The question of almost every cyclist! A comfortable saddle can mean the difference between a wonderful day logging miles on your bike and a ride cut short due to saddle pain. Your saddle is one of the three major touch points on your bike, the other being your hands and feet. Your perfect saddle will depend on several factors including your riding style, hip width (bone structure), and flexibility. We’ll be answering some of the most common questions to help you find a solution for a more comfortable saddle.
WHAT IS THE BEST SADDLE?
There is no perfect answer to this question. While there are more quality saddles than others, there is not one saddle that works for everyone. Saddles are different for everyone. Just because your riding buddy loves his/her saddle, it doesn’t mean that is the perfect saddle for you. Some manufactures spend more time with research and development of their saddles, providing a better selection. For example, Specialized Bicycles saddles are designed, developed, and tested with leading medical and ergonomic experts to ensure a more comfortable ride, no matter the length of the ride, or the needs of the rider. They provide many options depending on your needs.
I JUST GOT BACK ON MY BIKE FROM SOME TIME OFF RIDING AND MY SADDLE HURTS, SHOULD I GET A NEW ONE?
Usually, no. Your sit bones need to adapt and this takes some time in the saddle. Sit bones are the parts of your body designed to bear your seated weight. Most cases of saddle-related discomfort arise because the load is carried on the soft tissues between the sit bones. A saddle is intended to carry some, but not all of your weight. The rest of your weight is mainly carried by your legs, and some by your hands and arms. If you don’t remember having pain when you stopped riding, chances are the saddle is fine, you may just need to build up a little tolerance. We suggest building up the miles slowly. If you’re still in pain after a few rides, you may need a new saddle.
I THINK MY SADDLE IS TOO HARD, SHOULD I GET ONE WITH MORE CUSHION?
Usually, no. When a cyclist finds a saddle uncomfortable, the first impulse is often to look for a soft one. This is often a mistake. A saddle is designed to support and lift your sit bones while allowing your soft tissue and nerves to have a little freedom. This allows blood to flow during a long ride, reducing the chance for pain and numbness. Often time too much padding results in your sit bones sinking in to the saddle and putting pressure on the soft tissue, creating even more discomfort. Even if you have the correct saddle firmness, you will have to make sure other factors line up in order to feel any comfort. As long as the saddle is designed properly for your style of riding, is the proper width, and is set up correctly, give your hard saddle a shot.
IF I HAVE A GOOD SADDLE, DO I NEED TO WEAR BIKE SHORTS?
Yes! Bike shorts and saddles are designed to work together. Shorts provide a range of benefits from moisture wicking, reduce the chance for chaffing, and a good chamois will provide a layer of padding to the bone without restricting the soft tissue. Also, a little chamois cream will help with any chaffing.
WIDE OR NARROW?
The width of the saddle is critical to rider’s comfort and also complete depends on the rider’s bone structure (not the size of your butt). If the saddle is too narrow, the sit bones will hang over the sides, and the soft tissues will bear the load. If the saddle is too wide, it is likely to cause chafing of the inner thigh, and not support the sit bones properly.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SADDLE IS IN THE CORRECT POSITION?
Saddle position may be adjusted in three different ways; height, angle, and front-back position. We highly suggest having a professional fit technician evaluate your saddle position since an improper adjustment can cause injury. Even if you have the correct height, your cleat or hand position can play another factor in your saddle discomfort. The three touch points (hands, saddle, and shoes) act as a system, so if one is off, it may affect the others. For more information about bicycle fitting, give us a call, or visit SurfCityCyclery.com.
WHY DO SOME SADDLES HAVE A CUT OUT? IS THIS ONLY ON FEMALE SADDLES?
No, while most female saddles feature a cut out down the center of the saddle, you will find many saddles to utilize this. The cut out allows saddle to provide comfort and support, increasing blood flow for men, and relieve soft tissue pressure for women.
IT’S TIME FOR A NEW SADDLE, WHAT DO I LOOK FOR?
Keep in mind the shape, width, padding level, cut outs, your fit, apparel, and chamois cream. All of these options will be determined by your bone structure, flexibility, and ride style. It’s also helpful to actually ride or demo the saddle to test the comfort. Surf City Cyclery provides a comprehensive Saddle Assessment to ensure to find your perfect saddle.
More questions? Let us know in the comments below, or give us a call at 714-842-1717.