Saddles are funny things. If there’s one place on a bicycle to spend some money on an upgrade, pretty much any cyclist out there will tell you it’s the saddle. Because everyone is different, no one saddle can work for everyone, and every rider has different preferences. There are some riders out there who can sit down on pretty much anything and think everyone else is being whiny, while others swear by only one brand and model and hoard them in fear of a future product discontinuation.
In fact, for many dedicated cyclists, saddle choice can come to rival religion. Walk down the Performance Corporate hallways and you’ll see pretty much every model of Fizik, the odd Selle Italia Flite, Fabric Scoop, Prologo Nago Evo,and even a few Specialized Romin’s and Bontrager’s. And each of those owners will swear that their saddle of choice is the best saddle ever made.
So which saddle is right for you? That’s hard to say. There are so many variables that go into it that trying to predict which saddle will be right for any individual is almost impossible. Sit bone width, pressure sensitivity, nerve and arterial depth, flexibility…these are just a few of the factors that determine whether a saddle is a perfect perch or an object of agony.
There are a few saddle selecting systems out there that attempt to find the right saddle for you, and they can certainly help get you pointed in the right direction. But really, the only time tested method for finding the right saddle is to try a few (this is a good time to take advantage of our generous return policy) and put some miles in on them.
But before you just go out and buy a saddle based on price or some online review, we really invite you to think specifically about WHY your current saddle isn’t working for you. Here’s our guide to common complaints about saddle discomfort.
Firstly, if this is an issue, there might be a non-saddle related cause. Your seat might be either too high or too far back. If those adjustments don’t work, keep reading.
- Your saddle might have too much padding. Contrary to common sense, a very padded saddle (or those gel covers) actually make chafing much, much worse. It’s better to have a harder saddle with less padding that lets your sit bones do their job and support your weight. It might be uncomfortable at first, but your body will adapt.
- The other cause might be too wide of a saddle. Everyone’s pelvic area is built differently, so you might need a slightly narrower perch. Even if your sit bones are properly supported, you may need a saddle with narrower wings or nose.
This one can be really tricky, but there’s a few things you might try.
- Again, the first issue might be that your saddle is too high, isn’t level, or your bike setup has too much reach/drop. Try adjusting your bike setup first and see if that solves the problem.
- Try a flatter saddle, with less shaping to it. This is especially true if you have a very aggressive position with a low torso angle. Some saddles, like the Fizik Aliante, have a very pronounced curvature to them, which can create pressure points that some riders find uncomfortable. You could try a flatter saddle like the Fizik Arione or the Selle Italia SLR.
- You could try a saddle with a center channel cut out that can alleviate pressure on the arteries and nerves in your groin area. Many riders find these very helpful for persistent numbness issues.
- You may need a wider saddle. We generally believe that saddle width should be determined by sit bone width. A saddle that is too narrow for your pelvis means that your sit bones can’t do their job and support your body weight. Instead, all the weight is being born by the sensitive soft tissue.
3. Discomfort During Hard Efforts
Most riders have a tendency to slide forward on the nose of the saddle during hard efforts. This is where your sensitivity to pressure can be an issue.
- Some saddle makers use very little padding on the nose of the saddle, so the shell can sort of poke through or create a noticeable ‘bump’ and cause some pressure points. Some riders might not be bothered by this, others who are more sensitive might. Try pressing down on the nose of your saddle, and if you can feel the nose shell piece through the padding, you might want to try one with more cushioning.
- If you spend a lot of time sitting on the front of the saddle, you may need a seat with a wider nose, like the Fizik Antares. The nose is the narrowest part of the saddle, and can create a lot of pressure on soft tissue because your sit bones aren’t supported.
- Again, there are non-saddle related causes. You might need to give your body more time to adapt to a road/MTB style saddle. These styles of saddles are also intended to be ridden with bike shorts with a built in chamois pad, so if you’re not wearing those, you might want to give that a try. If you are, you could try a pair with a different pad.
- It could be though that your saddle’s support or padding are just in the wrong places for you. While too much padding is bad, most riders need at least a little bit on the saddle, especially for longer rides. If your sit bones feel sore, it could be that the padding is either too thin or in the wrong place on the saddle for you.
- It could also be that the overall shape of the saddle just isn’t working for you—this can be true especially if your saddle has a pronounced rise or “whale tail” in the back. This can put too much pressure on the sit bones, resulting in discomfort.
5. General Discomfort
Not every saddle is going to fit every rider. Even if the width dimensions and contouring are spot on, there can be something that’s just a little off. Discomfort isn’t something you should have to deal with on a bike, and is never normal. If your saddle really isn’t working for you, but you’re having a hard time pinning down why, feel free to call our tech department or visit a store and talk with one of our Spin Doctors or sales associates. They can help you walk through why your current saddle might not be working and suggest some alternatives.