Pain in your nether regions doesn’t have to be part of cycling. We cover the steps you can take to find your perfect saddle and suggest some bike seats to consider for different styles of riding.
If you’re new to cycling or starting to push yourself on longer rides, you may just accept that a bit of tenderness or pain in your nether regions is part and parcel of cycling.
But it shouldn’t be. If this is the first time you’ve done any serious cycling, then spend some time riding with the saddle you got with your bike until your body’s got used to the rigours of riding. As you get more miles under your belt, you may then choose to swap the supplied saddle for one which is more comfortable for you.
When it comes to saddles there’s no one-size-fits-all solution and it’s essential to try a few different saddles to find the one that fits you best. As well as the obvious differences between female and male anatomies, this will also come down to your personal body shape and style of riding.
In this article, we cover the steps you can take to find your perfect saddle and suggest some saddles to consider for different styles of riding.
Check Your Setup
If you experience pain on short rides, it’s worth making sure you’ve got your bike set up correctly. To start with, you need to make sure you’ve got the right size frame. We’ve got a handy guide here to help you with that.
Next up is saddle height. An incorrectly positioned saddle is a common cause of knee pain in cyclists. Although your optimum saddle height depends on number of factors, here are a couple of quick methods to check your saddle is near the right height:
The inseam measurement. Stand without cycling shoes next to a wall. Place a spirit level or a book between your legs and mark off its height on the wall. Measure the distance between this height and the floor to get your inseam measurement. Take ten centimetres off this to get an idea of what the distance should be between your saddle and the bike’s bottom bracket.
The heel on pedal method. This is even simpler. Sit on your bike (next to a wall for balance) and place your heel on the pedal. In the pedal’s lowest position, your leg should be straight.
Once you’ve got the saddle height sorted, check that it’s in the right position. As a starting point, using a plumb line, check that the boney point just below the kneecap is in line with the centre of the pedal axle.
Finally, check the tilt of the saddle. Your saddle should be flat, or tilted slightly downward at the front. If the nose is tilted upwards, this can sometimes contribute to lower back pain.
The difference in height between your saddle and handlebars as well as your flexibility will also affect how you sit on the saddle. If you’re uncomfortable on your bike, check your handlebars aren’t too low in relation to your saddle before blaming your bike seat!
If you’re buying a new bike and aren’t sure how to set it up, take advantage of our personal sizing service for all bikes bought in-store.
Take Your Measurements
To get an idea of the right saddle width, you need to measure your sit bones. Manufacturers design saddles in different widths so that the maximum padding is underneath the main pressure points (i.e. your sit bones).
Here’s an easy way of calculating what width of saddle is right for you:
1) Place a piece of tinfoil on a carpeted stair and sit on it.
2) Lean forward to simulate the position you’re in on your bike (this is the important bit) and lift your feet slightly.
3) When you stand up you should see two deep impressions in the foil – measure the distance between these to get your sit bones width.
4) Add 25–30mm to this measurement to get your ideal cycle seat width.
You can also try this using corrugated cardboard on a hard surface such as a bench or chair. Alternatively, if you’re near one of our stores, you can pop in and sit on one of our saddle measurement devices.
The Best Comfort Cycle Seats for Every Rider
Just as everyone’s body shape is different, cycling disciplines require different styles of cycle seat. For example, the riding position of a performance cyclist on a road bike will be very different to a leisure cyclist on a hybrid bike or a mountain biker who moves around on the saddle.
As a very general rule, if you have a more upright riding position, you’ll probably want a wider, more padded saddle than if you adopt a more forward, aggressive posture.
Comfortable Saddles suggestions for Leisure Cyclists
If you tend toward an upright riding position, then this is the category for you. Saddles designed for leisure cyclists and commuters tend to be wider and have more padding than other models.
Brooks B17 STD Saddle – Brooks saddles are renowned for their style and comfort and this flagship model has been a bestseller for decades.
Comfortable Saddles suggestions for Road Cyclists
On a road bike, you typically adopt a lower position so there’s less weight on your sit bones. Road bike saddles are typically longer and narrower than other styles of bike seat and have little padding to help prevent chafing.
Fabric Scoop Shallow Elite Saddle – a simple performance-orientated design, great comfort and a competitive price make this a popular saddle for road cyclists.
Fizik Arione Saddle – the Arione has a long, narrow nose and a flat profile aimed at performance cycling.
Comfortable Saddles suggestions for Mountain Bikers
When mountain biking, you’ll spend a lot of time moving around on the saddle as you tackle different terrain. Mountain bike saddles vary in length: longer noses allow a rider to sit forward over the pedals on steep climbs but can restrict side-to-side movement on the descent. They generally have more padding than road saddles, although some super-light race versions have minimal padding.
Specialized Henge Comp MTB Saddle – the Henge has a patented body geometry and EVA padding for maximum comfort and low friction material on the nose and tail makes moving on and off the seat easy.
Comfortable Saddles suggestions for Touring
When touring, you’re likely to adopt a more upright position, not dissimilar to a mountain bike position. You need a saddle that’s comfortable for sitting without moving for long hours. Leather saddles used to be the saddle of choice and are still popular. They take a while to break in, but you’ll end up with a seat that’s moulded to the unique contours of your behind. Alternatively, there are numerous modern options with a split design if you don’t fancy going through the breaking-in process.
Brooks Flyer Saddle – the Flyer is similar to the B17 but has spring suspension for extra cushioning over long distances.
Fabric Line Shallow Elite Saddle – designed for long days in the saddle, the split design with a central relief channel helps prevent discomfort and numbness.
Comfortable Women-Specific suggestions Saddles
Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean that you have to have a women’s cycle seat. Some women actually find that a unisex saddle fits them better. It all comes back to your anatomy.
Women saddles are sculpted to be wider at the rear, as women’s sit bones tend to be further apart than men’s. They’re also designed to relieve pressure on the frontal area to prevent soreness or chafing.
Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow Saddle – one of the most popular women’s cycle seats, the Diva has a streamlined design with gel padding and an anatomical cut-out for comfort.
Specialized Womens Lithia Comp Gel 2017 – the cut-out design is medically tested to reduce soft tissue pressure and the supportive foam and gel inserts are comfortable enough for the longest rides.