Bicycle saddles are personal pieces of equipment. No one seat design is comfortable for every rider, and the variations are as numerous as riders' shapes and sizes. Selecting the right saddle can turn into a long trial-and-error process; however, there are some basic designs that you should be familiar with to make the process easier. Mountain saddles aim to keep blood flowing to perineal areas while providing adequate padding to keep sit bones comfortable over rough trails. Each of these designs attempts this in different ways.
The most common saddle design is a solid teardrop-shaped seat. These saddles often feature large rear-base areas for sit bone support and moderate padding. Some designs are shaped to maximize circulation by providing channels in the padding. The success of these designs is largely determined by rider physiology. Excessively padded seats should not be used for serious riding, as the padding can bunch and cut off blood flow to the perineum.
Some bicycle seat manufacturers have taken the basic teardrop shape and added a hole to the nose. These cutouts attempt to remove padding from strategic areas that might cut off blood flow, and they also serve to lighten the saddle. Placement of the cutouts varies widely. Women-specific designs tend to have the cutout close to the wider end of the saddle, while men's models have long cutouts toward the nose. Cutout sizes vary, as well. Like the had-nosed saddles, excessive padding in cutout designs can cause discomfort and poor circulation.
Many riders choose to give up comfort for performance. Such cyclists might choose a minimalist saddle design, which includes little or no padding and relies instead only upon design to maintain a healthy riding position. These saddles may or may not include a cutout, or they might incorporate a special design to improve circulation. Riding on a minimalist seat requires training to condition your sit bones to the hard surface; however, many riders prefer these saddles to their cushier counterparts.
Article Written By Greg Johnson
Greg Johnson earned his Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from The Ohio University. He has been a professional writer since 2008, specializing in outdoors content and instruction. Johnson's poetry has appeared in such publications as "Sphere" and "17 1/2 Magazine."