If you've ridden a bike, you know how sore you can feel when you leave your saddle. Bike seats aren't known to be comfortable, but the right seat for your body and riding style can make your ride more enjoyable. With so many saddles on the market, it's important to know what to look for before you buy one.
Shape and Size
Bike seats come in an array of shapes and sizes. Different types of riding put your body in different positions on the saddle, and the seats are designed to handle this.
A saddle that's wide in the back is most effective when you're sitting upright on your bike and more pressure is on your backside. You'll see the widest saddles on beach cruisers, which are bikes designed for casual riding. Hybrid and mountain bikes have narrower seats than cruisers, but they're notably wider than road bike saddles.
As your body position drops and you move forward, your weight comes off your backside and onto your pubic bone. This is typical on road bikes. For this kind of riding, you don't need a wide saddle because your pubic bone is much narrower than your buttock bones. The forward posture and rapid pedaling of road cyclists takes some of their weight off the saddle and moves it onto their arms and feet. A wide saddle may get in the way and cause chafing.
In addition to traditional saddles, your local bike shop may also carry seat covers. Covers are gel-filled and slip over your existing seat to add cushion and comfort to your ride. Covers work well for the casual rider and are less expensive than a new seat. As a trade-off for comfort, the covers absorb some of the energy you put into each pedal stroke. For this reason, cyclists who spend a lot of time in the saddle may want to replace their old seat instead of adding a cover to it.
Many companies design bike seats specifically for the female anatomy. Because a woman's buttock bones are farther apart than a man's, women's saddles are slightly wider in the back. Stock bikes come with a men's saddle. For many women, swapping to a woman's seat will improve the comfort of their ride.
Article Written By Kathrine Cole
Kathrine Cole is a professional outdoor educator. She teaches rock climbing, backpacking, cycling, and bike maintenance classes. She is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, a Wilderness First Responder, and a Leave No Trace Trainer.