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 soreness from friction and even acute pain. There are three important factors when choosing a saddle: you, your riding position, the type of riding and terrain. Our buying guide is here to help you ride in comfort, whatever your preferred style of cycling.
On the whole, saddles are constructed on three levels. Basic models will use a plastic/nylon base and chromoly steel rails. Next come saddles that use titanium rails. Carbon-fibre is now used throughout high-end saddle designs, with the advantage of being very-low weight.
Basic saddle models will carry a little more weight than more expensive designs but are significantly cheaper. Even though the materials will be different, they will share the same design. Titanium 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, by using titanium instead of steel.
Carbon-fibre is the most common type of model for high-end designs today. Most carbon rails are oversized (larger in diameter 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 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. Road bike saddles like Fizik's Arione or a Specialized Toupe are well suited to those who ride in a low, stretched out positions.
Riders with an aggressive riding position on the road (if you’re racing or riding a bike with race geometry), will benefit from a specific saddle shape. The road bike saddle that best suits an aggressive position and fast riding will have a flat profile, allowing you to shift your weight back and forth on the saddle as you change your riding position.
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.
You don’t just sit on a mountain bike saddle, you need to able to move around on it to steer your bike, so it’s imperative to get your perfect perch for comfort and control.
For comfort, the best MTB saddles will have pressure-relieving channels for longer rides, while saddles with flexible edges also help prevent soreness and pressure. Classic leather, or faux leather finishes are normal, while some will have tougher material at the edges to prevent damage in a crash.
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.
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.
A good rule of thumb is the more upright your riding position, the 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 BGfit from Specialized specialise in this kind of saddle.
As your commuting bike will spend plenty of time leaning against racks, posts and walls when locked, you should look for a commuter bike saddle with a hard wearing design - one with 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.
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