What Should I Look For When Buying a Bicycle Seat?
There’s a lot that goes into picking the right bicycle seat, and if your plan is to bike 50, 60, 70 miles regularly, this isn’t a decision you want to make lightly. Bike seats 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 seat that will work for anyone, but there are a few things that everyone should consider when buying a bike seat.
How to Choose a Bicycle Seat for You
If you’re riding long distances, there are a few things you will probably prefer in a seat. But before we get to those, there are a few other things that you will need to consider before looking at seats.
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 seats, unless you have a wide sit bone. So, you can likely limit your search to narrow seat 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 seat 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 seat.
Finally, consider which shape you think you will prefer. Nearly every seat has a nose to improve balance and control, though noseless styles are available. seat often feature different curves, which will again be a matter of preference.
One final note is that some seat 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 Seat or Saddle
Keep in mind that there is no perfect bicycle seat 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 seat feature ventilation that can be crucial for long rides. Whether it is holes in the seat or channels cut in the surface, if you plan on logging miles in the heat, keep an eye out for ventilation.
Many endurance seats also include a channel in the middle of the seat 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 seats 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 Seat Doesn’t Feel Right
If your new seat 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 seat.
Everything on your bike checks out but your seat still feels off—what should you do? The next thing to check is your shorts. Since your seat 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. Our PedalSteady writers found this to help if you’re feeling discomfort caused by friction on your skin. The best-fitting seat may still cause some discomfort, but don’t miss out on the perfect seat because of something that can be fixed with cream!