I have a confession to make: I'm not quite sure where the idea for a Saddle Library came from.
The process of starting this shop involved countless 1:1 conversations and group meetings with a lots of different folks in an effort to figure out what was missing in bike shops, what people wished they could find help with that just wasn't there. I learned a lot from these conversations (lessons that continue to guide how this shop operates every day) and from them, one especially strong theme emerged: People hated their bike seats.
Almost every person seemed to have a horror story. Some folks assumed that it was just supposed to hurt like hell to ride a bike, others talked about buying expensive saddles that ended up feeling like torture devices, that they then couldn't return. Others of trying to talk to a salesperson about where they were feeling pain, but feeling uncomfortable being honest.
And, somewhere in the midst of these conversations the Saddle Library started to emerge. It wasn't the result of one lightbulb moment, but rather the culmination of listening and sharing with all sorts of people. The Saddle Library is an idea that was built by the folks who still continue to shape what this shop is: YOU, our friends, customers and community.
No matter who or where it came from, though, it clearly resonated with a lot of different people. And last week we hit quite the milestone: Our 1000th saddle library customer. So now seems like a good time to reflect on what we've learned in the past 3 years of running the Saddle Library. Without further ado...
Lessons Learned from 1000 Butts:
1. Every butt is a special snowflake.
We can measure your sit bones; we can do pressure mapping of where your body contacts the saddle; we can analyze your position on a bike. BUT, we can never be inside your body, feeling what you're feeling, and if we've learned anything from the working with so many people and their saddles, it's that every body responds to things differently. Even two people with similar body types riding on the exact same bike, with the exact same fit set up, wearing the exact same thing, often want things that are vastly different from one another.
Sure, there are some saddles that are purchased more often than others, but we still haven't seen any major trends emerge that points to any one-size-fits all solutions.
2. Some saddles are lip rippers. Others hurt "down there".
When we ask people about their saddle discomfort, some folks want to dive in an tell us exactly now the saddle is pinching their labia, or tell us that their balls are aching, or that their clitoris is feeling overly stimulated, and so on... And then others feel more comfortable talking in the abstract, preferring to reference their 'soft tissue' or (my personal favorite) their 'down there'.
While we certainly don't shy away from using anatomically correct language, we've learned that it's all about meeting people where they're at and talking in whatever ways make people feel most comfortable.
3. Saddle fit and comfort is not a permanent state.
While I'd love to say that once you find a saddle that works for you, then that's it, that's simply not true. Our bodies are in a constant state of change; aging, pregnancy, weight gain/loss, menopause (side note: I know SO MUCH MORE about what to look forward to with menopause from talking about saddles than I ever learned in any school!) -- injuries, and so on. As our bodies take different shapes, our preferences for saddles do to.
So, while we're psyched that we found you that great saddle last year, we won't be surprised when we see you back her in five years in search of comfort anew.
4. We sure do repeat ourselves a lot.
Here's a sampling of some of the many things that the people who work at Gladys have said 1000+ times:
- On a scale of 1:10 everyone has a different level of sensitivity, so we can't know how you're feeling or experiencing something. That's unique to you.
- Bodies are weird!
- You're normal.
- Sometimes my labia get pinched too!
- Sit bones are only a small part of the story; the size, shape and sensitivity of our soft tissue has incredible variety.
- You deserve to feel comfortable.
- The goal is to be able to forget that you're sitting on a small, awkwardly shaped, often hard object that's shoved into the most sensitive place on your body and instead just focus on pedaling the bike. Sounds easy enough, right?
5. People are honest and good.
To answer an oft-asked question: It's rare that anyone ever steals a saddle. In the three years we've been at this, two have been stolen off of people's bikes and only one has not been returned by customers. True, sometime people are quite tardy in getting returned, but they (pretty much) always seem to come back. Thanks to all of you for proving to be just at trustworthy as we'd hoped!
With all that said, I just want to leave you with a thanks today. Thank you for helping us to create the Saddle Library. Thank you for helping us continue to improve it. And thank you for trusting us to help you (and your butts) get more comfortable on your bikes.
Here's to 1000 more butts!