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Saturday, August 12, 2006
Bicycle seats: What you have to know
The only part of the bicycle that hasn't really evolved until recently has been the seat. It sounds strange until you remember that the body parts in contact with the hardware was a taboo subject. Nobody would complain much about numb genitals back in 1898 to bike manufacturers.
First off there are two main categories of bicycle seats: women's and men's seat. You can identify them easily by eye right away, skinny seat=men's seat, wide seat=women's seat. This is due to the fact that men and women don't have the same width at the hip sitting bones. The end of the sittings bones are what makes contact with the bicycle seat. So a man could ride on a wide seat, but a woman would feel very uncomfortable riding on a skinny seat. Her sitting bones are not on the seat, but on each side(My girlfriend told me that it actually feels like giving birth!). So ladies get yourself a proper size seat.
Another concern is numb genitals. When this happens to you, it is not something to be ignored or a small inconvenience in exchange for the benefits of cycling. Blood flow is just not going where it is supposed to and this goes for men AND women. New seat designs are out these days with a channel in the middle to allow free blood flow to the genitals. If you are doing any kind of serious mileage on your bike, go to your local bike shop and spend the bucks on a decent seat. My personnel seat is a wide gel padded, spring loaded, cruiser seat with the aboved mentionned channel for proper blood flow.
Once you have your seat, the next thing you need to do is determine the proper height. The proper sitting position on a bicycle is with a slight flex in the knee while pedaling. The way to determine that is to put your heel on a pedal while seated. Your leg should be straight. If it isn't, then you have to put your seat higher. Once you pull your foot back on the pedal, as if you were pedalling, you should have the proper flex in your knee. I've seen many cyclist riding with their knees in their chins just wondering what kind of damage they are doing to them. The proper seat height is very important for the health of your knees, especially if you do a lot of mileage. Take note that your feet might not be flat on the ground when stopped after a proper adjustement.
"Shouldn't my feet be flat on the ground when I'm stopped?" That is a question I hear often and it is a very valid one. If you are new at riding a bike, a child just starting to ride on two wheels or just uncomfortable with standing on your toes, you can adjust the seat lower. Children will not do hard mileage and they will be good at riding pretty quick, so no harm done when it is time to pull up the seat. Adults and seniors not comfortable with this can lower the seat to be "flatfooted" as long as they don't ride hard for long periods of time. Another option is to buy a trike or a new design introduced by Electra bicycles called the Townie bike. This design is the next revolution in bicycling in my opinion. The bottom bracket has been brought forward on the frame instead of directly under the seat. This brings the pedals slightly forward and permits flat footed stops while maintaining proper leg extension. I've tried an Electra Townie myself and it is very comfortable. They look great and I'm buying one as soon as I can.
Remember, the more comfortable you are on your bike, the more often you will ride it.
Until next time, ride safe.
Posted by Gerry Lauzon at 9:20 AM