Saddle up! The perfect saddle for you and your bike
Astonishingly, 100 years of bicycle history have not produced the “one” perfect saddle shape. The bicycle saddle is the most important of the three contact points between the body and the bicycle: it supports sixty to ninety percent of your weight, depending on your posture. Every unevenness on the ground has a direct effect on the buttocks and back – so an unsuitable saddle can hurt in the long run and also lead to numbness and back problems. However, your saddle should not hamper your movements in any way and, above all, it should not hurt to sit on. Instead, the goal is to have a comfortable seat on your bike, with a saddle that is suitable for the ergonomics of your intended use.
But there’s no “one” saddle that suits everyone: Which saddle you end up preferring depends on the area of application, your seat bone distance and your perception. Thanks to our online shop’s huge selection, we can help you to explore the different types and manufacturers and then choose the perfect saddle.
THE BEST SADDLE FOR YOUR BIKE DEPENDS ON YOUR RIDING STYLE AND POSITION
As a rule: a good bicycle saddle is chosen based on your bike type, your weight and your riding style. Also take into consideration your seat bone distance, the right shape, padding and material to improve the riding experience. Seem like a lot? Start narrowing down the options by looking at the riding style:
- Do you normally ride shorter distances in the city and use your bike for everyday errands?
- Are you an ambitious road cyclist who chases kilometres?
- Do you like to ride your mountain bike uphill and downhill?
- Do you like to go on long bike tours?
Generally, if you mostly go on short rides to the shop or nearest supermarket, a soft saddle on which you can sit comfortably, like in an armchair, is perfectly adequate. However, if you are an athletic cyclist and have longer tours ahead of you, then a hard, narrow saddle is key. Because with a wide saddle there is a risk of sinking into it on longer rides. This results in the areas that are under the most strain not getting the necessary support, and in the worst case, important nerves and vessels are cut off from an adequate blood supply by pressure on the perineal area. So the longer you sit in the saddle, the harder it should tend to be.
In addition to your riding style, you should also consider the bike itself when choosing the ideal saddle for your bike, because it determines your posture while cycling. Are you sitting...
- ... upright on a city bike?
- ... somewhat bent forward on an MTB, hybrid or sporty fitness bike?
- ... in an athletic position, stretched forward like on a road, gravel or triathlon bike?
These questions determine the angle of your pelvis and back, and thus where exactly your pelvis touches and rests on the saddle of your bicycle – an important point of reference when buying a saddle. On road bikes or triathlon bikes you have a more stretched and sporty position, but on a mountain bike your position is often a little more upright and on city bikes or trekking bikes even more upright and comfortable. You tend to spend a lot more time on bikes that are designed for sporty use than on the typical city bike that you only ride to work or shopping.
The sitting position is decisive for the shape of the saddle you choose, because the support area of the sit bones or the pubic arches changes depending on how you sit. As a rule, a saddle shape is only optimal for you if it takes your physical characteristics into account. You should therefore factor in your individual seat bone distance when choosing a model.
SADDLE WIDTH AND SIT BONE DISTANCE
A term you should know when you’re talking about the point of contact between the pelvis and the bicycle saddle is “sit bones”. The sitting bones are the bony arches on the right and left sides of the lower pelvis on which the body rests when sitting. They don’t hurt to sit on, even when under high stress, because most of us don’t experience pressure sensitivity at these two points. That’s why it’s best to have sixty to ninety percent of your weight resting on these sit bones while you cycle, and not on the pain-sensitive tissue or muscles around them.
The sit bones are usually about 10 to 15 centimetres apart. This spacing is another important component for finding the perfect saddle for your bike. If the width and shape of the saddle correspond with the distance between your sitting bones, it relieves the perineal area and avoids numbness. Many saddle manufacturers therefore offer their saddles in different sizes (such as S, M, L) or put a "Max" in the name to indicate the sitting bone spacing.
This is how you measure your seat bone distance:
- Sit upright, on the centre of a piece of corrugated cardboard. Raise your legs so the tips of your toes are on the ground, to increase the pressure on the cardboard.
- Circle the indentations in the cardboard with a felt-tip pen, then get up and mark the centre of each circle with a dot.
- Now measure the distance between the two points to determine the distance between your sitting bones
Note that in an athletic posture, the pressure shifts from the sit bones forward to the pubic bones. These converge at the pubic arch. Therefore, in very athletic positions, the pubic branches and bones should also be relieved. This is especially true for women, as their pubic arch is lower and can press on the saddle nose. As a rule: the more athletic the posture, the narrower the saddle should be. However, a saddle that is too narrow on a bicycle puts additional strain inwards on the pubic arch, where nerves and muscles are also located. Therefore, when in doubt it is better to choose a bicycle saddle that is a little too wide than too narrow.
Different saddle shapes can also provide relief in some areas or good weight distribution. Relief for the perineal area is often achieved with a depression in the middle, a so-called relief channel or even a relief opening. This ultimately serves to avoid pressure on the sensitive soft tissues and organs, as well as to increase comfort. However, these relief areas only fulfil their purpose if the saddle fits properly.
MEN'S AND WOMEN'S SADDLES – THE ERGONOMICS OF THE BICYCLE SADDLE
Men and women generally differ in their anatomy. When it comes to the pelvis, however, the only important aspect is what touches the bicycle saddle, in other words, the distance between the sit bones. Women usually have a larger distance than men. However, not every woman will be more comfortable with a special women's saddle and not every man sits better in a men's saddle.
Since some people have a wider pelvic structure, there are special bicycle saddles with a V-shape. This special shape distributes the weight load more evenly. Padding and suspension also contribute to the selection process for many of our female customers.
In contrast, men's saddles are usually rather narrow. This is because the distance between the sitting bones is usually somewhat narrower in men and the pubic arch is not as low as in women. Due to the shape of the saddle being adapted to these requirements, the pressure is ideally distributed and the perineal area is relieved.
ROAD SADDLE: WHAT SHOULD I KEEP IN MIND?
All standard ROSE road bikes come with a saddle. However, you won't know immediately on the first tour whether it suits you. You will probably need some time to get used to the saddle, to find out if it is the right one for you. The right saddle is especially important for road cycling, because the body weight doesn’t rest completely on your ischial tuberosities but rather on your pubic bone due to the sporty, stretched riding position. A road bike saddle should prioritize a rather light, narrow and hard construction. If a saddle is too soft, you’ll notice on longer tours that it doesn’t reduce pain and won’t provide more comfort. Road saddles usually have little to no padding, while soft saddles can cause increased chafing. It is also vital that the buttocks have a reduced contact surface with a hard saddle - this ensures optimal blood circulation in the loins, which can be important for male riders. In the ROSE range you will find road bike saddles from ROSE, ERGON, Brooks, Selle Italia, Terry, ISM, fi'zi:k, Profile, Repente and WTB.
MTB SADDLE: WHAT SHOULD I KEEP IN MIND?
Since you sit athletically on an MTB, but less stretched out as on a road bike, we recommend narrow and long saddles for this type of bike. The seat surface in the rear area can be slightly wider than on typical road bike saddles.
When it comes to mountain bike saddles, it is not only comfort that plays a major role, but also mobility, because a saddle that is too big could interfere with your movements during daring riding manoeuvres on steep terrain or during jumps.
BIKE SADDLE ALIGNMENT – WHAT SHOULD I KEEP IN MIND?
The best saddle can only function right if it is correctly mounted and aligned. First, make sure the saddle nose is centrally aligned with the top tube. Place the saddle horizontally to start with, in order to find the individual saddle angle. If the saddle nose tilts too far down, this increases the pressure on the hands and can cause you to slide forward off the saddle. If the saddle nose tilts up too far, it increases the pressure on the genital area, which can lead to pain or numbness. So adjust the saddle into the appropriate position in very small steps of a few millimetres and test each small change for a sufficient time.