And good news for riders who never plan on racing: Everyday bike seats are becoming more comfortable, lighter, and more able to withstand the weather. Saddles come in various widths, and most manufacturers say that the right size supports a rider’s sit bones, the bony part of the pelvis where your butt and your leg join.
“Every saddle manufacturer has a tool to measure sit bone width,” says Jeff Serve, head of marketing and customer experience at Argon. A cross-country mountain bike saddle will have a similarly pronounced seating area, but will sometimes be more t-shaped to let the rider move forward for aggressive climbs.
Rider flexibility and natural pelvic tilt in the riding position also determine what saddle will keep pedaling pleasurable and not painful. The saddles that made this list were researched and recommended by staffers, and backed up by a majority of positive online reviews.
An extremely affordable comfort saddle with firm foam padding and a pronounced relief channel, Planet Bike ’s A.R.S. Comfort saddle is an upgrade for many budget bikes, one that keeps riders’ sit bones from feeling bruised and gives the nether regions plenty of breathing room.
The channel down the midline of the seat also allows for airflow through the area, keeping your nether regions from getting too sweaty. The Titan ox seat rails are strong and lightweight, and the padded, cutaway design is suitable for both genders.
The claim is this shape enhances blood flow and relieves pressure on sensitive areas. We couldn’t test blood flow to determine the veracity of that claim, but our testers did find the saddle to be comfortable for everything from mountain biking to road and gravel riding.
The padding is minimal and provided a firm pedaling platform that felt extremely efficient but not uncomfortable. The seat features injection-molded foam that is more supportive under the sit bones and softer along the full-length cutout nose to relieve pressure against soft-tissue areas.
Specialized filled the Power’s cutout with a flexible thermoplastic elastomer (CPU) “hammock” to prevent tissues from pushing through the opening and swelling (a painful problem for some women). It also incorporated three different foam densities: firm under the sit bones, memory cushion down the center, and soft on the nose, to provide better pressure distribution.
The PL 1.0 takes a bit longer to set up and has a different position than traditional designs, but it’s worth trying if you’re experiencing saddle discomfort. The durable high-performance race saddle is all-day comfortable, even when that day includes the Dirty Kana double century gravel ride.
Trekbikes.Comte Montrose Elite features hollow titanium rails and a carbon-fiber-reinforced shell, which will no doubt warm the hearts of riders who don’t want just any old seat on their five-figure road or mountain bike. It features a full cutaway and, in keeping with today’s market trends, is offered in two sizes, curiously dubbed “Large” and “Medium.” The Starbucks approach to product description aside, this is a solid piece that offers modern tech at a surprisingly reasonable price.
Argon’s take on a women’s MTB saddle offers the severe and considered contours of an Games chair or mid-century-modern couch, but there’s comfort to match the style. Available in two sizes, the SM Sport Gel isn’t particularly light at 275 grams, but it is durable, which on a mountain bike is often a much greater concern than an extra ounce or two.
At any point in time there can be one, two, three, four or five contact points between rider and bike sharing support of rider body weight and applying rotation torque to the pedals. It performs a similar role as a horse's saddle, not bearing all the weight of the rider as the other contact points also take some load.
Most modern saddles have a hard shell made from a molded piece of plastic, such as nylon. Instead, a molded piece of thick leather is stretched, like a taut hammock, between the front and rear ends of the rails.
Traditional leather saddles such as those made by Brooks have been used for many years. Most saddles use some form of padding on top of the hard shell (often closed cell foam, gel, or gel-foam) followed by an outer cover consisting of spandex, vinyl, artificial leather, or leather.
Saddles designed for hard use e.g. mountain bike or BMX style riding, may have additional cover reinforcements such as Kevlar sewn to the cover to withstand abrasion on those areas most prone to abrasion. The rails of a saddle are the connection point to the rest of the bike.
Rails provide fore and aft adjustment of the saddle, usually an inch or so (2.5 cm). They can be made of solid or hollow steel, titanium, aluminum, manganese, or carbon fiber, typically trading off cost, weight, strength, and flexibility.
Single-rail I-beam (newer) 4-rail (e.g. wider Brooks leather saddles) Proprietary systems The part that connects the rails to the seat post is known as the saddle clamp”.
The upper attachment point must be compatible with the rail configuration (though the two-rail 7 mm round configuration is very common), and the lower attachment point must match the diameter of the seat post if not built in. The shape of some unusual saddles also makes them physically incompatible with certain seat post, clamps, or frames, due to bumping into other parts or blocking adjustment or attachment bolts.
The most common type of sold-separate clamp has a single horizontal bolt-with-nut which goes behind the top of the seat post. Tightening this bolt brings together four pieces of metal (two on each side) which have round slots to grab and hold standard-size rails.
Continued tightening of the bolt causes the central piece to close very slightly around the top of the post. “Campanile” seat posts (older) use two vertical bolts to hold the two rail-grabbing pieces together.
In some cases, there is a separate bolt that controls tilt around a dedicated pivot. Because these systems do not rely on grooves, the tilt adjustment is continuous rather than stepped, and these are known as micro adjust seat posts.
This angular adjustment mechanism is known as pivotal and is common on BMX bikes. Other historical saddle clamp variations included the Ideal saddle /Zeus post combination, which used a special seat post designed to forgo the need for a clamp in order maximize weight savings.
A saddle may contain one or more suspension components to improve rider comfort by absorbing or deadening vibration and shock transmitted by the frame and seat post. Saddles may incorporate gel, gel-foam, and/or multiple-density foam padding or lining to cushion impacts from the roadway, while integrated saddle rails may be designed with added length in order to flex vertically, providing limited shock and bump absorption.
By using interchangeable elastomers with variable densities the suspension saddle can be tuned to the rider's weight and riding style. Yet another method of suspension utilizes a web-spring platform made of eight or more coil springs mounted horizontally beneath the saddle shell.
A shock transmitted to the seat is partially absorbed by this web-spring platform. In an effort to cut cost and weight, some suspension saddles utilize a skeletonized, flexible nylon frame in lieu of the steel web-spring.
Saddles may incorporate two or more of these suspension designs in an effort to provide additional comfort and shock absorption, as they have since cycling first became popular in the 1880s. The position of the saddle should be adjusted relative to the bottom bracket, not to the ground or handlebars.
For example, if the reach to the handlebars is too far, it is better to get a shorter stem than to move the saddle forward of its ideal location. More accurately, saddle height should be adjusted relative to the position of the pedals as fitting different pedals or different length cranks would also mean the saddle needs to be re-adjusted.
Other methods and calculations are used for determining seat height, such as Lemon's formula. This means that if the saddle height is properly adjusted, on bikes with traditional geometry, the rider cannot place both feet flat on the ground when seated on the saddle.
The saddle should be nearly level, although the height of the handlebars and style of cycling will cause this to vary. In professional bicycle racing, UCI rules require that the saddle be within 3° of level.
In comparing them, it is the range of adjustment of their comfort points that need considered, and because the matter is largely subjective, giving it proper attention is difficult to do. Comfort saddles, often found on hybrid bicycles, tend to be wide.
A Sell San Marco saddle for women video on the health benefits of no-nose saddlesSeveral variations have been developed, either for aesthetic reasons, or to address issues mentioned in the next section. A banana seat is a long saddle, usually supported at both ends, popular on wheelie bikes.
These incorporate a variety of differences designed to suit female anatomy. These differences may include a wider seat area, shorter nose, and center relief.
No-nose saddles do not have the front nose (also called horn) part of the seat. The high pressure caused by the small contact area causes crushing injuries in the perineum over the center of the nose, and the muscles and tendons connecting to the interior side of the “sit bones” (social tuberosities) at the back of the inner thighs over the sides of the “nose”.
The “no-nose” seats eliminate the nose, and support the body at the bottom of the “sit bones”, spreading the body's weight over a larger contact area causing lower peak pressure areas to avoid the crushing injuries caused by standard seats. No-nose seats require different bracing forces to keep the rider from slipping down.
This is often done by keeping the legs or arms under moderate constant tension which can cause additional effort on the part of the rider. The number of officers experiencing genital numbness fell from 73% to 12%.
Several issues associated with sitting on traditional bicycle saddles have been identified. These are prevalent in occupations with heavy bicycle use, including police.
Some women have had difficulties urinating or sustaining sexual intercourse after prolonged periods on their bike saddle. Though riding an upright bicycle improves the cardiovascular system and can therefore actually improve the erectile function among men, riding a bicycle for prolonged periods of time with an unhealthy cycling technique can still cause problems for both men and women due to a reduced blood flow in the crotch area.
Ensuring the saddle is roughly horizontally aligned, or only slightly nose up. Having overly upwards nose alignment will directly increase the perineum pressure, while a downwards alignment will reduce the sit bone support of the pelvis, again resulting in an increased perineum pressure.
In 2014, the largest ever study of cyclists found no correlation between cycling and either erectile dysfunction or infertility. In previous studies, bicycle riding had been correlated with genital numbness, erectile dysfunction (ED) and personal hematoma, and several studies had shown that long-distance cyclists have an increased incidence of ED as compared to the general population.
ED and genital numbness were thought to result from compression of the cyclists' perineal region while sitting on their saddles. To alleviate the problem, manufacturers have designed a number of bicycle saddles that purport to allow greater blood flow through the pudenda artery.
The studies have shown that wider saddles tend to increase penile blood flow while cycling, though wider seats also induce chafing and impede a cyclist's full range of leg motion. A downward-tilted saddle relieves pressure on the perineum and the “sit bones” (social tuberosities), thus improving a cyclist's perineal blood flow.
Most saddles include padding, generally foam or gel. However, width and design have proved to be more important than the amount of saddle padding in determining the intensity of perineal distress the cyclist suffers.
In fact, some researchers have postulated that extra padding, foam or gel, can result in an increased prevalence of pain in the sit bones. Before starting, one has to screw the saddle just to such a height that the feet still stand on the ground... ^ Oxford English Dictionary.
1819 Belles-lettres Repository May 31/2 The Velocipede, or Swift-walker... consists of two wheels, one behind the other, connected by a perch, on which a saddle is placed for the seat of the traveler... The saddle may be raised or lowered.at pleasure, and thus suited to the height of various persons.
Hold a plumb line (a thread with a nut on the end works fine) against the indentation just beneath the bone that’s below your kneecap. Adjust the seat fore and aft on the rails until the plumb line bisects the pedal axle.
“Development of a New Geometric Bicycle Saddle for the Maintenance of Genital–Perineal Vascular Perfusion”. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Nosh).
Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science, Road Cycling. “Research On Bicycle Saddles And Sexual Health Comes Of Age”.
^ “Standard bicycle seat can lead to erectile dysfunction”. “Bicycle Riding and Erectile Dysfunction: An Increase in Interest (and Concern)”.