Everyone has their opinion as to what the best saddle is from a fit and comfort perspective. Will with the BiSaddle ShapeShifter Saddle you can adjust the dimension of the saddle to fit you. So does ultimate configurability translate to ultimate conform? Let’s get this BiSaddle review underway and find out
BiSaddle ShapeShifter Saddle Review – Home Custom Saddle
I‘ve ridden on a wide range of saddles over the years. Sometimes I’ve found a bike cycle manufacturers own branded saddle gives a jolly good ride. Sometimes I’ve been impressed by exceptionally technical bike seats, and more than once absolutely stumped how a company can charge astronomical prices for what appears to be a truly unpleasant and painful place on which to perch when riding your bike.
Sorry Fizik, but I’m looking at you there
I’ve never found a perfect saddle. I’ve found many good ones, and more often than not this has been an accidental discovery, rather than having specifically set out to find a new seat, but in almost all cases there has been something which could be tweaked.
Perhaps I just have a Princess and the Pea attitude when it comes to saddles, I really don’t know. So when I heard about the BiSaddle ShapeShifter I was very interested to see if these guys have cracked the saddle formulae, by, well, ditching the formulae and saying “ Let your butt, you decide” as a result of having a saddle that is almost completely configurable in terms of fore and aft width. But appreciating that there is always someone who wants more once you are starting to offer configurability, the BiSaddle also allows the user to adjust the overall curve of the saddle as well.
Saddles are a little bit like running shoes. You CANNOT recommend one to someone else just because it worked for you. We all have slightly different strides, and all have slightly different feet, and when it comes to cycling, we all have different butts, and someone else’s recommendation of a gorgeous saddle might make one of the five touchpoints on your bike a position of perfect pain. Let’s not even get into the fact that pain might be indicating that a saddle might be causing you some perineal problems.
So the idea of an infinitely customisable saddle seemed very interested. But also a little difficult to test. However, I have been very lucky, and also a little bit lazy, you see my Hummingbird bike, has the worlds MOST uncomfortable. Seriously, sitting on a brick would be more pleasant.
HOWEVER as most of my commuting is under 20mins on the Hummingbird, it is an irritation which has never been quite sufficient to reach the threshold where I’ll actually do anything about it and swap the saddle!
By comparison, when I have had issues with my road bike and race bike saddles, those units have not hung around for long. My latest long term saddle to date has been a Specialized Body Geometry saddle, which is great, but at times I wonder if it could be improved, occasionally, I wonder if the central channel could be a little wider
So to start off the BiSaddle ShapeShifter Saddle Review it seemed entirely reasonable to swap out the worlds most uncomfortable saddle, with the worlds most adjustable and see how things faired before applying the saddle to my road and race bikes.
So with that in mind, before we delve into how the BiSaddle ShapeShifter rides, let’s take a look at what makes this such an interesting concept for a saddle
BiSaddle ShapeShifter Saddle – Design
Right from the get-go when it comes to customisation there are two different forms of BiSaddle for the rider to choose from:
The original BiSaddle SRT (Short) which is intended for the triathlon crowd and then the Bisaddle EXT for the more road cycling orientated rider.
In spite of the EXT coming out a couple of years after the SRT it has a much less, robust feel to in when you hold the two in your hand. The SRT feels solid, whereas the EXT, by comparison, feels a touch flimsy, it is a very strange comparison between the two
Really pushing the customisation angle even further than the ability to change the various widths, the kits also include a replacement bottom base plate, that should you wish allows you to tweak the overall curve of the saddle. Although BiSaddle does recommend that this particular level of customisation is reserved for when / if you are having a full bike fit
On the bottom of the BiSaddle are four bolts, that really are what allows the company to call their product the BiSaddle ShapeShifter.
These four bolts allow the front and rear of the saddle to be varied in proximity, independently, to the degree that in their literature they even discuss how some riders have required an asymmetrical positioning of the two halves in order to overcome peroneal discomfort.
As there is such a huge degree of variation possible with a front width range of 40 – 75mm, and a rear width range of 130 – 185mm, in order to ensure you don’t your trial settings between fittings, as it does take a little dialling in, under the saddle is high grit sandpaper designed to allow you to move the halves, without slipping and shifting more than you intend to
Although when you are 100% you have found the right position, you may have to trim it down a little, as it can get pulled out during repositioning
On the underside of the saddles at the rear are markers to allow you to ensure your adjustments are equal, but they are a little above the lower plastic, so work as a close guide, rather than the accurate measuring tool they should be
Whilst the adjustability is great, a saddle can still be quite uncomfortable in terms of the actual cushioning and the perch it provides. I honestly don’t know if I’ve imagined it, but the SRT saddle seemed to have a denser, more supportive construction than the EXT.
At the rear of the saddles is a plate with a series of holes, must are for weight saving, but the rear-facing is for the attachment of the universal mount.
It’s a shame that this is a paid accessory, as it allows various bottle cage mounts to be attached. It also has the function as acting as a transition mount for the triathlon users
To be clear, it is absolutely a requirement, as the SRT has no nose to hold onto a transition stand with, and the EXT does NOT have the strength of nose. It was actually difficult to take this photo as the saddle will just keep bending and slipping off here. The transition bracket is your only hope
It may seem strange to talk about the included manual as part of the design, but the handbook is absolutely needed to get the most out of the BiSaddle in both forms. Without it, you are just looking at an adjustable bit of seating, and don’t have have the correct understanding of the product – as there is nothing else like it out there – to be able to effectively position it. To the degree that BiSaddle supplies advised adjustments based in quite a lot of detail on the rider’s habits
The approach to customisation is also aided by a few short examples to guide you
BiSaddle ShapeShifter Saddle – Specification
- Front width range: 40-75mm
- Rear width: 130-185mm
- Length (fixed)
- 200m (BiSaddle SRT)
- 243mm (BiSaddle EXT)
- 340g – Chromoly Rails
- 325g – Titanium Rails
- 275g – Carbon Fibre Rails
- SRT $239
- Long-nosed BiSaddle (EXT) $249
- Opting for titanium rails add $50
- Opting for carbon fibre rails adds $100
BiSaddle ShapeShifter Saddle – Using the Saddle
When you go to the shop, and pick up a saddle, you’ve normally got a good idea as to what it is you’re looking for, and frequently will have had simple tests, such as checking your ischial tuberosity width. As a result of this, the first time that you sit on the bicycle you won’t be happy. It won’t feel right, and you’ll be quite concerned that you’ve spent a lot of money on another very comfortable saddle. HOWEVER And this is the crucial word, you need to adjust the saddle to you, and that also involves throwing out your existing preconceptions of what you think you need in a saddle
Whilst BiSaddle Provides a very clear approach to how are you can transfer your existing settings, from your current saddle to the BiSaddle as a starting point, I would strongly suggest your first couple of rides with the saddle are done on the turbo trainer. This gives you the option, to have the saddle bolts ever so slightly looser than normal, so that you can make micro adjustments on the fly, before tightening up in the road
In fact, listening to your body is so much more important than listening to your head when it comes to this. I personally found that whilst I felt I needed quite a while to channel, I got a much better result using a slightly narrower channel at the front, and a wider flair, and the wider seating position at the rear.
I really like the level of padding on the BiSaddle, And I’ve been surprised at the number of people, who have gone for a quick spin on it, who have been pleasantly surprised at the level of support, and similarly the level of pressure relief.
In fact, listening to your body is so much more important than listening to your head when it comes to this. I personally found that whilst I felt I needed quite a wide channel, I got a much better result using a slightly narrow channel at front, and a wider flair, and the wider seating position at the rear.
What turbo trainer allows you to dial in most accurately, obviously you can ride in a very different way out on the roads, to how you would indoors. Overall it probably took me about a month To properly dial in the comfort level,
What surprised me most however was that thr most comfortable outcome for me was actually shifting from the EXT saddle, which I’d assumed would be the saddle will give me the most effective on road experience, to the SRT triathlon saddle.
if you’ve been on what feels like a never ending lookout for a saddle, then perhaps getting a fully customised perch would be the next step?
BiSaddle ShapeShifter Saddle – Conclusion
So has the BiSaddle beaten out my trusty Specialized saddle? Well yes and no. I don’t know why, but I was just not able to get on with the EXT version of the saddle, it had too much flex in it. By comparison, the BiSaddle SRT had a much more reassuring feel when out on the saddle, especially during a race and cornering hard.
Yes the BiSaddle ShapeShifter is not the cheapest saddle around, however, if you are looking at this as a potential upgrade for your ride, that would suggest that you’ve already been through a couple of subtle changes in the past, in which case I would highly suggest giving it a go. There are other specialised saddles available such as those from Rido, that you are still left with a potential compromise with such units. Realistically, for most people, the only compromise with the BiSaddle is the weight. However as we are beginning to see in the pro peloton, with racing bikes that have increased compliance, having a more comfortable ride reduces tiredness, and is actually resulting in improved race performance, so perhaps the weight of this ShapeShifter saddle isn’t such a compromise