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I've read that seats with a cut out are a good way of relieving stress on your sensitive areas. So we have seats like this:

enter image description here

My question is: from what I've read, the problem with cycling with bad seats is that it puts pressure on your perineum. This is the part that carries the nerves to the penis and testes -- but the cut out, which is in the middle will in no way reduce pressure on the perineum, which start off perpendicularly from a line joining the sit bones. So if you sit on the widest part of the seat, the perineum won't lie on the cut-out. As in:

enter image description here

Our intention is to protect the perineum; so I'd wager that a cut out in the middle doesn't solve that problem at all.

[I understand that this particular example of a saddle does seem to have some sort of a depression where the perineum would lie -but it's still not perfect, and my question also concerns the use of the cut out in the middle.]

  • Note that in addition to unisex saddles, there are men's-specific and women's-specific ones, and these may have different cut-outs. – DavidW Jan 22 at 15:24
  • There is also something to be said for where your sit bones end up, saddle design and riding position. – Deleted User Jan 24 at 17:23
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The depressed channel running down the middle of the saddle is what is taking pressure off the perineum, not the actual hole in the middle. Some saddles merely have the channel with no actual hole.

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  • 2
    The hole reduces weight and allows water to drain if it gets rained on. – SurpriseDog Jan 24 at 18:03
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All you need to prevent pressure on the perineum is adequate width for the sit bones to bear your weight. You can sit on a perfectly flat board without putting damaging pressure on your perineum, no 'cutout' is necessary. You just need a saddle that is actually wide enough for your personal hip dimensions and not have slapped a razor thin track racing saddle on your ride-around-town bike for fashion reasons. (In the case of 'gel' or foam saddles a gap there probably also gives the gel somewhere to go when you sit on it without having to push up on you.)

Once that goal is met assorted anatomical saddle designs and cutouts then make it comfortable to actually sit that way. Comfort is important so you don't shift forward to escape immediate causes of discomfort and ending up not placing weight properly long term.

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  • (and one is likely not off base to speculate that other times there's no actual thought put into an effective design that does anything useful, they just put a hole in it because that's "What people think a premium aftermarket saddle" looks like these days.) – Affe Jan 22 at 21:20
  • "Once that goal is met assorted anatomical saddle designs and cutouts then make it comfortable to actually sit that way" -- would you mind elaborating more on how exactly this is achieved? – WorldGov Jan 23 at 9:07
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    Affe, in comparing the saddle to sitting on a flat surface you neglect anterior pelvic tilt. That is, it might be true for riding an Omafiets but likely not on a road bike. Many riders who are able to tilt their pelvis far enough to straighten the lower back may put little pressure on the ischial tuberosities (IT) but further forward, some stretch on the bone ridge between IT and pubis. In that case greater saddle width contributes little too comfort. If you don't good pressure relieve is necessary straddle a plank and tilt forward while keeping your sacral spine straight. – gschenk Jan 24 at 18:04
  • I don't disagree, I was trying to stick to vocabulary and scope of the original question or else the answer quickly spirals into entire chapters of a PT text book. Will think about it. – Affe Jan 24 at 18:30
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Below is my saddle, using your marking colors. Saddle design varies and there is a lot more to a good saddle than just a cutout (or any other feature, really).

Done properly, a cutout does offer relief in the area of the perineum. However, due to anatomical differences (and saddle differences) not everyone needs one. If the area of the saddle supporting the sit bones were high enough (relative to the rest of the saddle surface) the cutout wouldn't do much. In many cases the cutout just makes the channel more visible. The channel may also do the work (when designed properly). There needs to be some support between the areas of the sit bone contact, or the saddle will simply flex (depending on material, etc) making the cut out or channel a pinch point.

Keep in mind that like people's sit bones, saddles vary in width. This means that for any one saddle, there will be variation in where people's sit bones come to rest, thus also variance where their other anatomy ends up (relative to the saddle parts).

There is also the fact that the saddle needs to be installed properly and positioned properly for any of it's parts to line up and do the work they were intended for.

enter image description here

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    This is a much better example saddle than the OPs. – gschenk Jan 24 at 18:08

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