A Buying Guide For Bike Saddles: Choosing Comfortable Bicycle Seats

An uncomfortable saddle ruins your cycling experience. But what is comfortable to one person might well be uncomfortable to another. So it is helpful to know a a little about saddles before you make a purchase. Most modern bike saddles are manufactured as a simple padded plastic shell, but several variations exist. These variations cater not only to various different body shapes, but to a myriad of other concerns.

Some saddles have extra padding, some have depressions in certain areas, and some have splits in the shell to reduce pressure on the perineum. These Ergonomic saddles with central cutaways have been designed to reduce pressure on the blood vessels in the perineum amidst fears of saddles causing impotence. The perineum is  the central area between the sitting bones. Agitation of this area is thought by some to produce health concerns, but this is not widely recognised in the medical community, and even if it was, the negative effects of any agitation are probably outweighed by the health benefits of cycling.

You can pay anything you want for a good saddle, but the most important factor is comfort. What makes comfortable bicycle seats however is not heaps of padding. On anything other than a short ride, extra padding can create problems of its own. Padded saddles mean a greater contact area of the body with the saddle, which can create discomfort as the padding itself gives you less freedom of movement and can cause you to bounce around more. A harder saddle therefore, can actually be more comfortable. There are even flyweight saddles with no padding at all. 

You might also want to avoid saddles with seams or logos on the top as these can cause friction and discomfort. An uncomfortable saddle can result in chafing or saddle sores on long rides. Padded saddles also tend to be wider, which can cause chafing against the thighs during pedaling. When sitting on a thickly padded saddle, your sitting bones compress the padding, causing it to well up in the crotch and create pressure right where you don't need it. Firmer, thinner, saddles support your siting bones without creating this pressure.

Other variations in saddle design include saddles that are perforated with tiny holes to provide a little friction and keep you from sliding around the saddle, and suspension saddles that incorporate an adjustable spring to provide a smoother ride.

Saddle Shape

When choosing a saddle, bear in mind that it is a personally fitting item, so you should choose one based on your anatomy. For bigger guys, a wider rear seating area might be appropiate, and lightweight riders can get away with narrower saddles. If the saddle is not comfortable at first, don’t worry, it might well take time for you to adjust to it.

Mountain Bike Saddles

High performance mountain bike saddles are usually slim with very little padding. This gives the rider a greater freedom of movement. They also usually incorporate titanium rails, as these are stronger and more flexible, providing longer wear and a smoother ride.

Womens Saddles

Saddles designed for women usually feature a wider tail and a shorter overall length. They might also incorporate a shallower central dip that is more suited to the female pelvic structure. 

Saddle Reccomendations

The Brooks Saddle B17 is reviewed positively, but it still might not be for everyone. Brooks do however have a good reputation in making saddles.

 For those concerned with the effect saddles might have on your perineum, saddle impotence, or  prostate problems. The Planet Bike 5020   Saddle might be a safer bet.