Riding a bike is one of the most complete exercises one can get, which is especially important health-wise in today’s world where so many of us have office jobs, but also since our environment needs us to choose more eco-conscious transport options. When it comes to finding a bicycle that offers a great level of comfort one of the most important pieces of the puzzle is the saddle. That being said, here are some factors that can help you choose the right bicycle seat according to your specific needs.
Synthetic The majority of saddles nowadays are made of synthetic materials which are usually lightweight and require low maintenance. A synthetic seat cycle requires no break-in time and that’s mainly what makes these the most popular choice nowadays.
Cotton While not a common option, cotton covered seats have a very short break-in time and they also stretch a little bit which provides excellent control and great comfort while pedalling.
Leather As a substitute for synthetic covers, leather provides the best fit and comfort but this cannot be enjoyed immediately as the break-in time for leather seats comes after you’ve spent approximately around 320km on it. Since leather isn’t waterproof, you’ll need to treat the seat with a conditioner from time to time – this will also prevent the drying of the leather from UV exposure.
Steel & Alloy With steel, you get the most reliable rails and also a very strong construction, but this material adds a lot of weight which for some of you may be a big disadvantage depending on the type of ride you have. Despite the added weight, steel rails are still the most commonly used. Alloys such as chromoly, which is a blend of chromium and molybdenum usually also known as 41xx steel, are lighter than steel and very strong too.
Carbon & Titanium While titanium rails are an expensive option, they are excellent at absorbing vibrations while being very strong and lightweight. Carbon rails are also lightweight and very strong and they can also be designed to absorb vibrations but just like titanium, they are a very expensive option and therefore there aren’ many manufacturers that make them.
Foam This material provides comfort in the form of cushioning and returns to its original shape every time you get off of your bicycle. This type of cushioning is best for riders over 90kg and for those of you who want to go on long rides. It is also a better option if your sit bones are in top condition – in this case, you need firmer foam that won’t compact as quickly as the soft type.
Gel While gel cushioning doesn’t provide as much support as foam it is still a pretty comfortable choice which is best for recreational riders and those who want to go for casual rides in the park. A disadvantage of gel is that it compacts way quicker than a foam seat cycle.
Saddle Pad With this add on you can provide additional comfort and plush to the existing saddle but remember although it provides added comfort it is not the best solution when it comes to the padding. This means that the pad can migrate where you don’t want it which is a concern if you ride faster and on longer distances in which case you’d want to go with padded shorts or underwear. If your rides are casual this won’t be an issue.
No Cushioning Not all saddles have cushioning and while that means poor comfort when you first start riding, after a while, the saddle will adjust to your weight and shape. This can actually result in the most comfortable seat cycle, especially for summer as these tend to stay cooler.
These saddles are usually called performance saddles since they are very long and narrow with minimal padding to allow the least amount of chafing and maximum power transfer. These are mostly found on touring, mountain and road bikes.
The width of the seat is what you should pay a lot of attention since this will accommodate your sit bones (ischial tuberosities). It’s recommended to go with a saddle that’s about the same width of your sit bones. You shouldn’t choose one that is wider than that as it can cause chafing and rubbing.
There are saddles made for women and men that can accommodate the different hip widths and position of the sit bones. If you are buying online, you can simply measure the width of your sit bones and try to fond a close match seat width match. You can also go in a physical store and try out a few for yourself and see how each feels.