8th January 2018.When you first started to learn how to ride a bike, what was the most frustrating thing to deal with besides trying to balance? If you're like most people, the answer is something very basic: trying to sit comfortably! The bike saddle is not often a seat built strictly for comfort; its design incorporates a specific utility. That's not much of a problem when you only ride occasionally or strictly do so for fun. When you choose to start riding your bike for fitness or competition, though, the number of hours spent in the saddle climbs dramatically. That can often result in soreness, pain, and an unpleasant cycling experience. So how do you choose the right type of saddle, and how do you avoid problems once you've picked one? It's all about knowing what to look for and understanding how to match a saddle to the riding style you prefer. Mountain bikers will need a different saddle from road bikers, and those who compete heavily will need something else altogether. There are even differences between saddles made for men and those designed for women. Picking one might seem impossible, but if you keep a few important things in mind, you'll be on your way to a more comfortable ride in short order.
Determine what you don't like about your current saddle
If you're in the market for a new saddle, that probably means you're not satisfied with your current ride. Why not? The answer to that question can have a substantial impact on every other decision you make in this process. Do you feel like you can't sit comfortably in any position, or do you find that you're frequently very sore after you ride? Perhaps the seat isn't wide enough ? or maybe it even feels like it's too wide. Having a saddle that's too large can make pedalling awkward, and you could lose a lot of potential power. Before you look at anything else about buying a new bike saddle, take the time to evaluate the problems you face now. Take measurements so you know what doesn't work for you. Buying another saddle that yields the same type of problems isn't a desirable outcome, after all. Consider especially the way you ride and what you ride for; a saddle built for leisurely rides around the park probably won't feel good if you try to use it for fitness.
Choosing the shape that suits your riding profile
The way you ride your bike will define the overall shape of the saddle you need. You don't need to spend a lot of time trying different saddle shapes when you know how to match your style to a product design. If you do enjoy taking those slow rides around the park, choose a cruiser-style saddle, which is ideal for riders who place all their weight on the seat; these typically feature a wide body and plenty of padding for comfort. If you ride with your body tilted slightly forward, opt for a sports saddle. These are your more typical saddle shape, with less width and a long, tapered front. Since you're supporting more weight on the bike itself, you don't need as much seat. Whether you're pumping the pedals for fitness or commuting, this saddle type will be the most ideal. For those who are serious cyclists and prefer to lean farther forward, you don't need much saddle at all. Choose a racing style saddle for a very sleek, lightweight design which will let you maintain your high rate of speed, keep your legs free, and give you just enough sitting room for the moments when you aren't up on the pedals.
Pick firmness and padding levels that let you feel comfortable
Now consider padding. Everyone wants to be comfortable while they ride, and it's natural to think that more padding would equal a better riding experience. That's true if you're looking at a comfy cruiser saddle you won't spend more than an hour in at a time. In those cases, choosing a saddle with more padding can yield a more enjoyable ride. With thinner saddles, that's not what you want. Not only do you not put enough of your weight on the seat for it to make much difference, but when you do, it can result in a lot of unwanted pressure. The longer you ride, especially on longer excursions with heavy exertion, the more uncomfortable you'll feel. Choose sport or racing saddles with just enough padding to provide you with comfort. Sensitive areas should have the most padding; the rest needs little to none at all. Remember, more is not always better, and that is the case here.
Consider special design features created for comfort
Is there anything special that you want to see on your saddle? While there isn't much room for bells and whistles, there are still several extra options you might want to look for during your shopping trip. First, cut-out grooves continue to gain in popularity. These are areas of the saddle where the makers purposefully leave out sections of material. Most often, this is in the areas where riders most often complain of discomfort. Rather than having the saddle pressing into their bodies in those areas, they removed them completely. Mounts for saddle bags or water bottle holders are also a common sight. If you want to modify your bike for maximum utility, a selection like this can be a wise choice. There are other custom options out there, too, including some visual and texture choices. Whatever route you decide to go with your saddle, some "creature comforts" or cool extras can help sway your purchase when you're torn between different models.
Always take a saddle for a test ride
While considering your options, you're seldom going to be lucky enough to find a saddle that immediately fits all your criteria. You'll need to try several to find one that satisfies your needs. Try to take saddles for a test ride whenever possible. Head down to a bike shop or another store with bicycles and try riding a few that feature different saddle styles. This test can help you to narrow down your choices and clear up what you like best. You can bring science into the equation by measuring yourself too ? some shops may be able to help you to determine the width of your "sit bones." This way, you can choose a saddle that's just wide enough for your body. Women should take particular care in choosing a saddle, as their bodies are naturally somewhat wider. Thus, men's saddles are often too uncomfortable for women to use over the long term. Be patient. It could take you several models before you come across the one that finally feels perfect. In the meantime, avoid riding too much or too hard on a saddle that doesn't support your weight well.
Other general tips for shopping
As a final tip, keep durability in mind while you shop. Saddles don't often break, but it is a possibility. If the shell itself doesn't wear down or suffer a break from an accident or sudden spill into the road, the rails that clamp the seat to the frame might. Check the construction when you're purchasing a product. Aluminium is strong, but it isn't as strong as steel. If you want a saddle that can truly last for the lifetime of your bike, look for steel rails. High-end saddles may feature titanium instead of steel for an even more lightweight seat. It all comes down to your budget ? but there should always be a saddle out there that you can afford to enjoy.
Find your perfect saddle and spend more time on the road
At first glance, it can seem like buying a saddle is almost as complicated as purchasing a brand-new bike. When your comfort is at stake, though, it makes sense to take the extra time to pick out a product that meets your needs. When you don't have to worry about a saddle that pushes into pressure points or isn't wide enough for your body, you can put your focus on cycling harder. A better seat means less fatigue, which yields more energy for putting back into your fitness. Whether you opt for a slim, narrow saddle or a wider, padded model, choose what enables you to succeed. This article was written for Sports Fitness, where you will find a selection of cycling clothes and accessories available to order. Follow @SportNessUK