It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, saddle discomfort will make cycling no fun at all. So we came up with some things to consider and we take a look at some of the features that you’ll commonly see on a saddle.
It might comfort you to know that nearly everyone has had a problem with saddle discomfort in the past. It can take years of pain to realise where you are going wrong and pro racers can even have problems when their teams change saddle sponsors.
So, let’s take a look at some points that need to be considered before going saddle shopping.
Everyone is different ‘down under’ with the most obvious difference being gender. There is a huge range of women’s specific saddles, though neither gender should feel limited to ‘their’ saddles.
Women’s-specific saddles generally feature a cutout or softer central padding to relieve soft tissue pressure. That said, the central cut-out that was first seen on women’s saddle has become very popular on the men’s saddles. So don’t be afraid to try both.
Yea, I know that hasn’t exactly narrowed things down…sorry?
What positions are you going to be riding in? It helps to break riding positions down into categories.
Firstly we have the ‘upright’ position that is generally found on super relaxed commuters. As the bars get lower and the rider leans over further, we move through the ‘fitness’, ‘sportive’, and ‘race’ positions. As the position gets more and more race-orientated, less of the rider’s weight is placed on the saddle, with more weight transferred through the core to the rider's arms and shoulders.
As a result, saddles generally go from wide, with the most padding for the ‘upright’ position and get narrower, with less padding as we go towards the race position.
So a great way to start your search is to analyse your position and see where you sit on the scale.
As we get towards the sportier end of the scale, flexibility starts to become very important. Certain saddle shapes, with a higher rear end, are designed to help hold you in an aerodynamic race position. Those with better flexibility, that have no issue getting low, can benefit from a flatter saddle, giving them space to move around.
Good things come to those who wait and it’s no different with a saddle. It may take a few rides to get comfy on your new perch and some saddles, like those fancy Brooks leather saddles get better with age as the leather softens.
So give a new saddle a chance to bed in before you sell it in anger.
While you’ve narrowed things down, there will still be some key differences in the options available to you. Here are some key features to look out for…
A central cutout aims to maintain blood flow. While it works for some, it’s not a golden ticket to comfort.
Some find that a dropped nose increases comfort in an aero position.
Generally, a wider rear end is considered better for relaxed positions. Think city bikes and the comfortable riding position.
Again, generally, a narrow saddle nose will be favoured by riders in a race position. But like the cutout, it’s not always a magic cure.
You’ll find that more padding is generally used for ‘comfort’ saddles, but more might not be best. Sometimes, placing the padding under the sit bones is all that’s needed for a comfy ride.
While you can easily buy saddles online and fitting them is pretty simple, we’d advise heading to your trusty local bike shop for saddle buying.
Firstly, they’ll be able to assess your position and talk you through the options available from the brands that they stock.
Secondly, and this is the best bit about going to the bike shop, you’ll be able to take advantage of any test saddle schemes available. This generally involves you buying a saddle, and then having a period of time to ride the saddle and see if you like it. If you don’t, the shop will be able to swap you to another saddle to try. Fabric is a great brand for this.
Hopefully, the combination of their knowledge and a test saddle or two will see you riding in comfort, no matter whether you’re rolling into work, or smashing it in a race.
There are our key pieces of advice, but what would you advise?
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.