An uncomfortable bike saddle can quickly turn your bike from an instrument of joy to one of torture. Not only can it be extremely painful, but it can also lead to long term injuries or saddle sores as you contort your position on the bike trying to lessen the discomfort. There are a number of factors that contribute to how comfortable bike saddle is, but the most important one is you.
We are all built differently, so there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to a perch for your unique bottom. What feels comfortable to one person, will feel like torture to another. So, we will outline some things to look into before starting the search for you dream saddle, but keep in mind that it will likely come down to trial and error.
You may think that the wider the saddle, the more comfortable it would be, but this is not the case. Neither are narrow saddles the be all end all when it comes to finding the best fit. The first step towards finding the most comfortable bike saddle is to measure the distance between your sit bones. This can be done with an “Assometer” at your local bike shop, or at home with a piece of paper and a pencil. Once you know the distance between your sit bones you will want to add 2 cm, 1 cm past the sit bones on each side.
If a saddle is too wide, the nose of it can start to rub on the inside of your quads. If it is too narrow then you sit bones will not be your main point of support for your weight. The pressure will then come down onto soft tissue, which can be extremely painful over any amount of time or distance.
The popularity of cut outs largely came from a 1997 study. It claimed that reduced blood flow caused by saddle pressure could potentially lead to erectile dysfunction and permanent reproductive failure in men. Although this has since been disproved, the concern is still there. It comes down to personal preference and what feels most comfortable to you.
A test to see if you might benefit from a center cut-out is to sit on a hard wooden chair or bench and lean forward without arching your back to where you can rest your elbows on your knees. Sit like this for a few minutes and if you find that there is adverse pressure and discomfort on the soft tissue being pressured then you will most likely benefit from a cut-out in your saddle.
Softness / Firmness
It’s easy to think that the more padding a saddle has the more comfortable it will be, but it actually puts more pressure on sensitive areas. It can pinch and chafe rather than support your sit bones. The ideal firmness will put enough weight on your sit bones, while still providing enough padding to be comfortable. Some riders prefer no padding at all as it puts the pressure exactly where they want it, but that isn’t the case for everyone.
There are two general shapes for saddles when viewed from above: T-shaped and pear-shaped. If you have issue with chafing or your quads rubbing together, then T-shaped will be the better option for you. A pear-shaped saddle can be good fit if you shift your position a lot while riding, as there will be more evenly dispersed support.
The second aspect of saddle shape if how flat or rounded the surface it. When viewed from the back, how much curvature does the saddle have? You want it to be slightly curved to keep you centered on the saddle, but not so curved that there is pressure on the central areas between your sit bones.
Looking at saddles designed specifically for men or women may be a good place to start, but don’t let it dictate your decision. Women typically have wider set sit bones, and therefore require slightly wider saddles. That being said, many women find mens saddles that work perfect for them, just as many men ride on womens saddles.
Comfortable Bike Saddles
The B17 design was first introduce in 1910, so it may seem odd to be highlighting it here. However, the fact that this saddle has changed very little over the past century speaks to “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” It was made for those long distance tours, with a wider shape and a slim, short nose making it ideal for a more upright position on the bike. Handmade in Birmingham, this leather saddle molds to your bottom over time, giving you the ultimate personalized support.
Unlike the Brook saddle, the X series has no break in period, and is quite comfortable for most riders right from the start. The leather top is supported by a stiffer laminate layer glues to the underside, striking the balance between comfort and durability. The slot shape is meant to eliminate perineal pressure, sit bone pain, and saddle sores.
Bontrager Montrose Elite Saddle
Intended to be one of the more all-purpose saddles on the market, the Bontrager Montrose Saddle has been perfected year after year. It uses something called inForm BioDynamics to optimize your natural movement on the bike. This helps eliminate any restrictions on your legs or power output, whether racing or heading out for a group ride.
It may not look like much, but this simple design is one of the more popular in recent years. Available in three shapes to suit your position on the bike, you can find a specific fit to your riding style. It brings together the perfect combination of comfort, performance, and unique construction. Plus, with the waterproof microfiber, the Fabric Scoop is durable and will stand up to years of use.
Weighing in at just 122.1g, this saddle is for racers who are worried about adding any weight to their bike. The stiff design allows for an efficient transfer of power, and is made for those who ride in an aggressive position.
This light (155g), low-profile design and narrow carbon fibre injected shell is built for the faster riders who prize long-term support. The comfort comes from the shock-absorbing ‘Vector Wing’ rather than padding, so the flat profile will suit hardened racers, but can seem harsh for casual riders.
It is extremely important to find a saddle that not only fits your contour, but is also comfortable. Your saddle is the most important comfort piece on the bike as it holds the majority of your weight, so don’t rush into it. Even with the right size saddle, flat-ness, firmness, and cut-out preference, you may have to adjust your saddle further through minor tilt adjustments.