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Buying Guide: How to Select the Right Bike Saddle for You

A lot of beginner cyclists do not pay much attention to the bike seat when buying a new bike. Often, they think that the saddle that comes with the bike is good enough. But once you get serious with cycling and you decide to go on long distance rides, you’ll realize how important it is to be seated on a comfortable bike seat.

The saddle supports majority of your weight while you’re on the bike. Since you’ll be riding the bike for hours on end, using the wrong saddle can cause pain, discomfort, and even saddle sores.  It can also lead to postural injuries. Remember, cycling is supposed to be fun, not a painful, miserable experience.

While it’s normal to feel a little pain and discomfort on the first ride, that feeling is supposed to go away after a few weeks. Some cyclists get used to it while others do not. If you’re experiencing pain and discomfort every time you hit the road or trail, it might be best to shop for a new saddle.

Choosing the right saddle is a daunting task. Use this guide to help you make a more informed decision while choosing the perfect bike seat.

Bike saddle

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Types of bike saddle

Bike saddle shopping can be comparable to bed shopping. Since you’ll be spending several hours on the bed, you want to find one that will not only help you sleep soundly at night but will also prevent you from developing bed sores. The same principle should also be used when saddle shopping.

There are numerous styles and varieties of saddle – racing, comfort, and cruiser. Cruiser saddles provide a lot of cushioning. This is a great option for long distance bike rides, since the saddle supports majority of your body weight. Comfort saddles are wide with large amounts of padding. They are designed for moderate pedaling and longer distance rides. The padding absorbs some of the shock and vibrations from rough country roads. Racing saddles are lighter, harder, and thinner. They are designed to allow full movement and prevent chafing.

Consider your riding style

You might be tempted to walk into your local bike shop and grab the first bike seat you see. Don’t. The right saddle will depend on the type of cycling you intend to pursue. There are different styles and variations of  bike saddles. It is important to choose the one that suits your riding style.

Think of the problems you’re experiencing when you’re out on your bike, and choose a saddle that will help address the problem. If you intend to use your bike for commuting or leisure riding,  a wider bike seat with more support and extra padding will be the preferred choice. If you frequently hit the trails, you’ll want a mountain-specific saddle with padding for your sitbones. When riding long distances on your road bike, look for a performance saddle that’s narrow, long, and sports minimal padding. This offers a great compromise between comfort and weight.

Gender should also be taken into consideration

In the cycling world, there are lots of gears and equipment that are considered unisex. The bike seat isn’t one of them.

Pain and discomfort during a bike ride is something that affects a lot of women. If you often experience saddle discomfort, it may be due to the fact that you’re using men’s saddle.

Generally, women have wider sitbones than men. Female pelvis is also shaped differently than men. Also, most women has pelvic anteversion. Meaning, the hips tilt forward than the rest of her body. To reduce pressure, you need a seat that suits your anatomy.

Women-specific saddles feature a perineal cut-out design to protect the perineum. It helps relieve pressure on the perineum and provide comfort and airflow during long rides.

Material used

Another important factor to consider is the material with which the bike seat is made of. The material used will determine its price, effectiveness, and longevity. Most modern saddles use synthetic materials. Although, you’ll still find saddles that are made from pure leather. What’s great about synthetic materials is that they are water resistant. They won’t accumulate sweat on long rides or get soaked in pouring rain.

If you frequently hit the trails, choose a bike seat with a hard-wearing cover. Leather saddles are comfortable, elegant, and durable. However, they do not perform well in harsh conditions. It can get soaked in the rain, making it uncomfortable to sit in. Leather saddles last for a very long time, provided that you take good care of it. Otherwise, you’ll notice signs of deterioration like cracking over time.

Adequate suspension

If you usually ride through rough and uneven terrain, go for saddles that offer great suspension. Bike saddles with excellent suspension are ideal for  aggressive riders as they are able to absorb much of the shock and vibrations experienced while cycling. It prevents unnecessary pains, aches, and muscle strains.

Try the bike saddle before you purchase it

Just because you followed the tips above, it doesn’t mean that you’ll end up purchasing the right bike saddle. Finding the right bike seat can be a bit of a guessing game. You can’t tell whether or not it works for you by just looking at it. The only way to find out is to take it for a test ride.

Some cyclists would spend a huge sum of money, only to find out later on that they bought the wrong saddle. Manufacturers and shop owners recognize this problem. Some bike brands and shops offer test ride programs, so you can test the saddle without any purchase obligations.

Final thoughts

For some people, the saddle that comes with their bike works just fine. For others, however, it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do.

If the saddle is doing it’s job properly, you’ll barely notice it. If not, then it will cause you pain and discomfort. Riding is supposed to be fun. Don’t let the bike saddle dampen your experience. If you are on a hunt of the perfect saddle, follow the tips above to increase riding comfort and make your riding experience more enjoyable.

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