To find the right saddle for your bike, considerations like price and comfort are obviously important, making the experience fairly subjective and even confusing to some extent. For many people it may not always be obvious what they are looking for or what they are paying for. But it does not have to be so complicated.
Just remember that an uncomfortable bike saddle can easily ruin the cycling experience for anyone. Being one of the three points of contact between the rider and their bike, (the other two being the feet and hands) it is important you find the right saddle for your bike to avoid saddle discomfort. Here are a few ways to get started:
How to measure a bike saddle
Not all bike saddles are created equally since they come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. Some basic considerations to find the right saddle for your bike include the following:
Among measurements, saddle width is an important one. Ideally, the saddle should be wide enough to support the rider’s sit bones. If it is too narrow, then your body weight will need to be supported by other parts and not the sit bones – making the riding experience an uncomfortable one. But a wide enough saddle will easily remove pressure from other body parts and transfer it to the middle of the sit bones making riding more comfortable and preventing injury.
However, you also need to make sure that the bike saddle is not too wide as that can also result in discomfort such as a little more rubbing on the inner thighs or additional pressure on the hamstring insertion. So correct saddle width is probably the first step toward finding the right saddle for your bike.
While width is one feature in determining bike saddle comfort, its flatness is another. To find the right saddle for your bike, it also needs to be flat enough. A bike saddle that has too much side to side curvature is likely to be higher in centre than the sides. Too much curvature also means that the rider experiences too much pressure in the middle in the seated position rather than on the sit bones. Riding in this position may cause long term discomfort to the rider.
Saddle firmness is also an important feature of bike saddle comfort when you want to find the right saddle for your bike. As such, the padding inside the bike saddle should not be overly thick or soft as these traits can easily make the saddle squishy under the sit bones. With prolonged use the saddle may become too flattened under the sit bones while squishing up in the middle, once again pressurizing body parts unevenly and causing discomfort.
Saddles also come in many shapes to suit the needs and riding styles of different riders. Ranging from wide to narrow, finding the right saddle for your bike means choosing one that complements your riding style. While narrower, flatter saddles are more appropriate for aggressive riders riding with a lower position, a slightly wider saddle with a curved profile is better suited for rides who sit more upright.
A more specialized feature of saddle shape is the cut-out feature. Cut-out saddles are used by riders who still feel discomfort while riding traditionally shaped saddles and want to even out the pressure felt by their body when riding. A cut-out saddle features a groove or a hole that has been cut out of the top of the saddle.
The idea behind this type of saddle is to remove the part of the saddle that may be causing extra pressure on body parts and triggering some kind of pain or numbness. By reducing or eliminating the material in the middle of the saddle, unwanted pressure is relieved and better airflow provided during short and long rides.
How to fit a bike saddle
After addressing the bike saddle comfort features, the other important thing to do is to make sure that it is fitted correctly for optimal performance. This usually means taking the following considerations into account:
Saddle height needs to be adjusted based on the rider as well as their riding style. After finding the right saddle for your bike, make sure that it is adjusted at a height where it allows you to sit comfortably without causing you to shift your weight from side to side. The aim is to feel a slight bend in the knee at the bottom of a pedal stroke.
To find the right saddle for your bike, it should not only be at the correct height but also the right distance from the handlebars. Occasionally, you may have the right saddle but may not be sitting on it correctly. If you find yourself wriggling a lot on the saddle, it may not be properly positioned.
For most riders, the right saddle position should be parallel to the ground. However, personal preference or requirement may need you to fine tune your saddle’s angle. Saddles are adjustable that can be balanced through the seat clamp right under the bike saddle. A change in the tilt of the saddle can relieve pressure. For saddles that are flat a slight forward tilt can help relieve discomfort.
When finding the right saddle for your bike, it is often recommended to get a professional bike fit, since their expertise can help assess the level of your cycling goals, flexibility as well as your physical limitations.