ISM saddles and saddle sores

I like my ISM saddle because it lets me roll forwards with impunity without impending my pudendal, but I find that I get saddle sores rather frequently unless the bike fit and chamois pad stars align.

Does anyone have tips for avoiding undercarriage nastiness other than the usual “wash your bibs” advice?

I thought I had solved the issue recently until I changed shoes, which I believe severely affected my fit situation.

This is an older topic, but are the sores related to friction or its is maybe a skin issue?

If it’s friction I’ve experimented Body Glide and Trislide on trouble spots and it seemed to really help in areas when I would get sores due to friction (Watch out if you get trislide on you floors! Super slippery).

I think some of the newer ones are narrower. If I get them now it tends to be because of thigh rub from sitting too upright.

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I think I just had the saddle a few MM too high. You have to be careful to pay attention to whether your sit bones are squirming.

I still occasionally get minor sores that hurt if you poke at them but otherwise don’t affect my riding.

Also, some cheaper bibs have seams that go right under where the nose of an ISM saddle goes, so I started using only bibs without this seam.

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I only use ISM saddles for tt as they are wider and do rub on the inner thighs unless you lean forward on the tt bars (they are great for tt by the way!) On my road bikes I have a normal saddle and use bibs by Castelli, DHB and Caratti - also use plenty of Muck off chamois cream which reduces friction and leads to less abrasions which can get infected.

Personally I have very wide hips, so rubbing on the thighs doesn’t bother me. If anything, the issue that you’re sort of sitting on your glutes, which can get uncomfortable after very hard efforts (or maybe that happens regardless of the saddle…).

I like the fact that I can lean forward with impunity and also ride with my arms on a foam roller like TT bars while on the trainer, which is great since I have issues with hand pain (probably more from computer use than cycling).

I have had a couple of ISM saddles on my TT rig, which is serving as my turbo bike currently. I have also had some soreness (which is starting to get better). I was previously using a road bike (and a cheap carbon saddle) and didn’t suffer so much, I guess because I can move around more on the road bike. The TT bike (I find) is a worst-case for saddle soreness because I have the pressure point so far forward on my ischial tuberosites and you can’t really move (the whole point of the TT bike/position is you have to stay still and aero!)

I had been using a smear of Sudocrem before every ride, but a cocktail of Sudocrem before and after rides, and Canesten in the evening has largely cleared things up but I have been pretty close to trying surgical spirits (rubbing alcohol) in the hope of both cleaning and toughening the old perch!

I suppose I should mention that I never use bibs on the tt bike - which is where my ISM saddle is - only a NOPINZ trip suit (UK company that makes the skin suits that virtually every tt er in the country uses - they have a virtual monopoly - only the colours vary! :laughing:) But again plenty of chamois cream and try to stay as still as possible! - they are pretty pricey the skinsuits £250+ so the chamois is actually pretty good.

I had the issue with rubbing and switched to a Bontrager Hilo; huge difference. It seems the ISM run wide normally and unless you want to zip tie the rails (I have tried) you may be better served looking to a narrower saddle. I can now do 3hr rides on the TT without too many issues.

ISM have different ranges. I tried two of the old “performance narrow” range and they were fine as long as I stayed in position. The problem was only if I trained for long up hills where I’d leave position and move further back on the saddle. Overall, I rate them for TT and Road, but not gravel, touring, mountain bike etc.

I feel that it should be noted that a “saddle sore” is a very specific condition, usually an infected pore or hair follicle. It tend to feel like a big, hard pimple. They require specific treatment (antibiotic ointment, cleansing and occasionally even lancing)

Abrasions and irritation from your saddle / chamois are NOT saddle sores. They require a completely different form of treatment (chamois cream when riding, neorsporin or aquaphor in between rides, etc).

It is important to correctly refer to which ailment you are suffering so proper recommendations can be made.

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If you deep dive into the actual geometry of all the ISM saddles, they run wide, even the narrow ones. I hear gebiomized saddles are good. Dash are also good. They all run narrower, similar to the hilo I have

I hate my ISM saddle. I’m beyond the return period, so I’m stuck with it. I thought I would eventually adapt, but it didn’t happen. Yes. I get saddle sores from it. It is just generally uncomfortable. It’s probably why I gravitate to my gravel bike with a stock factory seat more these days.

It doesn’t matter. If your pelvis is rolled forward, as in an aero position, there is a bigger gap anyway.

It does matter. There is a reason many people zip tie the rails on the ISM or move towards a dash or alternative split noes design; the ISM issue is a very known issue among athletes and unless you are large enough to fit the geometry of the wide noes width, there are alternatives that work better for some people.

Lots of high level athletes, pros and bike fitters have issues with ISM. Yes, it is a great first “try this one it will likely work well” saddle, but it’s pretty silly to say that the width does not matter.

I think they are like Marmite…you either love them or hate them - as soon as I put one on my tt bike it was a revelation…but I doubt you can “get used to them” - your either sold on them from ride 1 or they are not for you!

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No, it doesn’t. There will be natural variation in pelvis size with which they try to target with only one width of saddle. Add all the people who don’t roll their pelvis forward or have lots of fat on their thighs and it’s easy to see why one saddle can’t make everyone happy.

I am unsure if you are agreeing with me or disagreeing with me, but if you are smaller than in general 6 feet tall, the ISM seems to be very wide in general. If you also look at the numbers, the PN series has some weird geometry in itself. The PS series seems to be good for triathlon setups but runs wide, hence the zip ties and/or move to other saddles. Compare widths of the narrower split noes alternatives and to ISM saddles and you can clearly see the difference.

Take a read on many sites and they discuss this geometry in great detail. As a rider smaller than 6 feet tall, I have moved towards a narrower split noes and have noticed a huge improvement over my ISM. And I like to think I don’t have fatty legs :sob:

For what its worth I have only got start of saddle sores because my seat was too low on the trainer which led to more rocking than needed. Raised it up slightly and it went away.

This has held true from bontrager comp on my trek emonda and also the specialized power on my tarmac.

Edit: and I only have had Rapha bibs but multiple pairs.

Note to self… don’t shave any hairs anywhere your saddle touches.