New Secret TT Technique – The Saddle Shuffle
I haven’t heard anyone else comment on this, so by golly I will. What is up with some of these Pro Tour riders constantly ping-ponging themselves back and forth on the saddle during time trials? And I mean constantly. Alberto Contador is exhibit A: he works himself forward several centimeters over 5 or 6 pedals strokes and then hops to the back of the saddle again. This goes on every few seconds for the entire TT. It is painful for me to watch as a bike fitter.
Could it be that his saddle is so darn uncomfortable that he needs to do this to avoid pain or numbness? As I say in the video below, he (and others) looks possibly too low in the forward saddle position, yet this is probably the preferred spot for hip angle. Do these guys set their saddle heights to be “right” in the rearward or forward saddle position? They commonly look to be sliding 5-10 cm forward on the saddles, resulting in as much as an effectively 2cm lower saddle. In many cases they look low to me when forward. So maybe we have several conflicting forces: rearward position = proper saddle height and more comfortable, forward position = better hip angle but too low saddle and pain or numbness.
Seems like this could be solved with the right saddle and proper saddle positioning. An ISM Adamo for example would allow for a steeper effective seat angle and no perineal pain. The UCI says the saddle nose must be 5cm behind the bottom bracket (ridiculous!), but Adamo Race and Road saddles are missing 5cm of nose. For an average rider, a standard saddle set 5cm back might be at a 73 degree effective seat angle, but an Adamo set that way would be at 76.5 degrees thanks to the missing nose.
Maybe I have this all wrong. Could it be a secret technique for “tripping the flow” around the rider, making him more aero?? The equivalent of pounding him full of dimples with a ball-peen hammer (which would only be slightly less painful than it appears Contador’s saddle is)? Or maybe it is a method of putting more power to the pedals at the expense of any future offspring? Only Alberto knows…
July 1, 2010 @ 3:51 am
notice how dam low the front end is. yes they want aero… low front end.
But when the contact point of the butt is that much higher the body is going to slide forward on the saddle no matter what. The riders seem just to be repositioning themselves.
Looks like they have to find the balance between repositioning on the saddle and having a low front end.
July 2, 2010 @ 4:35 am
Simple answer – they can’t move their saddles any further forward due to the UCI rule, where the tip must be 5cm behind the BB.
July 13, 2010 @ 8:51 am
This seems very common and was highlighted by another commentator when watching Fabian Cancellara TT last year, he was moving back and forth just like Contador here. As a result Prologo have made a specific TT saddle which looks just like a flat Tri saddle only it has ridges to stop movement back and forth.
It still amazes me that most of the peleton TT on their regular road saddle which for most riders is a “one position” saddle with a dipp such as Fizik Aliante or Selle Italia SLR like Contador. I think that also adds to the problem of moving around on the saddle.
July 13, 2010 @ 10:51 am
I have been racing Tris for over 20 years. I have always struggled with sliding forward — especially when I up the effort. No tilting or positioning helped. This spring I obtained a Nago Evo TTR saddle — the one Cancellara rides. It has ridges on the nose that are compfortable but hold you in place. Now I don’t budge. Best TT saddle ever but only available in Europe.
July 13, 2010 @ 12:22 pm
I think it’s pretty clear to me what’s happening here when we watch Contador et al. I tend to do the same when thrashing it in a time trail. The hardest thing about time trailing flat out is the incredible load your quads have to take for a fairly long period of time. You can go for longer if you spread the load between muscle groups in the legs. When you are forward the quads are taking the bulk of the load (i.e. you’re pushing down hard on the peddles to produce the watts) – when you move back in the saddle and pull more on the peddles you transfer more load to the hamstrings and calves (as you work the bottom half of the pedal stroke). So this techniques is more a reflextion of the effort involved and about moving the load around the muscle groups as you try to keep the watts and cadance up at maximum.
July 27, 2010 @ 9:51 am
It’s hard to imagine it’s effective to be pushing yourself back with that regularity. My own experience is tilting the saddle nose up slightly or saddle change. It’s odd that there are riders on several teams doing this. I suspect it’s a current thinking amongst the pros about fit. Pro’s make choices for many reasons, not necessarily because it’s shown to be true.