Basic Guide To Choosing A Bike Saddle
You know that saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” Well, it applies to saddles in a big way. Perhaps no other single piece of cycling equipment inspires more debate, or elicits such a broad spectrum of opinions and choices than the key interface between bike and rider. Indeed, the saddle is arguably the most individualized bicycle component. What is as comfortable as a La-Z-boy for one rider is a literal pain in the butt for another.
Finding the perfect saddle is often a matter of trial and error. Most veteran cyclists have tried a variety of models and styled before settling on one, and when they do, brand and model loyalty often last for years. Stories of Tour de France pros using the same saddle for the span of their career are common.
Here are some keys to consider when searching for the perfect saddle:
Bone Support: Saddle shape is critical to comfort. Look for a saddle that evenly supports your sit bones and carries your weight comfortably and evenly. Just like a mattress that’s too soft, a saddle with too much padding will cause excessive shifting and create pain-inducing pressure points on soft tissue.
Handlebar Height: Handlebar height relative to saddle height is another important factor to consider. As bar height changes, the angle of your back and pelvis also change. If your bars are level with, or below your saddle, look for a saddle with a longer nose and slightly narrower rear. If your bars are higher than your saddle, look for a saddle with a slightly shorter nose and a wider rear. This is one reason why most cyclists use different saddles on the road bike and mountain bike.
Cut-out: The idea with cut-out saddles (literally a cutout in the middle) is to alleviate pressure on your body’s most sensitive area. Some riders can only ride using a cut-out saddle while others say they actually cause pain. Like we said, this is a highly personal choice. If you prefer a level saddle and are suffering soft-tissue pressure or pain while riding, then a cut out may help. If your saddle discomfort comes from chafing or pressure points, then a cut-out saddle is probably not the answer.
Consider Your Shorts: Remember that your saddle and cycling shorts are designed to work together to provide overall riding comfort. A saddle that is otherwise perfect may cause pain if your shorts are in poor condition. Also keep in mind that poorly fitting cycling shorts, or ones with too much or too little padding can also cause discomfort.
Riding Technique: Even after you’ve found the perfect saddle, it helps to adjust your riding position or technique during a ride to remain comfortable, especially on longer rides. Try periodically standing to give your butt a break. Also, vary your pedaling cadence during rides as pedaling speed effects how you sit on the saddle.
Proper Positioning: A proper bike fit is the foundation of everything you do on a bike. That’s why it’s worth it to have a professional get you perfectly dialed in. This process goes beyond frame size and saddle height, and considers metrics such as fore-aft saddle position, and saddle angle tilt. A professional fitter may also have saddle recommendations based on what he sees during the fitting process.