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How to pick a comfortable saddle

Friday 18 March 2016 Filed in: General

Bontrager saddle sizing equipment
Bontrager saddle sizing equipment

Riding a bike shouldn't be painful, but its often expected that a bike saddle will leave you walking like a cowboy for days after riding to the shops just to pick up a newspaper.

Bontrager saddle sizing equipment
Bontrager saddle sizing equipment

Selecting a comfortable saddle can be a tricky task, even for the most experienced riders. There's all sorts of variations available when it comes to a new saddle on your bike – whether it's width, padding, shape, cutout or saddle rail material to name but a few.

Simply put, the reason for the wide variation is that everyone is different and bike designs differ greatly too – if you're riding around on a traditional shopper, you're going to experience different pressures on your rear as opposed to what you might get if you were riding a road bike.

Whilst selecting a new saddle its worth having your saddle height checked as well. This part of the set up is really important, and making sure you've got the saddle tilt and fore and aft position spot on can make a big difference to how comfortable you're finding your bike. This is something your local bike shop would be more than happy to help you with.

At Cycle Centre we use Bontrager saddles. We do this because we believe they make it really easy to help get you the saddle that you need. There's a couple of great things that Bontrager do that make this the case:

  • 1. The Comfort Guarantee:
  • its really hard to predict the comfort of a saddle in a shop environment. The best way to testis to ride it and Bontrager offer a 30 day guarantee - if its not right we'll swap it for another. With their wide range of saddles, Bontrager has you covered for any style of riding.

  • 2. The ability to measure your sit bone width:
  • using a Bontrager measuring device can help determine the correct width and curvature for you.

    If you've never heard of Bontrager, it's the brand from the bike innovator Keith Bontrager. Keith has been responsible for some amazing innovations in the bike world.

    Keith first became attracted to bikes in 1978 and built his first frame in 1979. By 1980, he had managed to build his first mountain bike frame. Keith has published a number of articles on bicycle design and construction, as well as bike fit and sizing.

    How do I choose the correct saddle?

    The first step we'd take in helping you choose the first saddle would be to talk to you. From there we learn more about your style of riding and try to determine if its something other than the saddle that could be causing you to be uncomfortable. This may lead to making an adjustment to your position on the bike.

    You'll find that wearing a padded short can often help loads more than you'd imagine, so getting a proper pair of cycling shorts is certainly something you should consider.

    Next, we can measure you for a saddle. This is a totally quick and painless process and is very easy to do. Some people worry about this being a little bit awkward, but don't worry – its not! Riders often expect some sort of medieval contraption to measure their pubic rami - these are the bones that support you whilst you are sat on a bike saddle - but its simply sitting on a Gel filled panel! This reveals a colour, and that colour corresponds to the correct width and curvature.

    There are different types of saddle to suit different types of rider. After all, we're all different!

    Do I need a saddle with lots of padding?

    There are different types of padding to choose from, ranging from thick or thin foam padding right the way up to saddles with gel inserts. Gel saddles will also differ in thickness, so there's plenty to choose from.

    It's a common misconception that extra padding or extra thickness will make the biggest difference to the comfort of a saddle. The shape is actually the most important factor, and the right shape is something really specific to you.

    Isn't there just one saddle shape?

    We're all different shapes and sizes, and these changes in anatomy result in people having different positions on the bike. This means that saddles are produced in a variety of different shapes to cater for the differences in humans. It's not just a one size fits all kind of thing.

    If you are a casual rider that enjoys a gentle spin when the sun is shining, it may well be that you are riding a traditional bike with an upright position. This position is often compatible with a wider, softer saddle because there's very little pelvis rotation; this means that more of the rider's weight is placed on the saddle. For a performance rider with a longer/lower hand position and a more horizontal upper body, this will rotate the pelvis and require different support from the saddle.

    These are just two examples of riders that will require very different saddles; the best way to choose the right saddle for you is to get down to a shop and use the tools available.

    Choosing the right saddle design

    Its worth experimenting to get the correct saddle. Some saddles have padding in different places, for instance more padding on the nose. Some saddles have a cut out in the middle which is designed to relieve pressure, and some saddles don't go to a full cut out but have a comfort channel down the middle. It's a case of each to their own, and trying them out is the best way to go. With Bontrager's comfort guarantee, you can happily try one out and switch around if you're not happy. It's a surefire way to improve your comfort on the bike!

    Some saddles have an elastomer on the rails to allow some rotation that moves with the pelvis too; it's an area where a lot is done to help out riders, and quite right too. It's one of those vital contact points between you and the bike.

    There are lots of options when it comes to saddles but, don't be disheartened. All it means is that there will definitely be a saddle to suit you!

    When you do select a saddle, its often worth having a fitting, too. A new saddle can alter your saddle height and its fore and aft position can affect comfort too.

    If you would like to talk to us about saddles you can call the store or drop us a line, our contact details are here

    Or call in to see us and we can take a look at your bike and have a look at your position and advise you from there.

    This multi-coloured card is used to determine the correct width of saddle
    This multi-coloured card is used to determine the correct width of saddle

    Different saddle widths and curvatures for maximum comfort.
    Different saddle widths and curvatures for maximum comfort.

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