Not that I know a damn thing about women, but I suppose that if you asked a lot of men who’ve been married fifty or sixty years what’s been the most important thing about their wives over that long span they wouldn’t say, "Well, really, it’s really been the size of her boobs," or "The way she played hard to get when we first started dating." No, once you’ve ridden the double-century of marriage, other more important virtues - or lack thereof - make their presence felt.
Likewise, yes, the roving eye of us veteran triathletes may occasionally turn to view the sexy aero wheel riding by, or the classy looking fire-engine-red aero frame. But we know that what keeps us in the saddle hour after hour is exactly that - the saddle (unsexy as it might appear).
You can take this entire argument about saddles and reduce it to two parameters, one minor and one major: The minor is distance, and the major is pressure, i.e., pounds per square inch. We’ll cover the distance parameter first.
Triathletes are busy on their saddles. Sometimes they sit a bit forward and sometimes they're back toward the rear. They may be even busier than their road race cousins. The problem, though, is this: because triathletes ride with a flat back, and are rotated forward around the axis of their hips, they can't afford to ride with their saddle noses tilted up, not even a little bit. Triathletes must have their saddles perfectly flat. Some triathletes even ride with their saddles tilted nose-down, but that's not recommended, and when that's done it's usually because the saddle is so uncomfortable - a problem we hope to mitigate in this section.
If you were a road racer and you had your saddle tilted nose-slightly-up, moving to the rear wouldn't result in your saddle-to-pedal distance lengthening. For a triathlete, though, since his saddle is level to the ground, it is problematic if the rear of the saddle swoops up. Inasmuch as moving to the rear of the saddle - even a flat saddle - increases one's pedalling leg length, it's problematic for the saddle to have that up-swoop shape in its rear.
The SLR saddle from Selle Italia, pictured at right, is a good example of a saddle that has a perfectly flat aspect. That's one reason it actually turns out to be a pretty good saddle for triathletes, it's spare profile and light weight notwithstanding. In fact, the amount of padding on the saddle is not generally its most important feature. Rather, a flat aspect and relatively flat nose make a saddle worth riding for a triathlete. You can always add padding (more on that later).
This doesn't mean that all saddle ought to look like the SLR, or even necessarily appear to have the flat shape described above. Yes, the shell must be flat, and that is precisely the case with the Selle San Marco Azoto, at left. The part that swoops up in front is all spongy gel, and the point of this gel is to achieve our second goal, which is to dissipate the pressure on one's tender parts.The thing about triathletes is they're not generally riding on their butts while motoring along in the aero position, but on parts not intended by God to be sat upon. The problem is not that you can't ride on this part of your anatomy, but that you can't have all your weight on a small area of this part of your anatomy. The reason a pillow is comfortable to your head is that your head's weight is dispersed over a greater area of your head. Same thing down "there."
With that as a primer, we'll commence looking at saddles that triathletes might want to consider. We'll not look at every saddle that every manufacturer has to offer, but only those saddles that might make sense for a triathlete to consider. We'll also look at saddle covers - again, only those a triathlete may want to use.
Selle San Marco