Do you want to bike comfortably? Most stock bike saddles are not comfortable to ride on. That’s why one of the things new cyclists do is to buy a new bike saddle that fits their riding style right away. But how do you choose the right bike saddle?
Yes, it’s just a seat. But getting a new bike seat can be daunting, given the various options you have in the market. Choosing a bike saddle is purely subjective. The bike seat that works for your friends may not work for you.
In this blog post, you will learn how to choose the right bike saddle by understanding your riding style and how it relates to the materials, size, and cushioning of a bike seat. Let’s begin.
Determine Your Riding Style
How you ride your bike will determine the type of bike saddle you need. There are five types of riding style:
Bike commuting: the best saddles for bike commuting are like touring and road bike seats. They have some padding on them, but not too much. Since this saddle will be your daily driver, consider picking one with superior, weather-resistant materials.
Recreational biking: if you are the type who enjoys short rides while on a commuter bike or cruise, then pick a bike saddle that’s wide with plenty of padding. These types of bike seats usually have short noses.
Mountain biking: you do a lot of things while on a mountain bike. Sometimes you perch or hover off your saddle, stand up on the pedals, or crouch down. Pick a bike saddle that supports this variety of movements. Go for ones with padding for your sit bones, an ideal shape, and durable cover that lasts against the harsh elements of off-road trails.
Road cycling: if you are training for bike races or just want to clock a couple of miles on the road, then go for road cycling bike seats. These bike saddles have the least padding to keep the weight low. They also sport a streamlined, aerodynamic shape.
Bike touring: long-distance bike touring will need a saddle that features a long, narrow nose as well as some cushioning for your sit bones. These bike saddles typically fall in between road and mountain bike seats.
Know Your Bike Saddle Cushions
In terms of cushioning, bike saddles are often divided into two:
Cushioning saddles: a wide bike seat with plenty of cushions and/or springs to absorb impact. These bike seats are characterized by their short nose. You can find cushioning saddles on cruising and recreational bikes.
Performance saddles: these bike saddles are designed to provide maximum power. The long and narrow design minimizes chafing and saddle sores — making it an ideal bike saddle for long rides. Performance saddles are found in touring bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes.
Types of foams and cushioning in bike saddles
Foam cushions: These cushions deliver comfort while providing better support than gel cushions. Road riders often pick firmer foam cushions for longer rides because they don’t compact as easily compared to regular or soft foam cushions.
Gel cushions: these types of cushions provide the best comfort because it molds to your body shape. The only downside is that it compacts easily compared to foam cushions. Gel cushions are often found on recreational bikes.
Saddle pads: this is an addon that you can add to any bike saddle for additional comfort. Because saddle pads are not as contained as the cushioning inside bike seats, it may move around. Usually, this is not a problem for casual, recreational riding. If you are into long, professional rides, go for padded bike shorts instead.
No cushioning: yes, there are bike saddles that don’t offer any cushioning. They often sport cotton or leather covers. No cushion saddles don’t feel comfortable when new, but over time, these will break and mold into your body shape — giving you some degree of comfort. Another reason why some bikers prefer no cushion bike seats is that it doesn’t heat up as much, making it ideal for long hot rides.
The Different Types of Bike Saddle Materials
Bike saddles are made from various materials — each having its share of pros and cons. The type of material you choose will affect your bike seat’s durability, flexibility, comfort, and of course, cost.
The most common bike saddle cover materials are synthetic gel padding, mold, cover, and foam. Synthetic materials don’t need break-in time and are relatively cheap. They are low maintenance and lightweight too! No wonder why these types of bike saddles are crowd favorites.
Some bike saddles sport a cotton material cover. Cotton is stretchable and moves a bit as you ride. Bike saddles made from cotton offer the most comfortable experience. Compared to leather, cotton breaks in quickly.
Bike saddles made from leather material have a break-in period of 200 miles before it molds to your body shape and weight. Leather is not comfortable at first, but once it sets in, it’s one of the best bike seats around. The only downside of leather is that it’s not waterproof. This means that every once in a while, you’ll need to put on a leather conditioner to protect it against moisture.
Looking for tips on how to set your saddle height? Click here.
Know Your Saddle Rails
The saddle rails connect your bike seat to the bike. Most bike saddles come with two parallel rails. There are different types of saddle rails available:
Steel: saddle rails made from steel are durable but heavy. If you want a lightweight bike, don’t choose this.
Carbon: these saddle rails are lightweight and strong. Carbon saddle rails are designed to absorb vibration. Saddle rails made from this material are usually available on expensive bike seats.
Titanium: like carbon, titanium is strong and lightweight. The only downside for titanium carbon rails is the cost.
Alloy: usually Chromoly, alloy saddle rails are strong. It’s lighter than steel; making it a perfect choice for those who are concerned about weight but can’t afford the more expensive titanium and carbon saddle rails.
There you have it! Here’s a list of the best bike saddles that you can buy today.