Training & Nutrition

The Saddle Comfort Question: Are you an ‘innie’ or an ‘outie’

The brand's research suggests the shape of your 'lady bits' could determine the perfect saddle...

Saddle comfort for women is something we’ve explored a lot at TWC – for the simple reason that we know it’s an area many women struggle with, and one that few are keen to be that vocal about, especially in bike shops largely staffed by men. The good news is that with research and experimentation it’s a problem that can be completely eradicated – it just takes more trial and error for some than others. Finding the right saddle for you is a journey, but it ends in some very happy bike rides.

One of the brands that we hear readers mention time and time again is Cobb Cycling – they make a wide range of saddles and have carried out a great deal of research into the issues around saddle comfort for women.

Founder John Cobb has been active in the industry since 1972, working with pro teams and triathletes alongside developing products. After a great deal of research, he landed on one simple measure that could determine the perfect saddle for a woman: is she an ‘innie’ or an ‘outie’? And we’re not talking belly buttons.

We’re not sure we love Cobb’s illustration, but it is effective…

Cobb’s exploration started with a large-scale audience survey – starting with his wife, Ginger. This began with a simple approach: asking women what worked, what didn’t, and why.

With the information he gathered, he started modifying saddles and requested feedback – which is where it became apparent that women experiencing the most problems were those with an aggressive and racy front end set up, or riding on aero bars.

There was another clear pattern: “One group of women would really like a narrower nose section, while another group of women would absolutely hate that design and completely love a wide nose section design. There was very little middle ground, it was love it or hate it, but what were the deciding factors? Why would some prefer the wide nose and some prefer the narrow nose?”

The search moved on, and Cobb began to look at skeletal studies of the female body – it appeared that those with more forward hip sockets had flatter rear ends and more foreword protruding pubic bones. Women with more rearward hip sockets had more pronounced rear and very little public bone protrusion.

Cobb continued his search – asking more questions, looking at molds, x-rays and more. Which is where he noticed a connection between pubic bone location and soft tissue orientation.

More questions were asked, more research was done – but apparently it was “a social conversation” around belly buttons which triggered the Eureka for Cobb and his saddle fitting science. He landed on a simple question: “Are your ‘lady parts’ an ‘Innie’ or an ‘Outie’? There is a physical difference between the two types, and that difference can help tell you what saddle will be the best fit for your body type.”

“Because women’s sexual anatomy is lower in the pelvic region, and cannot be “adjusted” like men’s sexual anatomy, finding comfort can be more difficult on a bike saddle.”

Cobb Cycles explain: “The women’s sexual anatomy, the vulva, labia, and clitoris in particular, make up the women’s soft tissue that cause the most concerns and discomfort for female riders. The vulva and labia are the outer exposed soft tissue areas around the opening of the vagina. Because women’s sexual anatomy is lower in the pelvic region, and cannot be “adjusted” like men’s sexual anatomy, finding comfort can be more difficult on a bike saddle. Putting direct pressure on any of this soft tissue area can soon lead to pain, unhappiness, and short bike rides.”

The dots began to join to create the saddle fitting system that Cobb Cycles use today in their online ‘which saddle is right for you’ questionnaire: “For the women who are considered ‘Outies’, the vulva and the labia are much more pronounced and exposed, often showing as a physically larger area. The clitoris also may be a physically larger area. In other words, there is more fleshy surface area to the external genitalia for those who are considered outies. For the ‘Innies’, the vulva, the labia, and the clitoris tend to be more enclosed or drawn up internally so that the crotch area is smoother. The innies will have a smaller exposed soft tissue surface area.

“So far, it seems that either one can be found with either pubic bone style, but it is beginning to show that the forward hip socket location combined with the protruding pubic bone, tends to be an ‘Outie’ more often, while a less pronounced pubic bone tends to be an ‘Innie’.”

Though saddle preference does have its own unique factors, Cobb have found a clear trend: “We have found that the “Outies” tend like the wider nosed saddles such as the Max or Fifty-Five models, while the “Innies” consistently like the Plus and V-Flow and the new Randee’ [narrower nosed] models.”

We wouldn’t suggest that every reader rush out to buy a Cobb saddle – but we would suggest that determining if you’re an ‘innie’ or an ‘outie’ could help you get a clearer idea what shape of saddle you should look for.

You might also like: 

7 Tips to Finding the Perfect Saddle

Saddle Sores: 16 Tips for Avoiding Them

4 Reasons a Road Cyclist Should Get a Bike Fit

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