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This is the ultimate guide on how to choose a bike saddle. It will help you choose the right saddle whether you ride a road, mountain, or hybrid bike.
A bike saddle has, without a doubt, a huge impact on your riding comfort. And I admit, it may also be tricky to find the right one.
Even if you have a fancy carbon saddle for above $300, you may not feel comfortable. It is not about the price but the right shape, size, and fit.
In this guide, you also find out what features to consider when choosing a bike saddle so you maximize your riding comfort and whether or not women-specific saddles are worth it.
Before You Buy a New Bike Saddle…
Choosing the right bike saddle is a very complex process. Before we dive into it, I would like to address a few specifics. You may find out that you don’t need a new saddle at all.
1. The tips below don’t have to apply to every rider.
You may be lucky and find the right saddle right away, but usually, you will have to try more saddles and find the one that suits you best.
There are many variables to consider, and this guide will you through the most important ones.
2. Tweak your saddle position.
Before you start looking for a new saddle, try to tweak the position of your current one; eventually, adjust your bike fit. I admit it is not easy to set them right, so don’t be afraid of consulting them with an experienced bike fitter from your area.
Below, you find the most common bike fit mistakes and their causes:
|Saddle Height||Too low |
• Quadriceps burn
• Pain in the front of your knees
• Hamstring burn
• Pain in the back of your knees
• Hips moving from side to side
• Lower back pain
|Saddle Tilt||Too much tilt forward |
• Excessive pressure in
your intimate area
• Excessive pressure on your wrists
that can lead to hand numbness
|Too much tilt backward
• You will slip backward
|Saddle Horizontal Position||Too far forward|
• A lot of weight on hands
• Quadriceps burn
• Pain in the front of your knees
|Too far backward
• A lot of weight on your bottom
• Upper hamstring burn
• Almost no weight on your hands
• Neck pain
• Pain in the back of your knees
Sources: Cam Nicholls and Neill Stanbury Collaboration, Steve Hogg
3. Try before you buy.
I also recommend trying a bike saddle before you buy it, so you don’t waste money on a saddle that doesn’t fit.
Borrow a new saddle from friends or local stores and take a few rides on it. Once you are sure, this is the right saddle for you, feel free to buy a new one.
Find the Right Saddle Shape Based on Your Anatomy and Riding Style
This is probably the most difficult step when choosing a bike saddle. But don’t worry, I will explain everything in detail.
There are 5 basic shapes and dimensions to look for in a saddle:
- Saddle Width
- Saddle Curvature
- Saddle Cutout
- Saddle Waviness
- Saddle Profile
The saddle width is measured from the edge to the edge across the widest point of the saddle. There are various saddle widths on the market (135 mm, 145 mm, 155 mm, etc.).
To determine the right saddle width for you, you have to measure your sit bone width. You can do it at home using just a few tools. Watch the following tutorial for more.
There are 3 basic sit bone widths groups – narrow (100mm or less), medium (100-130mm), and wide (over 130mm). The following picture shows the recommended saddle width based on your sit bones width.
To select the recommended saddle width, add 20mm to your sit bones width. My sit bones width is 110mm, so the recommended saddle width for me is 130mm.
The table below shows recommended saddle widths more in detail.
|Sit Bones Width||Sadle Width|
Selle Royal’s study shows that every riding position requires a slightly different saddle shape. Here is a quick summary:
- Riders who ride in a more upright position will benefit from wider saddles.
- Performance-oriented riders who sit in a more aggressive, aero riding position will probably prefer a narrower saddle because of the ‘V’ shape of ischial bones (it is getting narrower when you rotate your torso forward).
Note: The explanation above is very simplified. Other factors like your pelvis’s dynamic motion and surrounding soft tissue also matter when choosing the right saddle.
Riders who experience pinching may benefit from saddles with more curvature. According to Cycling Weekly, it will support your body rather than creating a shelf that can pinch your skin.
Evo.com explains curved saddle will keep you more centered on the bike and provide you with a little extra control.
Just remember, more curved saddles may cause more pressure in your intimate area due to the shape of our ischium.
Saddle Cutout and Relief Channel
Some bike saddles come with a cutout or relief channel. The main goal of this feature is to relieve the pressure in your intimate area and perineum. So if you experience numbness in your intimate areas, a saddle with a cutout may be a good option for you.
According to this study, it seems sensible to use a saddle with a cutout or noseless saddles to reduce the pressure. But it may not apply to all riders, and it is a matter of individual suitability.
There is one not-so-obvious downside of saddles with cutout. In winter or during rainy days, the elements like wind and water can cause significant discomfort.
You may be interested in this selection of the best saddles for prostate relief.
Bike saddles are either flat or curved. Curved saddles, with a so-called kick-back, may help to reduce your lower back pain because they support your lower back better than flat saddles.
For example, Fizik offers 3 basic shapes of saddles – Aliante, Antares, and Arione. According to their saddle finder, flat saddles like Arione are better for flexible riders, curved saddles like Aliante for less flexible ones, and Antares for riders in between.
But again, there are exceptions so flexible riders may prefer Aliante and vice versa.
Saddle Profile From the Top
When you look at the various saddles from the top, you notice they have different shapes. There are 2 basic shapes of saddles:
- T-shaped profile – narrow front and wide rear, sitting area
- Pear-shaped profile – it widens along the entire length of the saddle from front to back
According to BikeGremlin.com, the T-shaped saddles are more comfortable in the area where your tights touch the saddle while pear-shaped saddles are suitable for riders who change their fore and aft sitting position.
Consider Other Bike Saddle Features
The following features of bike saddles may not be as important for some types of riders but you should not forget about them.
The heavier you are, the more likely you will feel comfortable on a saddle with some padding. I am a pretty light rider, so I have been using a saddle without any padding, and I was fine.
But, if you weigh, for example, above 80kg (180 lb), you should probably consider a saddle with some padding. It is usually made of foam or gel.
Brands like Specialized or Fizik also experiment with 3D printed liquid polymer saddles. This technology allows them to adjust the density in various areas of the saddle.
More padding ≠ More comfort
Some people think that the more padding the saddle has, the more comfortable it is. The reality is different, and you have to find a saddle that fits you.
The weight of the saddle depends on the used materials and the type of saddle. Casual riders usually don’t try to slash every gram on their bike and are ok with heavier saddles (400g [14.1 oz] and more).
Performance-oriented riders prefer lightweight saddles. For example, high-end road bike saddles have rails and a shell made of carbon. They are very light (usually under 250g [8.8 oz]). The lightest carbon bike saddles (without any padding) can weigh below 100g (3.5 oz).
I have just one tip for you. Don’t sacrifice your comfort for the sake of lower weight. If you don’t feel comfortable on your bike, you won’t perform well, and the few grams saved will make a big negative impact.
Before you buy a bike saddle, make sure to double-check if it is compatible with your seatpost. There are 2 basic types of rails – round and oval.
Carbon bike saddle rails tend to have an oval shape. So if you have seatpost clamps compatible with round rails only, you won’t be able to fit the saddles with an oval shape rails.
What bike saddle brand you choose is completely up to your preference. Here are a few bike saddle manufacturers that produce high-quality bike saddles:
- Selle Italia
- Selle SMP
How to Choose a Bike Saddle FAQ
Before you start looking for a new saddle, try to tweak your bike fit and current saddle position. If you aren’t able to make it comfortable, you will probably need a new saddle.
Make sure to try the saddle in advance, so you don’t spend money on a saddle that does not fit you. Borrow it from friends or specialized stores.
To choose the right saddle, make sure to select the recommended width and shape based on the explanation above.
Remember, finding the right saddle is a trial and error process. But it is worth investing your time – your riding comfort will increase, you will enjoy riding your bike, and you will also perform better.
BONUS: 3 Tips to Improve Your Riding Comfort
As a bonus, I have a few tips that will help improve your riding comfort during your bike trips.
Get a Pair of Cycling Bib Shorts
One of the main benefits of cycling shorts is that they increase your riding comfort by adding another padding layer. High-quality shorts have insoles that absorb road vibrations and reduce pressure.
The difference between cycling with and without cycling shorts is huge. I remember when I rode in cycling shorts for the first time. I felt like sitting on a throne.
Cycling shorts are also made of materials that take away sweat from your body. Try them and you will never look back!
Use a Chamois Cream
Chamois creams are useful products because they reduce the friction between your skin and clothes. They increase your riding comfort, especially during long rides.
Most chamois creams also provide you with a cooling, antibacterial, and anti-inflammation effect. Feel free to browse my selection of the best chamois creams on the market.
Ride Out of the Saddle and Stretch
This tip is great because it is free and effective. Create a habit of riding out of the saddle every 10-15 minutes. You will increase the blood flow in your intimate area and relieve the pressure.
Also, don’t be afraid of stopping and do some stretching. Watch these 5 helpful stretching exercises in the video below.
Do you have any suggestions on how to improve this guide? Feel free to get in touch with me.