I originally titled this post 'What is this instrument of torture?', so you can guess the conclusion of this review.
Having recently got a touring bike, I thought I'd post some of my experiences with it. More details about the bike and ride will follow in future posts, but this entry is about the immediate changes needed to be comfortable on the initial rides. The bike is the entry level Dawes tourer, the Horizon model. Being at the entry level means some 'value engineering' and one of the parts that must have saved some money is the 'saddle', seen above. The brochure describes it as a 'sport saddle' on one page whilst on another it calls it 'touring'.
I put saddle in quotes because it is a euphamistic term for this perch looking approximation for what cyclists might sit on, but it transpires it isn't anything of the sort. In fact it is something far removed from that and should only be used to inflict pain on an unsuspecting enemy. It was obvious from the start, the saddle was uncomfortable and probably had to go but I decided to try it just to be sure. I was soon wishing I hadn't.
If you're a regular reader, you probably realise I frequently ride but I don't often do large mileages. Recently, I've been on a few longer rides and can use those for comparison of this new saddle. My existing commuter has a Specialized spongy rubber type saddle and has been comfortable when I've done 30-40 miles. My mountain bike has a stock Scott saddle that came with it and is not so comfortable for a full day out but is tolerable nonetheless.
One of the first rides on the Dawes was for a distance of 27 miles. Three days later I was still suffering. I like to think of myself as fairly normal when it comes to body shape (though others might dispute this conjecture) but this Dawes saddle was definitely not made for a human. Whilst it looks like it has been anatomically designed with a cut out for the perineum, there is insufficient area at the rear to spread the load and nearer the nose of the the saddle, the edges of the cut-out create pressure points that cause soreness after only a few miles.
So the saddle has to go. It'll probably end up in the bin although I'm tempted to offer it for sale on an SM site!
What to replace it with? There are so many saddles to choose, many having elaborate and scientific designs using high tech materials and gels. Having had a Brooks leather saddle in the past, I decided to eschew these modern contraptions and replace it with a B17 standard. I'm taking a long term view, understanding these saddles adapt to the shape of the rider and therefore need a 'running-in' period, which can be about 12 months. Some riders find them comfortable from day one. I'm certainly anticipating a better initial experience with the new Brooks
but if I'm not totally comfortable with it before our tour in July, I'll temporarily swap the saddle from my commuter.