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A Guide to
Saddles

 
 
Never underestimate the importance of a well fitting saddle . A saddle that suits you will go unnoticed as you ride, but get it wrong and you'll suffer from soreness from friction and even acute pain. There are three important factors when choosing a saddle: you and your riding position, along with personal preference.
 

Road Saddles

 
Riders with an aggressive riding position on the road (like if you’re racing or riding an aggressive race bike), will benefit from a specific saddle shape. The road bike saddle that best suits an aggressive position and aggressive riding will have a flat profile, allowing you to shift your weight back and forth on the saddle as you change your riding position. Road bike saddles like Fizik's Arione or a Specialized Toupe are well suited to those who ride in a low, stretched out positions.

If you ride in a slightly more upright position because you have a bike designed for endurance or sportive riding, then you’ll likely benefit from something different. A saddle with a more curved shape, a wider more padded rear section and more flex in its base is the best option. Saddles like the Fizik Aliante, Specialized Romin or Bontrager InForm saddles will all compliment endurance/sportive bikes and riding positions.

Women's performance saddles are adapted from men’s designs, with the padded areas placed differently. Women's saddles tend to be wider at the sit-bone points and a little shorter in overall length.
 
On the whole, saddles are constructed on three levels. Base model saddles will use a plastic/nylon base and chromoly steel rails. They will carry a little more weight than more expensive designs but are significantly cheaper, and even though the materials will be different, they will share the same design.

Next come saddles that use titanium rails. By using titanium instead of steel, saddle designers can significantly reduce weight and a titanium rail will have a little more spring and flex than steel, which can add some comfort. Carbon-fibre is now used throughout high-end saddle designs, with the advantage of very-low weight. Most carbon rails are oversized (larger than standard metal rails) - so make sure your seatpost clamp is compatible before you buy.

Some people prefer a comfortable road bike saddle with a pressure relief design. Saddles like this have a top surface with a channel or hole (commonly called a ‘cutout’), to prevent excess pressure on your sensitive downstairs areas. Fizik's Versus range uses a channel section adapted into their existing design, whereas Selle Italia have a whole range of saddles with large cut-outs with both men’s and women’s specific shapes like the Selle Italia SLR Flow.
 

Mountain Bike Saddles

 
You’re likely to spend a fair bit of time on your mountain bike saddle, so it’s imperative to get your perfect perch.
 
Mountain bike saddles range from super lightweight affairs, like the Selle Italia SLR XC Flow to bigger, burlier ones like the Pro Atherton which offer loads of grip on your shorts and are thus ideal for downhill riding.

Generally speaking, the pricier the mountain bike saddle, the lighter it will be, with the addition of titanium saddle rails and carbon shells. While big padded saddles generally look comfier, there’s a lot more to it than that because each rider has their own shape and preference.

For comfort, the best MTB saddles will have pressure-relieving channels to help with comfort on longer rides, while saddles with flexible edges, such as ‘Wing Flex’ systems in Fizik saddles also help. Classic leather, or faux leather finishes are normal, while some will have tougher material at the edges to prevent damage in a crash.
 

Commuting & Leisure Saddles

 
A good rule of thumb is the more upright your riding position, then wider and/or more padded the saddle you’ll require. If your riding position is upright with a straight back then look for a commuter bike saddle with deep padding at the rear and a shorter nose. Brands like Sportourer, Madison and Bodyfit specialize in this kind of saddle.

As your commuting bike will spend plenty of time leant against racks, posts and walls when locked, you should look for a commuter bike saddle with a hard wearing design - one with protected or reinforced edges to prevent accidental damage or tears to the surface. If your bike is going to spend a long time outside then it’s worth investing in a saddle cover as there’s nothing worse than having to sit on a damp saddle on your ride home from work.
 
 

 
This story was last updated on 25/08/2014

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