Bicycling is supposed to be fun, not painful. It is true that most brand-new riders or those getting back into cycling, experience a little soreness on the first rides, yet that feeling normally goes away after a few weeks of regular riding as your body gets used to this new activity.
If it doesn't, and if you're suffering every time you hit the road or trail, one solution is to get a new saddle that’s better suited to the type of riding you do and your body mechanics.
To help, we explain here what seat types are appropriate for the common types of cycling, and how to choose the right features.
Consider the Type of Riding You Do
Bike seats are frequently placed into one of these five categories:
Recreational cycling: If you sit upright while pedaling a cruiser, urban or commuter bike and prefer short rides, try a saddle designed for recreational cycling. The saddles are often wide with plush padding and/or springs, and sometimes sport a short nose.
Road cycling: Are you racing or clocking significant road miles? Road cycling saddles tend to be long and narrow and have minimal padding for the best power transfer while pedaling.
Mountain biking: On mountain trails, you alternately stand up on the pedals, perch way back (sometimes just hovering over or even off your saddle) or crouch down in a tucked position. Because of these varied positions, you’ll want a mountain-specific saddle with padding for your sit bones, a durable cover and a streamlined shape that will aid your movement.
Bike touring: For long-distance riding, you’ll want a saddle that falls between a road and mountain saddle. Saddles for bike touring typically provide cushioning for your sit bones and a fairly long, narrow nose.
Bike commuting: A lot like saddles for road cycling and bike touring, saddles that are good for commuting have some padding, but generally not too much. Bike commuters who ride rain or shine may want to consider the weather resistance of the cover materials.
Take the ebike sold by the Revibikes as an example:
*Our new EBIKES will appear in the article, Cheetah mini / Oasis step through will be pre-sold at the end of September and is expected to be shipped by the end of October
Riding positions: upright riding position
Cruiser saddle, cushioning saddles tend to be wide with plush padding and/or springs to absorb bumps in the road. They often have a short nose. They are typically found on bikes designed for recreational cycling and cruising.
Features: Very wide, fully padded, may include springs or gel.
Ideal Bike Types: Cruiser bikes; some comfort and hybrid bikes.
Ideal Riding Style: Casual, leisurely, slow pedaling cadence.
Riding positions: regular riding position
Sport Men's and Women's models, saddles are typically long and narrow and have minimal padding to create maximum power transfer and minimal chafing while pedaling. They are commonly found on road bikes, mountain bikes and touring bikes.
Features: Anatomic/ergonomic design, may have a cutout in top, medium padding (maybe gel), narrow nose, the width of rear should match your sit-bone width.
Ideal Bike Types: Flat-bar road bike; mountain bike; hybrid bike; city bike; etc.
Ideal Riding Style: Fitness, commuting, pledge rides, touring, all-around road and trail use, medium to fast pedaling cadence.
Types of cushioning
Gel cushioning molds to your body and provides the plushest comfort. Most recreational riders prefer this for its superior comfort on casual rides. Its downside is that gel tends to get compacted more quickly than foam.
Foam cushioning offers a pliable feel that springs back to shape. Road riders favor foam as it provides more support than gel while still delivering comfort. For longer rides, riders over 200 lbs. or riders with well-conditioned sit bones, firmer foam is preferred as it doesn’t compact as quickly as softer foam or gel.
No cushioning: Some bike saddles have zero cushioning. These saddles often have leather or cotton covers. Although a no-cushioning saddle may be uncomfortable for some riders when it is brand new, it will break in with frequent riding and eventually mold to your weight and shape. Some riders say that the “custom fit” you can get from leather or cotton saddles makes them more comfortable despite them not having any cushioning. Another plus of saddles with no cushioning is that they tend to stay cooler—a definite advantage on long, hot rides. Choose this option if a saddle with cushioning hasn’t worked well for you and if you’re drawn to the classic look of a leather or cotton saddle.
A saddle pad is an optional add-on that can be placed over any saddle for additional cushioning. Though plush and comfortable, its padding is not as contained as is a saddle that’s already padded, so it may migrate where you don’t need or want it. This is not an issue for recreational rides, but it could be for fast rides or for longer distances. If that’s your riding style, a pair of padded bike shorts or underwear may be a better investment.
An interesting and effective innovation you'll see in many modern saddles is a cutout or cutaway in the top, which looks like a groove or hole has been cut out of the top of the saddle. The idea is to remove the part of the saddle that's usually responsible for pressuring sensitive tissues and causing numbness and pain.
The rails on a bike saddle are the connection points to the bike. Most saddles have two parallel rails that run from the nose of the saddle to the back of the saddle. A bike seatpost clamps to the rails. Differences in rail material affect things like cost, weight, strength and flexibility.
Steel: Steel is strong and reliable, but quite heavy, so if weight is a concern, consider other options. Most saddles REI sells have steel rails.
Alloy: Alloys, like chromoly, are used in rails for their strength. They tend to be lighter than steel.
Titanium: Titanium is very light and strong, and it does a good job of absorbing vibrations, but it’s expensive.
Carbon: Like titanium, carbon has a very low weight and can be designed to absorb some vibrations, but it’s generally only available on very expensive saddles.
Tips to Improve Your Comfort in the Saddle
Even with the right saddle, lots of bumps or long days in the saddle can lead to perineum compression. So, finding the most comfortable bike seat may require you to adjust your riding style. Here are some things you can try:
- Stand up briefly on your pedals every 10 minutes or so.
- Stand slightly over bumps, using your legs as shock absorbers.
- Get a full-suspension bike (best for mountain biking) or a suspension seatpost (found on some recreational and commuting bikes).
- Wear padded bike shorts. They can help minimize friction, wick moisture and cushion bumps.