Introduction: A Rebuilt Ergonomic Bicycle Saddle
There has been criticism that the nose of bicycle saddles can cause nerve damage and even numbness. For example, John Tierney wrote A Release Valve for Cyclists’ Unrelenting Pressure. (June 28, 2011. New York Times)
From what I have seen, I haven’t been impressed with the solutions to this problem.
A thin saddle with the center cut out can still be a problem because the nerves in question are not confined to the area that is cut out. There are also saddles that do not actually have noses. The problem is when carving a turn you normally press your legs against the nose for support. With no nose you have less control.
My solution involves the bicycle saddle padding. If you cut out the nose section of the padding you still have the saddle frame nose to use as support during turns. I used an EVA foam to replace the old padding. You can find EVA foam mats in many stores. EVA foam can be molded well when it is heated. The resulting mold becomes very comfortable.
Step 1: Choose an Old Saddle to Remodel.
First of all, I chose a wide saddle frame. The more area that supports you the more you can spread your weight out over the nerves.
Secondly, I chose a frame with only a slight curve. I think the curve is for your sit bones – the part of your skeleton that supports your weight when you sit down. When the EVA foam is warm and you sit on it, it will have dents on it in the reverse image of your sit bones. So you only need a slightly curved saddle.
Also, the base of a bicycle saddle tends to point upwards, making a slight angle with the nose. When you choose a saddle, it’s best to find one that is more flat rather than too angled. This prevents too much pressure at the nose while sitting.
Step 2: Get a Mold for Your Saddle.
Carefully remove the covering of the saddle. The saddle I bought was cheap and was just stapled on. This was fine because I could take it off and put it on temporarily several times while I was getting the right shape. Other saddles have a more formal way of removing the covering.
Of course remove the old padding.
Then trace the outline of the saddle using a clear plastic bag. I made the outline a little too small rather than a little too big. Cut out the outline and trace the shape on the foam.
Cut out the EVA foam shape, it’s useful to use a hot knife blade.
Step 3: Adjust Your Saddle Before Heating the Foam.
When the foam is hot out of the oven, you will want to use the time to make the mold. Before heating it, though, you can ride on the foam and adjust the saddle. You won’t want the saddle to lean downwards placing too much pressure on your arms. Nor should it lean upwards, causing pressure from the metal saddle nose.
Step 4: Heat the Foam.
On the internet I saw different times and temperatures for heating the foam in an oven. I used 10 minutes at 250 Fahrenheit/ 120 Celcius. That worked well – not so hot that the foam smokes or disintegrates.
Step 5: Put the Mold on the Bike and Ride It.
The foam molds very well while still warm. Insert the foam in the saddle covering, in place of the old padding. Press them on the saddle and ride your bike around in your most standard riding position.
My sit bones made lasting dents in the mold and much of the pressure on my sit bones is now alleviated.
Also use a hammer to make a recess running along the middle of the saddle, like most modern saddles have.
Step 6: Secure the Saddle Pieces Together.
EVA foam is cheap, and you can try several molds until you get everything adjusted as you like. My second try worked well, so I just stapled it together again and was finished.