Alongside the pedals and grips, the saddle is one of the key contact points that can make or break your cycling experience.
It determines your long-distance comfort and long-term health. Knowing how to choose a bike saddle will profoundly affect your comfort and enjoyment as you ride.
A well-designed and well-fitting saddle ensures a free flow of blood in the perineal and genital area which is essential to avoid potential problems in the future.
Since bike saddles come in many shapes, sizes, styles, and prices, sometimes it isn’t easy to pick the right one. You can easily choose a saddle if you know which type of saddle you’re looking for and your riding position.
In this article, we discuss how to choose the right bike saddle and why a saddle is important.
Why Is a Choice of Saddle Important?
A bike saddle fit is important for comfort, performance, and avoiding sores.
The most important thing for a cycling enthusiast is to enjoy each ride. Having a comfortable saddle goes a long way in ensuring you enjoy the ride. With a well-fitted saddle, you can get the most out of your ride.
It allows you to comfortably ride for long durations, over varied terrains, and with good riding efficiency. Once you have adjusted to a saddle, regular riding will not cause any pain or discomfort.
The wrong-fit saddle can be uncomfortable and even painful, sometimes leading to numbness in the undercarriage.
It can also affect your performance because of constant position changes to relieve pressure. You can lose focus and power output due to discomfort or pain, affecting your performance.
Both men and women can struggle with saddle discomfort. Sometimes the excessive friction or pressure from a poor saddle fit can cause some infections in the form of saddle sores.
Hence, getting the perfect saddle fit is vital in reducing this discomfort and giving you a great riding experience. If it doesn’t fit, you may experience other problems such as poor positioning, muscle imbalance, and asymmetries.
How To Choose A Bike Saddle
Many bike saddles on the market have different cycling disciplines: road racing, touring, MTB or BMX.
You can find comfort saddles designed as all-around options for casual and leisure cyclists. In most cases, saddle manufacturers have a range of sizes, shapes, and materials.
These saddles emphasize comfort rather than low weight or high performance. Here is how you can find the perfect saddle for your bike.
Find the saddle with the right shape
There are different saddles available differentiated by shape. The shape of your saddle depends on your gender, with ladies preferring a wider, female-specific saddle for comfort.
Male gender saddles are a little closer to average men’s comfort. The saddle shape also depends on the type of cycling you do.
If you race under extreme circumstances such as downhills, you need a saddle fit for that discipline. Therefore find a bike saddle that fits your discipline.
Measure the width of your sit bones
A bike saddle comes in different widths depending on the distance between your sit bones. Measure this distance to discover which saddle is best for you.
Compared to men, women have wider sit bones, with the differences in the location of soft tissues in the undercarriage playing a role in how a saddle feels.
You cannot use the distance between your sit bones to determine your body size. For example, are 5 ft woman can have wider sit bones than a 6 ft woman.
Therefore, get your sit bone measurement and use it to select the best bike saddle that may work for you.
Consider your flexibility on the bike
Pelvic rotation is the most important flexibility factor when choosing the right bike saddle. The spinal and hamstring flexibility can also play a role in your belly hinge forward at the waist.
You can test your flexibility by sitting on the ground and seeing how far you can reach with your hands. If you struggle to reach forwards, you are less flexible, and if you can touch your toes, you are very flexible.
A more rounded saddle is better for less flexible people since they often shift around on their saddle. This saddle applies better for upright positions and people with left pelvic rotation.
Flexible cyclists have a more stable position on the bike and sit more comfortably on a flat saddle that provides more freedom of movement. The flat and narrow saddle has more flexibility and pelvic rotation.
Know your riding position
Your riding position determines how comfortably you sit on your bike. Therefore, choose a saddle that suits your riding position and lightens the pressure on crucial parts of your body.
Some people prefer an upright position, while others prefer a more sporting or aerodynamic position. You can put more pressure on the forward part of your pelvic area if you bend forwards often while cycling.
Consider your riding style
The two main bike riding styles for road cycling are racing and endurance. The racing style is an aggressive position that requires a lot of flexibility.
Most road cyclists in competition take up an aggressive and aerodynamic position on racing. The optimum saddles for the racing style are flat saddles with less padding.
On the other hand, endurance riding involves a more upright positioning for long distances. This is a less aggressive and more upright position ideal for a multi-day tour. The wide curved side with more padding is the best fit for this style.
Set the saddle to the right height
After finding the perfect saddle for your bike, the next step is to set it to the correct height. The height of your saddle can contribute to a more efficient pedal stroke and prevent any irritating symptoms from rising.
The saddle height depends on several factors such as your flexibility, core strength, sit bone width, and soft tissue distribution. The best way to find the perfect saddle is to test them out.
Take it on one of your regular rides to get the best idea of whether or not it is the right fit for you. Also, consider the saddle position and make sure it is horizontal. You may experience discomfort in undesirable areas if the saddle nose points too far up or down.
How Are Bike Saddles Categorized
Different saddle models are designed for different body shapes regardless of gender.
You will find male and female-specific saddles differentiated by shapes and designs on the market. However, there is nothing wrong with using a bike saddle that’s branded for different gender.
For example, a woman can find bike seats for men perfectly comfortable. The most important consideration when choosing a bike saddle is the comfort of riding a bicycle.
If you’re a female rider, you can consider many of the same points as men when choosing a bike saddle. They include the riding style, discipline, and flexibility of a saddle. After narrowing down these variables, try out some saddles that fit your criteria.
The most comfortable women’s bike saddles have pressure-relieving channels, cut-outs, and female-specific padding to help support the sit bones instead of the sensitive surrounding tissue.
Mountain Bike Saddles vs Road Bike Saddles
The bike saddles differ by discipline because of the different riding positions and bike geometry.
Mountain bike saddles have a larger platform and are flat from back to front. They help a rider slide on and off the back regularly.
Compared to road bike saddles, mountain bike saddles have reinforced shells and cover to prevent damage, that’s more common with mountain biking. They also have more padding than road bikes because of the rough trail terrain.
Road bike saddles have smaller platforms with a slight kick up at the back to stop the rider from sliding back as the pedal. They are also slightly narrow and have more flexibility.
A road bike saddle has less padding and thinner shells that save weight. There is also a specialized saddle with stubby noses catering for trail riding.
This saddle suits riding in a triathlon position by allowing the rider to get into a 90-degree position without putting pressure on the perineum.
How Much Should I Spend on a Saddle?
Decide on your budget before you begin searching for bike saddles.
The prices of premium saddles from reputable manufacturers can cost up to $400. This high price is attributed to the materials used, weight savings, and brand recognition.
However, you can find a range of bikes’ saddle shapes and sizes at any price point. The entry-level models are the cheapest ones and might be comfortable for you despite being heavy.
We’ve discussed tips on finding the perfect saddle.
You must have the right type of saddle for your flexibility and riding position. Many saddles are gendered where they are sold as male or female-specific.
However, don’t be afraid to try saddles designated for folks outside the gender you identify as until you find the most comfortable model. You can get the best saddle once you know your sit bone measurements, flexibility, and preferences.
However, there isn’t a single most comfortable bike seat. A saddle can be perfectly comfortable for you and cause unbearable pain for another person.
The choice comes down to the shape and flexibility of your body and the distance between your sit bones and pelvic rotation.
Remember your body needs time to adjust to the saddle. In the beginning, you may experience some soreness in the body area that is in contact with the saddle after the ride.
Last Updated on July 28, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic