Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

24 September 2010

The Saddle Saga Continues

I've decided that I really don't like my Terry Falcon X saddles.  In fact, I don't think I like the "donut" saddles at all.  Maybe I'm still carrying residual male chauvinism or something.

Back in the day, I tried what was then the newfangled saddle:  the Avocet Touring II.  An Avocet saddle was different from any other available at the time because it had two "mounds" on the rear, which made for a center "groove."  You might say it was the inverse of today's "donut" saddles.

    Avocet Touring II women's saddle, circa 1980.   Note the "bumps" or "mounds":  They were intended to  lift the cyclist off her perineal area.

Ironically, the Terry saddles (I've also been riding a Butterfly on my Helene.) feel much like that Avocet saddle, at least to me.  On the Terrys (Terries?), the edges of the cutout rub against the inside of my perineal area.  So did the edges of the raised ridges on the Avocet.  But I think that, if anything, the Terry saddles feel worse to me than the Avocet did.  Well, maybe it's not a matter of the saddle itself.  I think that what's being rubbed is softer tissue than I had back when I was riding the Avocet.

Below:  Terry Butterfly, an example of a "donut" saddle.  The rationalization for the cutout in the middle is the same as that for the "bumps" on the Avocet:  relief of pressure on the perineal area.

Plus, I really don't think that the tear in my vaginal wall was caused by the Brooks Pro saddles I had been riding.  They may have exacerbated a condition I already had because it has more of a "dome" shape than some other saddles, which are flatter.

Another common dislike I have of both Avocet and Terry saddles is that they don't allow me free fore-and-aft movement.  Contrary to popular belief, highly technical mountain bikers aren't the only ones who like to slide forward and backward on their saddles.  Back when I first started to ride distances, almost every serious rider did the same.  And that is the reason why I had to give up, however reluctantly, an elegant suede saddle I rode for a time.  (I don't know of any suede saddles that are being made today.) I now realize that saddles with smooth, flat tops are most conducive to my riding style.

That's the reason why I'm going to try the Brooks B-17.  I'm thinking of riding the narrower version, which is about the same width (which I liked) as the Terry Falcon X , on Arielle and Tosca.  And I'll probably use the standard version on Helene, as it is actually slightly wider than the Butterfly.

Brooks B-17 

I believe (and hope) that the flatter shape of the B17, combined with its firmness, will keep me resting on my sitbones and relieve some pressure from my perineal areas.  And, of course, the saddle will become more comfortable over time.  

I'm going to ride the men's models.  Their width is right for me:  In spite of my surgery, my sitbones didn't grow further apart. (That's normal.)  Also, women's saddles are shorter than men's.  As someone who, as I mentioned, likes to slide forward and backward on her saddle as she changes position, I prefer the length of men's saddles.

Finally, I am happy to put Brooks saddles on my bikes again.  Neither Brooks nor anyone else pays me to ride the company's offerings, so I apologize if I sound like an advertisement.  But I'll say this:  Very few, if any, other bike parts are of as high quality as Brooks saddles.  Plus, what saddle is more appropriate on a lugged English frame made from Reynolds tubing?


  1. Okay, I had a feeling that in the end you would not like the saddles.

    Quick and overly personal question: what kind of underwear and pants were/ are you wearing? Are there seams involved? If so, that may be the problem regardless of the saddle. I stopped wearing anything with seams on the crotch, and my B17 is fine now. I would still like to try a B17 Imperial and a Selle Anotomica though.

  2. Velouria: I have always made sure to wear garments next to my skin that didn't have seams in the crotch area when going on a ride of more than a few minutes.

    I thought about getting an Imperial or Anatomica, but I don't think that the cutouts really help me. And I think that while they might shorten the break-in time for all-leather saddles, I think they also shorten the lifespan.

    I still find it ironic that the Terry saddles felt so much like the Avocet of my youth-- or the way I remember it, anyway.

  3. Reading all this, I thank God that pretty much any saddle seems to work well for me. There is an upside, after all, to being insensitive!

  4. Have the B17 myself. I decided not to get the B17S because the "boy's" one is still wider than the road bike saddle I had before. I know people tend to polarise over Brooks saddles, but, seriously, even being a bit of a tight-wad, I don't think I'll ever ride any other saddle again. I had expected a break in period of a few hundred km, so was freakishly suprised when it was comfy from day one.

  5. It's funny, I bought a used bike in 1983 with an Avocet Touring II saddle, and it became the standard to which I have held all other saddles. That is, until I bought a vintage Raleigh with a 30-year-old Brooks B-72. Whoa.

    I still have and ride the Avocet, but it's nowhere near as comfortable as I thought it was for a ride longer than 5 or so miles.

    And I and my wife both slide forward and aft on our saddles depending on position- it's not just you!

    Corey K

  6. I accidentally bought a Terry Liberator Y (men's version) saddle on sale. I was kinda bummed that I bought the wrong one, so I went down to REI and bought the Liberator X (women's version.) They're both donut saddles (cut outs in the center).

    I didn't like it, so I returned it.

    I figured I'd try the men's version before I tried returning it to Terry. And I like it better than I liked the women's version of the same saddle.

    I like the longer, narrower length, which kinda surprised me. But I've found I do a fair amount of moving forward & back on the saddle too, so it's good for that.

  7. For me, even if the garment not immediately next to my skin has a seam, my crotch will feel it : ( On an upright bike this makes no difference of course, but on a bike with drop bars it has gotten so bad that I must wear seamless or gusseted everything!

  8. Thank you so much for your frank comments about saddles. I've had an Avocet Touring II and I do love it, especially after having a fractured pelvic bone ~ this saddle has worked for me! I just tried a men's saddle (can't recall the brand), but rode all of 2.5 miles before finding myself in agonizing pain. Have returned to my Avocet, tho it's looking very tattered ~ and am going to take time on the next try out. Your comments have helped tremendously ~ hard to convey this sensitive issue when dealing with an industry geared toward males. The young men at the shop were very confounded my by reticence to try a new saddle. I must trust my instinct!

  9. Yes 2012 and someone is still reading your post.
    I was so glad to hear someone else who did not enjoy riding the Terry saddle!
    I was unfortunate enough to have had to use one for our 2.5 month bike tour through Europe.
    The Terry saddle was very stuck on our tandem bike, and my husband feared that forcing it would brake the seat tube. That was one of the most painful experience I had ever had.
    Everyday that we rode it took my body several hours to get "numb" enough to be able to enjoy the ride at all.
    When we got home I changed out my saddle for a Brooks woman's B 17, and never looked back!
    I have a woman's Avocet for my mountan bike, and I love that too!

  10. Sanzi and Anon 3:36--Well, two years after this post, I'm still riding my B-17's: narrow ones on Arielle and Tosca (my road bike and fixie) and standard B-17s on Helene and Vera (my mixtes with porteur handlebars). I don't think I'll ride anything else. The Brooks Pro was good, but I think the shape of the B-17 is better for me.

  11. I have bought and sold three different Terry saddles with the last one being the Falcon X as pictured above. I hated all three of them! Maybe it is the donut design that doesn't agree with me but I suffered extreme soreness after long rides. I loved the look of my Falcon X on my Waterford bike but I sure did hurt later. I decided to try a Brooks women's seat and I found Nervana! I don't know what it is about that hard leather saddle that works so well for me but it does.

  12. Emjayoh--Thanks for sharing your experience.

    It does seem counter-intuitive, doesn't it, that a "hard" leather saddle should be more comfortable for us than one with padding and a "donut" shape?