I’ve been looking into buying a Specialized saddle and I’ve noticed they come in three sizes. Why is this important and secondly how do you measure what size saddle you need?
A. Jones, Kent
When you are sitting on your saddle correctly your weight should be carried through your sit bones — ischial tuberosities — not your soft tissues. This means more comfort as there isn’t so much painful rubbing or pressure and it is better for blood flow to the area so less numbness or pins and needles.
You’ll be able to feel where your sit bones are when you sit down on a chair but it would be hard to measure them yourself and embarrassing to bend over and let anyone else do it! You can’t guess your measurement by the width or your hips or pelvis. Specialized uses a memory foam cushion; when you sit on it your sit bones leave dents and it’s the gap between these that is measured. If you use a saddle too narrow or too wide your sit bones won’t be on the supportive pads and you will feel much less comfortable and it may affect your pedalling.
From experience the Specialized saddles feel much harder than some heavily padded saddles, which is good, as they are more supportive and you sit on the saddle instead of sinking into it.
I recently dislocated my kneecap playing football and I’m currently four weeks into a six-week stint in plaster. I’m a keen cross-country mountain biker and I have a few questions about my return to the trails with a weak knee (which will be more frequent now, as my footy career is over!).
My main concern is the rotation of the heel/leg to unclip out of my SPDs. I was wondering if you knew if this could put any unwanted strain on my knee and or have the potential to pop it out again. I’ve been toying with the idea of riding with one flat pedal and one SPD until I feel confident that the knee is back to full strength. Would this be a wise thing to do?
Could you also give me any tips on strengthening exercises once I am out of plaster. I would imagine the physio I’m due will help me with this but I was interested in more cycling specific exercises.
Phil Maston, email
You don’t say in your letter whether you had any surgery or tendon and ligament damage. It’s almost certain that there is some ligament damage, which does make it easier to dislocate again. However, with good rehab there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get fully back to your riding, particularly now football is out of the question. Starting with flats and on a turbo trainer for short periods before you go out on the trails will be a good way to start rebuilding fitness and leg strength as well as getting a feel for where you are at. Your knee rehab will include lots of exercises for your quads, hip flexors and glutes, the muscles that help stabilise the knee. These are also some of the major muscles for cycling. Starting off on flats before progressing to a loose SPD pedal is a good idea but long term there is a school of thought that says correctly set up cleats with minimal float is better for your knees than sloppy pedals that don’t have a solid endpoint to the float.
Blind as a bat
I am quite short sighted and wear glasses most of the time. I occasionally wear daily-disposable contact lenses but I don’t get on with them. I recently managed to get some wrap-around style safety specs with optical inserts from work. I tried them while out on my bike and they were dreadful — after five minutes I fell off because the complete lack of depth perception resulted in me putting the front wheel into an apparently small dip which turned out to be just the right depth to stop the bike completely and launch me over the bars.
Therefore, I would like to suggest a possible subject for a future group test — eyewear for mountain biking, particularly those available with optical inserts. The justification for such a test should be easy because so many of us spend a fortune on eyewear and there are a few high-end suppliers (Oakley, etc.) now offering optical inserts aimed at those of us in need of sight correction. In the meantime, what eyewear would you recommend and what do your own testers with short/long sight use?
Stuart Whitticase, email
Glasses with inserts behind don’t agree with everyone. Some types steam up more easily because of the lack of air-flow reaching the insert and others offer poor peripheral vision. However, you aren’t short on brands to try with Adidas, Nike, Bolle and many others offering good sports glasses. The advantage of these is you can change the tinted lens for different conditions without having to have several pairs of prescription glasses.
Oakley, Nike and Rudy Project (to name but a few) will make glasses in your prescription, doing away with the insert but increasing the price, particularly if you need a couple of pairs for different light ranges. A prescription version of a classic Oakley M-frame is around £265 depending on the lens.
If you struggle with dry eyes with your contact lenses speak to your optician about changing your lens or solution. If you can get this comfortable then you can wear any glasses you want. Even if it’s a dull day you should always wear a basic clear or light-enhancing lens to keep mud out of your eyes.
Correcting short sight is also now a possibility. Orthokeratology (Ortho-K) is the use of contact lenses to mould the shape of the cornea to eliminate or reduce short sight. This isn’t a permanent change, you need to wear the contact lenses for periods of time to maintain the new shape to the cornea, but it would allow you to ride without lenses.
The final, most drastic solution is lazer eye surgery. Our sister title roadie mag Cycling Weekly has featured several case studies of road riders who have had lazer treatment and found it greatly improved their riding experience.