddle. After a few thousand miles and two seasons of cyclocross abuse, my saddle said "no more!"

It started by squeaking and then, one morning, it dented in the middle of the saddle, causing it to become uneven, putting painful pressure on my right sitbone. Time for a new one! 

This made me wonder, when should one replace a saddle? Are there tell-tale signs that it may be worn-out? 

Kristi Berg, cycling coach and owner of Cycle U North, informed me that the basic signs of wear and tear to look for are: 

- Rips in the leather.
These are usually caused from crashing the bike or leaning the bike up against the saddle. 

- General wear in the area that your sit bones connect with the saddle.
"If you see divots or significant indentations you would want to replace the saddle as the foam or gel inside has broken down," said Berg. 

- Squeaking.
"If the saddle starts to squeak, I have found that that some times it is a sign that the rails are starting to come loose," said Berg. "This would be a good time to replace the saddle."  

In general though, there is no real guideline on how many miles one can spent in a saddle before it needs to be replaced, said Berg. But there are a couple things that are important to preserving the life of your saddle.

Quality of materials:

The quality of the saddle material matters. Berg suggests higher end saddle made from leather or high quality synthetic material.  

Saddle placement:

Even more important is the placement of your saddle on theseat post clamp.

"The most important thing you can do to perserthing your saddle is where you place your saddle on the rails in the seat post clamp," said Berg. 

Berg explained that if your saddle is moved all the way back, so that your rails are clamped towards the front of the saddle, you tend to put a lot of weight on the back of the saddle. This in turn puts a lot of stress on where the rails are connected at the front of the saddle, and can cause the saddle rails to pop out of the saddle, therefore breaking the saddle.

The same is true for the opposite set-up. If your saddle is moved all the way forward, so the seat post is clamped on the back of the rails, your weight is more on the front of the saddle and the rails can pop out from the back of the saddle. 

The fix:

"The way to fix these problems is to purchase either a  set back seat post (where the seat post clamp is set behind the seat post). This will fix saddles that are moved all the way back by moving the clamp further back allowing you to set your saddle more in the middle of the rails so that your weight is placed more evenly on the saddle," said Berg.

"And if you have a set back seat post already and your saddle is moved all the way forward, then you want to get a zero set back seat post (post where the clamp is directly on top of the seat post). That will allow you to also put the clamp on the rails more in the center so your weight is more evenly placed on the saddle."

There you have it. Got a squeaking, scoffed up saddle? It may be time for a new one! 

If you have any questions about bike maintenance, riding tips or bikes in general, email me at amrook@cascadebicycleclub.org and I'll find an expert to answer your questions!