“The two most important things when buying a saddle are selecting the correct size and choosing a saddle for your intended style of riding,” says Jeff Kerklov, Head of Marketing and Customer Experience at Ergon. Here are seven ways to make sure you get it right, and some of our favorite bike seats to help you get more comfortable on the bike.
Find the Right Fit
Saddles come in widths, and most manufacturers say that the right size supports a rider’s sitzbones, the bony part of the pelvis where your butt and your leg join. The best way to find the right size saddle is to get fit by a professional. “Every saddle manufacturer has a retail shop sitz bone-width sizing tool,” says Kerklov. “It’s not going to give you exact measurement, but it’ll get you close.” Many shops offer demo saddles you can try on your own bike for an hour or an afternoon. Some online retailers let you return a saddle after riding it if it’s not the right fit. “Every body is different,” says Kerklov. “It comes down to riding the saddle in your environment on your typical ride.”
Get a saddle built for how and where you’ll ride your bike
A road saddle will typically be v-shaped, like a fighter jet with a more pronounced seating area and a longer nose. A cross-country mountain bike saddle will have a similarly pronounced seating area, but will sometimes be more t-shaped to let the rider move forward for aggressive climbs. Gravity, enduro, and trail saddles are v-shaped, with rounded edges and a shorter nose to make it easy to move around on the saddle without hooking the rider’s shorts. Women’s saddles usually have a shorter nose.
The right amount of padding
Performance saddles often have less padding to save weight, which is important for racers. Comfort saddles are shaped like other saddles, but usually have thicker foam or added gel. For an occasional rider, extra padding can prevent sitz bones from feeling bruised after a two-hour ride- but spending longer hours on an extra-padded saddle can actually cut off circulation. It's all about finding the right amount of padding for your riding style and comfort level.
To get, or not to get, a cutout
You don’t need a cutout, but most riders do prefer a saddle with a relief channel or a cutout that prevents pressure on soft tissue when they're riding. Saddle channels are usually gender-specific-a man’s pelvis is v-shaped, while a woman’s is u-shaped, and gender-specific cutouts can keep pressure off a rider’s soft tissue. Rider flexibility and natural pelvic tilt in the riding position also determine what saddle will keep pedaling pleasurable and not painful. According to data from Giant, 80 percent of men and about the same ratio of women have a forward-tilting pelvis.
Replacing your bike seat
A saddle can be pricey, but care for it, and could be a decade before you need to replace it. “You get what you pay for,” says Kerklov. A more affordable saddle will have cheaper foam, gel or synthetic leather that will break down faster than an expensive model. “Replace a saddle if it’s been awesomely comfy and now it’s not doing its job,” advises Kerkove.
Ergon SME 3 Saddle
Price: $129.99 Buy Now
An enduro mountain bike saddle optimized for shock absorption, Ergon’s carbon fiber SME3 is supportive on climbs but cushions on tooth-rattling downhills.
Three-dimensional pockets under the sitzbone area have dense, springy padding with a central channel for pressure relief, in a shell that won’t compromise power transfer. Silicone coating on the outside edges of the saddle reduces possible chafe, and an underside rubber cushion makes it more comfortable to hike-a-bike with the saddle on your shoulder. Both recreational riders and racers gave this saddle a thumbs up. In small and medium.
Specialized Power Mimic Expert
Price: $175 Buy Now
The Power Mimic is positioned as a women’s specific saddle. Specialized filled the Power’s cutout with a flexible thermoplastic elastomer (TPU) “hammock” to prevent tissues from pushing through the opening and swelling-a painful problem for some women-and incorporated three different foam densities-firm under the sit bones, memory cushion down the center, and soft on the nose, to provide better pressure distribution. The Power Mimic also features an updated shape with tapered wings to minimize thigh rubbing. That should be good news for any riders who experience saddle pain on their rides. At the very least, Mimic provides one more option for riders seeking more comfort. And for some, it could be the solution they've been waiting for.
Planet Bike Men's A.R.S. Anatomic Relief Bicycle Saddle
Planet Bike Men's A.R.S. Anatomic Relief Bicycle Saddle: $28.50 Buy Now
An extremely affordable comfort saddle with firm foam padding and a pronounced relief channel, Planet Bike’s ARS comfort saddle is an upgrade for many budget bikes, one that keeps rider’s sitzbones from feeling bruised, and gives the nether regions plenty of breathing room. The cover doesn’t feel as nice as those on saddles that are four times the price, but the soft cover does have abrasion-resistant patches to prevent excessive wear. And the saddle shape isn’t just for cruising. Riders felt like they could move around when they wanted to stand for a climb.
Fabric Scoop Pro Saddle
Fabric Scoop Saddle: $199.99
Made for road and gravel, Fabric’s Scoop Pro uses a carbon fiber and nylon base on shock-dampening carbon rails for an ultralight (198 grams) and durable high-performance race saddle that’s all-day comfortable, even when that day includes the Dirty Kanza double century gravel ride. It comes in three shapes to fit pelvic structure and rider flexibility. Though it doesn’t feature the dramatic pressure relief channel of other saddles, riders praised its comfort on town line sprints and cross-state tours.
WTB Women's Deva Race SE Saddle
WTB Women's Deva Race SE Saddle: $34.00 Buy Now
An affordable women’s road and cross-country mountain bike saddle, WTB’s Women’s Deva Race SE has supportive foam enhanced with vibration-dampening gel inserts in a flexible nylon shell. Though it’s heavier than other pricier saddles, the flat profile Women’s Deva Race SE has a well-engineered pressure relief channel that’s deepest in the rear and tapered in the front. A slightly shorter nose and smooth and soft edges made standing and climbing, and articulating in technical terrain as natural as sitting on this saddle. And chromoly rails are relatively light and strong.
The Fi'zi:k Aliante VSX K:ium
Fi'zi'k Aliante VSX K:ium: $135.96 Buy Now
Built to move with you, Fi'zi:k’s Aliante VSX K:ium has a stiff top, with an outer edge that flexes with the pelvic movement of pedaling. A carbon-reinforced nylon shell supports double-injected foam padding with a pronounced 20mm deep pressure-relieving channel. K:ium rails have a high strength-to-weight ratio and excel at vibration dampening on chattery surfaces. The saddle is wider in the back with an almost wave-like shape that Fi’zi:k says is particularly suited to riders with less flexibility and a forward pelvic tilt.
Selle SMP Dynamic
Selle SMP Dynamic: $239.00 Buy Now
A performance bucket seat of a saddle, Selle’s SMP Dynamic is one saddle for every bike if you’re a rider who likes its broad up-tilting back and deeply diving nose. A radical channel cutout relives perineum pressure, and supports sitzbones. The beak-shaped downturned nose is more supportive than a noseless saddle, but takes the pain-causing frame out of your way. The raised back cradles the rider in the saddle’s sweet spot to reduce coccyx and undercarriage pressure, particularly noticeable on rough surfaces. Its foam elastomer padding is firm but supportive. It’s housed in a nylon/carbon shell on stainless rails. At 260 grams, it’s not the lightest saddle, But it’s a great one to test when you’re searching for the perfect fit. Selle says it’s for cyclists with average-width pelvises.
ISM Adamo Road Saddle
ISM Adamo Road Saddle: $189.99 Buy Now
For riders who just can’t find perineum relief with any saddle with a nose, ISM’s Adamo Road can be the solution. The Adamo is shaped like a molar-it has no nose. And it’s radically channeled, with gel and foam padding under the cover for maximum blood flow and minimum pain. The Adamo is particularly suited to triathletes, who spend long periods in an aero tuck. An integrated tri-hook under the saddle’s rear helps suspend the bike for time-saving transitions. Cro-moly rails are tough and long-lasting. And while the Adamo Road has 100mm of fore-aft rail adjustment, riders report they typically sit further forward on this saddle than others.
Terry Carbon Butterfly
Terry Carbon Butterly Saddle: $185.00 Buy Now
The original Terry women's saddle debuted in 1999. It gave women a saddle designed to fit the shape of a female pelvis, and started a revolution in saddle design. Terry’s Carbon Butterfly uses the same design that Georgina Terry made famous in 1999, but puts it on extra-stiff and durable carbon rails for lighter weight-218 grams-and more shock absorption. The injection-molded foam base is stiffer in the back to support your weight, with cushier foam along the ample cutout for soft tissue relief. A thin gel layer under the leather makes it just a little more shock-absorbent (and fatigue-reducing) on long rides.
SDG Bel-Air Steel Saddle
SDG Bel-Air Steel Saddle: $35.00 Buy Now
Recommended for mountain bikers, SDG's Bel-Air is designed to "do it all" for riders who don't want to drop a wad on a new seat, but do want a solid ride. The rear ride platform supports the rider's back end by rotating the pelvis forward, which also enhances power and lessens back strain. A downturned nose prevents baggy shorts from snagging, and it helps you stand to hammer up a hill when you need to. The steel rails are tough, but don't add excessive weight. PU foam pads the miles, supported by a nylon fiber base, and covered with a two-piece stitched cover. Available in three colors.
Forté Sportif Gel Saddle
Forté Sportif Gel Saddle: $40.00 Buy Now
One of the most competitively-priced, performance-feel saddles made, the Forté Sportif Gel provides the firm sitzbone-supporting platform of a high-end saddle, which can save you from perineum pain and give you pedaling efficiency on long rides. But it's not so aggro that it skimps on absorbing shock-the saddle has a gel pad inside to diffuse road chatter. An anatomical cutout relived pressure, and positioning markings on the saddle's cro-moly rails helped riders find their sweet spot. Riders also liked the saddle's stealth, low-key look. Available in men's and women's.
Brooks England Standard Saddle B17
Brooks England Standard Saddle B17: $145.00 Buy Now
The Brooks Standard Saddle might be the most iconic and recognizable bike accessory ever made. That’s understandable, as Brooks has been manufacturing its iconic seat for more than 100 years. Cyclists who haven’t tried it groan at the riveted full-grain leather cover that, like a pair of classic leather hiking boots, requires some break-in before it perfectly conforms to the rider’s body. But cyclists who love it laud its coolness in the heat, its warmth in the cool, and its total custom feel once the patient rider has invested the time to make it his or her own. Steel rails mute road shock, and the wide rear pairs with a narrow front to give support on long rides and prevent chafing.
Syncros XR1.0 Carbon Saddle
Syncros XR1.0 Carbon Saddle: $159.99 Buy Now
A featherweight trail saddle that won’t break the bank, the Syncros XR1.0 Carbon Saddle has a ton of technology packed into its 170 grams. Beefy carbon rails suck up singletrack so the rider doesn’t have to. So does the carbon/nylon frame and just enough compression-resistant PU foam to help you forget the saddle and focus on your ride. A pressure-relieving central channel in the durable microfiber cover prevents pressure points. Buy it in narrow or wide, whichever fits your anatomy.
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