Which saddle fits my needs?
Many cyclists enjoy treating their bike to new equipment even if it doesn't need it. Irrelevant as to what type of bike you have - getting the right saddle is the most important factor in being able to ride comfortably. Sitting on the wrong one can lead to quite an unpleasant experience.
With many choices out there and with very subtle differences to the untrained eye, it can seem confusing which saddle is the one for you.
Just like the unique specifications of an individual, a saddle is a unique and personal product. There are many different variations of shapes and sizes that not only fit your riding style, but also the width of your sit bones.
Consider your riding style and position on the bike first. Are you sitting upright? Or are you leaning your body towards the front of the bike? Once you know this, it narrows down the selection process. Some saddles have very helpful packaging where it describes its intended riding style, which makes your decision a lot easier.
There are a few categories of saddles such as – touring, mountain, road and fitness – and within each of these are thousands of variations. Each category applies to a type of riding style.
Saddles ideal for commuting
For more leisurely riding where an upright relaxed position is adopted, more of your weight will be concentrated through the saddle. A wider saddle with more support and extra padding will be the preferred choice here. Commuters, or those exploring the city would generally use this type. It will have more cushioning than a racing saddle, and comfort is the key here, but still with a option of a sleek profile for fitness rides.
Traditional leather saddles are still popular, especially with long-distance riders and retro fans. They can be very comfortable. The popular established Brooks saddles are ideal if you want all day comfort. The only compromise is the leather takes a while to soften up in the early stages, but is worth it in the long run. The leather eventually molds to the shape of your sit bones creating a tailored fit.
The Brooks brand is most associated with leather cycling saddles and accessories, but they are not the only brand out there. Spa Cycles do a well regarded, and well priced, range of leather saddles that possibly require slightly more breaking in than a Brooks.
Knowing your sit bone width can help with the correct choice
Don’t be put off by the hard saddles with little or no cushioning. If the saddle fits to the width of your sit bones then these saddles are actually really comfortable.
Saddle comfort comes from the sit bones (Ischium) being correctly positioned on the widest part off the saddle. The angle of the saddle needs to be positioned right to get maximum comfort. Eliminating unnecessary pressure on soft tissue for women and increasing blood flow for men.
There are specifically designed saddles for both genders. Some with pressure-reducing cutaways that fit best for the female anatomy. Both men and women benefit greatly with this type of design.
There is now technology where you can get your sit bones measured to relate to the width of a saddle. This is done by sitting on a specially designed pad, which when sitting upright with your knees high, this pushes your sit bones into a vertical position. By doing this it leaves an indentation of the seat. The space in between is measured. By adding 2cm to the length, this will give you an indication for the right saddle width that will be most comfortable to you.
What to consider when choosing your saddle
For a comfortable journey in the saddle there are a few things to consider before taking the plunge. The size needs to be right. The saddle needs to be the correct width for your sit bones as this will alleviate any unwanted pressure in the wrong places. You don’t need to buy a super soft saddle for comfort as a hard saddle provides sufficient comfort and support too. Commuting to work should be a positive enjoyable experience, so it’s worth treating your rear end to a saddle it deserves.
You may need some patience, research and possibly even some testing first, but once you’ve found that saddle just right for you, there is no going back to painful rides ever again.