As published on Coloradotriathlete.com on September 27, 2017.
Look beyond disc wheels and an aero helmet for a faster bike split – the secret may be in your saddle
Whether you are training to complete your first Ironman, your tenth, or are looking to qualify for Kona, the key to faster bike times is not necessarily in your frame, or wheels, but in your saddle. A comfortable saddle makes the difference in a rider’s ability to stay down in an aerodynamic position for increased speed and efficiency. Over a long course triathlon, this difference is huge. Comfort plays out in your ability to train long and hard as well as race fast. Here we took a look at the favorite saddles of top bike fit specialists and pro triathletes for long distance triathlon.
ISM PN 1.0
The ISM PN (Performance Narrow) 1.0 is a favorite of bike fit techs and pro triathletes in Boulder. The long, narrow design allows for the nose-less saddle (meaning the front is cut off completely) to support the riders sit bones with the two pronged design, however the front is not supported – allowing for increased comfort and air flow (particularly for male riders). The narrow ISM PN 1.1 is 110mm wide, allowing for easy thigh and hamstring clearance and thus accommodates a wide range of body movement around the seat for comfort in changing positions. The length is 275mm and the saddle features a mix of foam and gel padding. It is available in two colors – Black and White.
Note: PN 1.0 vs 1.1 – the 1.1 features additional padding. The PN 2.1 features a wider chassis and additional padding.
Cobb Fifty-Five JOF
The Cobb Fifty-Five JOF or “Just Off Front” is similar to the ISM PN 1.0, however the saddle is a bit shorter, as many riders don’t use the full back end of their saddle and mainly stay positioned just off the front for racing. The Fifty-Five allows riders to both ride aggressively up front on the saddle as well as sit more upright and slide back a bit for a break in position. It measures 260mm long with the nose being 55mm wide (hence the name) and the rear being 135mm wide at its widest point. The Cobb Fifty-Five JOF also features “a narrower nose to the saddle which may be more comfortable for some riders” noted Ivan O’Gorman Founder of IOG Bikefit & Consulting, and one of Boulder’s top fit specialists. With both the ISM and Fifty-Five, riders may want to drop the nose by a few degrees for added comfort. The Cobb Fifty-Five JOF saddle features a solid amount of cushioning to protect your assets, and is known for comfort, making it a crowd favorite. It would be nice if Cobb offered the saddle with variable amounts of cushioning though to suit different rider preferences. The cushioning can be a bit much in standard biking bibs but is perfect in tri shorts or an aerosuit.
Interesting to note is that Cobb recently began bringing back manufacturing and testing of their saddles to the United States. They started with the Fifty-Five and the 2018 Randee at their facility in Tyler, TX and are now including the new 2018 V-Flow, Plus2, and Max saddles. As of July, all Cobb saddles have new embossed graphics (not painted as before) and upgraded fabric to reduce friction on the inner thigh as well as increase durability. Kudos to Cobb for creating American jobs as well as an improved product.
This is the saddle that Boulder area Pro Triathlete Nicole Valentine rides and loves. The Specialized Sitero is unique in that rather than having a split nose design, it features a deep channel that runs most of the length of the saddle. It measures 240mm Lengthwise (similar to the Adamo road saddle). The maximum width is 145mm, while measuring 60mm at the nose. The Sitero is offered in two levels – Pro and Expert, the Pro being more expensive, weighing less and coming with carbon rails vs. titanium. Both versions of the saddle feature small dotted perforations along middle to form the sit area. The saddle provides great support for the sit bones as well as encourages a position with lower pressure on the front of the saddle. The Sitero features a low, flat profile that allows the rider to easily change position to slide back for a long descent or some technical downhill switchbacks, as well as forward on the saddle for increased power. The ability to change position on the saddle allows it to be comfortable over hours of riding under various conditions.
Nicole used this saddle at Ironman France this year where it proved its worth over the technical and grueling mountain course that included over 6,000 ft of challenging climbs, helping her to a third place finish in the professional field.
Nicole found the Sitero to be just as comfortable on the super flat course at Ironman Cozumel making it a great all around saddle. Added bonus: the low profile of the Specialized Sitero makes it a good choice for smaller riders who don’t have a lot of room to play with saddle height on their bike fit.
Unique to the Sitero, is that Specialized created accessories for both a single bottle mount, as well as a hook to mount your bike in transition. The accessories integrate into the saddle itself for a truly sleek design. Both the hook and bottle mount come included with purchase. A possible drawback however is that some third party hydration systems may be difficult to mount on the Sitero.