What should I look for when buying a saddle? Any Recommendations?
There’s a lot that goes into picking the right saddle, and if your plan is to bike 50, 60, 70 miles regularly, this isn’t a decision you want to make lightly. Saddles themselves vary in a lot of ways, from shape to softness to size, but people also vary a lot in size, shape, and riding style. So, it’s impossible to recommend a saddle that will work for anyone, but there are a few things that everyone should consider when buying a saddle.
How to Choose a Bicycle Saddle for You
If you’re riding long distances, there are a few things you will probably prefer in a saddle. But before we get to those, there are a few other things that you will need to consider before looking at saddles.
The first is your riding style. Given you are regularly biking more than 60 miles, it is unlikely you are sitting in a “leisurely” or upright position. This knocks out wider saddles, unless you have a wide sit bone. So, you can likely limit your search to narrow saddle models—less than 15cm.
Additionally, the more aggressive your riding position, the less padding you will need. Especially on longer rides, you will want to avoid excessive padding to prevent chafing. It may seem tempting, but you will likely want to stick with stiffer saddles for endurance riding.
The second is your sit bone width. You can measure your sit bone width by sitting with your back against the wall and measuring from the center of one bone to the center of the other. A good rule of thumb is to then add 2cm. to your sit bone width to find a good saddle.
Finally, consider which shape you think you will prefer. Nearly every saddle has a nose to improve balance and control, though noseless styles are available. Saddles often feature different curves, which will again be a matter of preference.
One final note is that some saddles come in gender-specific models. The main difference between styles is the amount of curve, with women’s models maintaining more curve to protect soft tissue better.
What to Look for in an Endurance Saddle
Keep in mind that there is no perfect saddle for everyone—it will mostly depend on your style, build, and preferences. However, there are a few features that many endurance riders prefer.
A firm saddle is a safe bet for endurance riding. Though it may be tempting to go for a plush style, these can cause chafing and discomfort on long rides. Sturdy saddles offer back support and long-term comfort.
Many saddles feature ventilation that can be crucial for long rides. Whether it is holes in the saddle or channels cut in the surface, if you plan on logging miles in the heat, keep an eye out for ventilation.
Many endurance saddles also include a channel in the middle of the saddle to relieve tension. This is one more feature that can be indispensable for staying comfortable on long rides. Don’t underestimate the impact of such a small detail when you’re logging hundreds of miles per week.
Finally, many endurance saddles feature a leather surface. This can be good or bad. On the plus side, leather lasts longer and can break in to fit you better. However, they may be uncomfortable until they are broken in and may require special care.
What to Do if Your New Saddle Doesn’t Feel Right
If your new saddle is in and it still doesn’t feel exactly right, don’t rush to send it back. The first thing to do is check whether your bike is truly the right size. What may have seemed like a saddle problem may actually have been a mis-sized bike.
If your bike is the right size, the next thing to check is your seat post. Make sure the height of your seat post matches the style of riding you are doing and the posture you ride in. An improperly adjusted seat post can lead to pain or discomfort on even the best saddle.
Everything on your bike checks out but your saddle still feels off—what should you do? The next thing to check is your shorts. Since your saddle likely has little padding, it may be wise to try out a pair of padded shorts. If you go this route, be sure to buy the smallest size that works in order to keep everything in place and comfortable.
The final thing to consider is chamois cream. This will mainly help if you’re feeling discomfort caused by friction on your skin. The best-fitting saddle may still cause some discomfort, but don’t miss out on the perfect saddle because of something that can be fixed with cream!