Cycles come with stock saddles, but everyone’s sit bones, style of riding and needs are different. One of the first things that starts feeling sore on a long ride is your butt. Hence, it is important to have the right bicycle saddle; for the right weight distribution, and alignment. A wrong saddle can lead to soreness, numbness and even back injuries. Let’s get to choosing the right saddle for you.
Step 1: Determine Your Riding Position
Determining your riding style and your riding position is crucial to choosing the right bicycle saddle.
For an Upright Riding Position
Ideal Saddle Type: Cruiser Bicycle Saddle
If your cycle has a relaxed riding geometry, and you sit upright when you ride, then your saddle takes your entire body’s weight. It needs to be highly cushioning. Cruiser saddles are the right saddles for such a cycling position. They are fully padded, may include springs or gels, providing maximum support to your body weight. They are perfect for a slow pedalling; suitable for comfort or hybrid bikes.
For Regular Riding Position
Ideal Saddle Type: Medium Wide Bicycle Saddle
These types of saddles are best for recreational riding where you sit upright and lean slightly forward, putting some of your weight on the saddle, and some on the handlebar. Thus, these saddles have medium cushioning (usually gel). They are medium wide so the cyclist can sit securely on the saddle, while also narrow nosed, so that when the cyclist leans forward it allows them to. They may or may not have a top cut out.
Make sure that the saddle’s width matches the width of your sit bones to ensure maximum comfort. These types of saddles are best suited for flat-bar road bikes, hybrid bikes, city bikes, etc.
For Pro Riding Position
Ideal Saddle Type: Narrow Racing Bicycle Saddle
If you’re a cyclist who loves riding aggressively, or cycles hard and fast for competitions, a saddle that suits your forward position and swift pedal cadence will be ideal for you. Cyclists who ride in a far forward position usually rest near the middle of their bicycle saddle; this position favors fast pedaling.
As most of your weight gets transferred to the handlebars and pedals, not much pressure is applied onto the seats. Therefore, narrow and lightweight saddles with minimal padding work best for such cycling. These types of saddles are best suited for road racing bikes, tri bikes, racing mountain bikes, etc.
Step 2: Consider These Bicycle Saddle Features
Rather than buying a succession of bicycle saddles, try figuring out the reasons why the current one is failing to work for you. Identify the saddle features that are suitable for you, and find the right saddle.
Padding helps distribute the pressure from your rear across the whole saddle. Failing to choose the perfect padding might result in discomfort and injuries with time.
The most common padding material is Polyurethane foam, which produces softer and firmer bicycle saddles. However, the softer the material, the more discomfort and heat will it generate.
2. Cover Material
While synthetic materials are the most common materials used in modern saddles, you can also find real leathered ones on the expensive side. Notice if the cover has any reinforcing panels, seams, or sticky bits that may cause chafing. If yes, you might want to reconsider your choice. If you’re looking for a mountain bicycle saddle, hard-material covered ones would be ideal for you since they can endure the pressure and duration of an aggressive, rocky bicycle ride.
The bar that your seatpost clamps onto under the saddle is called a rail. Cheaper saddles generally have steel alloy rails. Expensive saddles have titanium or carbon rails that cost more but are lighter and more durable. Single rail saddles are the best in both road and mountain cycling, thanks to their adjustability.
The base of the saddle is called a saddle’s shell. It determines the bounce and shape of the saddle. You’ll find a wide array of choices in this regard, as manufacturers create various shells to suit different sizes and physiques. Most saddles have a Nylon shell with some carbon reinforcements. However, the posh ones come in pure all-carbon shells; racers like these for being lightweight.
5. Cut Outs or Grooves
To help reduce the pressure and heat, some saddle shells have a cutout or groove in the middle. You might want to try out these saddles for a test ride to make sure whether you’re comfortable with them or not.
6. Curved vs. Flat Saddle
While a curved saddle helps in the even distribution of the pressure applied, a flat saddle concentrates most of the pressure on the sit-bone area. Both work, depending on what the cyclist finds comfortable.
7. Saddle weight
Lighter saddles are better for races. Heavier saddles often have more cushioning that provides greater comfort, especially for plus size cyclists. Saddles go from less than 100gm to more than 500gm; those weighing about 300 grams work for the regular cyclist. Want to go lighter? Go for saddles with carbon rails; titanium rails will help absorb shock.
8. Seat Height
If you don’t really face any particular discomfort regarding your saddle but are still getting numb or sore, chances are the seat’s height is a cause for concern. Try fixing it higher or lower as per your needs, and see which one works for you. You can also invest in a session with an experienced bike fitter to figure out what isn’t working for you.
Step 3: Choose from the Types of Bicycle Saddle/Seats
The features and design of a saddle aren’t random. It took almost 150 years to perfect the saddle, saving cyclists from soreness and numbness. Today, we have over various types of saddles to suit various bikes, be it a comfort bike, a BMX, or an MTB.
1. Gel Saddle
These saddles are ideal for cyclists who travel short distances. The gel padding cushions your sit bones and distributes the pressure evenly across the seat. Gel saddles are shock absorbing and come in both heavy and light models. They mold over time to suit your body contours, and some even feature bumps to support your sit bones better.
2. Mountain Bike Saddle
This saddle is great for adventuring on rough trails or aggressive biking. These saddles have a downward leaning narrow nose to help in traversing forward, while the rear is shaped to help move back easily. Both bike and rider go through a lot of jolts and blows while mountain biking. It requires frequent body shifting, such as leaning forward during a climb and sliding to the back of the saddle during a downhill ride. The narrow structure and minimal padding of these saddles mitigate such jolts.
3. Racing Saddle
This design allows you to move freely and prevents chafing. They are thin, hard, and lightweight. As racers stoop really low to avoid wind resistance, these saddles are designed to help the riders in transferring the weight to the handlebars and pedals instead of the seat. Some of them also come without a cutaway or nose which helps in eradicating pressure on sensitive tissues.
4. Cruiser Saddle
These saddles come with heavy cushioning to support your body weight as most of it is concentrated on the seat. Cruiser, as the name implies, means relaxed, recreational ride with slow pedaling cadence. The most famous cruiser saddle is the banana saddle. These saddles work great for kids’ bikes too!
5. Comfort Saddle
These saddles are specifically designed for long-distance rides with moderate pedaling. They have ample cushioning and wide rear to absorb shocks if you’re traversing on country trails and bumpy roads. These are ideal for women, thanks to their wide shape and a short nose!
6. Noseless Saddle
These saddles are gender-specific and centerline cleft. They are light to medium weight and take off a great deal of pressure from the most sensitive area of the body.
7. Cutaway Saddle
Cutaway saddles extensively reduce pain, irritation, or discomfort caused during biking. They have a cut-out in their body. The pressure points of these saddles are eliminated by removing the material from the saddle top. They come in various models such as mountain bikes, performance, gel, etc
8. Suspension Saddle
Suspension saddles provide extra comfort as the suspension mechanism at the back of the saddle absorbs all the shocks of a bumpy ride. They even help in preventing back injuries.
Now that you know about saddles, find the one that would suit you as per your riding style. Consider the width, nose, shape, cushioning, weight, material, cut-out feature in the saddle. Have a comfortable ride, and let your saddle help you with high-performance or leisure riding, whatever is your focus!
Read our article: How to buy a cycling helmet
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