7 Tips - How To Choose The Right Bike Saddle

Choosing the right bicycle saddle is similar to looking for a comfortable pair of shoes; there are numerous factors to consider, both physiological and intended use. In this article, I pick out 7 Tips to consider how you can choose the right bicycle saddle for your anatomy, and style of bike riding.

1 - Seat-bone Width

The first thing to consider is the distance between your seat bones. Your seat/sit bone width determines the ideal width of the saddle you should choose.

You can measure your seat bone width using a piece of corrugated cardboard: place the cardboard on a hard bench, and sit firmly on it. Rock forwards slightly to mimic a riding position, and elevate your feet to press your seat bones down onto the cardboard, so that they make an indent. Then, mark the centre of the two indents, and measure the distance between the two points. This will give you your seat/sit bone width.

A narrow sit bone width would be 100mm or less, medium 100-130mm, and wide over 130mm.

Saddle width is measured from edge to edge across the top of the saddle. Specialized, for example, recommend a 130mm saddle width for narrow sit bones, 143mm for medium, and 155mm for wide sit bones. Fi'zi:k produce their popular Arione and Antares saddles in two different widths.

The correct width saddle will allow your pelvis to be optimally supported.

2 - Pelvic Rotation and Spinal Flexibility

Your pelvic rotation and spinal flexibility play a critical role in determining the ideal saddle.

A rider with greater pelvic rotation and flexibility is able to sit on their seat bones, whilst adopting a curled (aero) tuck position on the saddle. The greater curve in the spine means they require a saddle that will support and cushion their seat bones at the rear, but not interfere with their frontal groin area.

A rider with less pelvic rotation will tend to rock their entire pelvis and lower back forward on the saddle, and place greater pressure on the perineum region; therefore a saddle with more padding in this area can be of benefit.

The fi'zi:k Arione saddle is best suited to someone with a good amount of spinal flexibility. The fi'zi:k Antares saddle for example, is better for those who adopt a slightly more upright position.

3 - Riding Style (Racing, Sportive, Endurance)

Your riding style can influence the amount of padding that you look for in a saddle.

For longer endurance riding, it can be beneficial to have more padding, to provide extra cushioning. Extra cushioning is better for endurance riders because they put less pressure on the pedals than a racer would, and hence they put more pressure on their seat bones.

Some saddles with extra padding will have a cut-away zone in the centre, this means they can provide extra padding for the seat bones, without affecting the perineum. If you suffer from numbness over longer rides, then consider a saddle with a cut-away section, such as the fi'zi:k Arione VS.

fizik arione vs saddle

4 - Discipline (Road, MTB, Time-Trial, Triathlon)

The kind of cycling that you participate in will play a role in determining the best saddle for you.

A mountain bike saddle will tend to have a longer profile, to accommodate the exaggerated shifting of the rider on the bike. They also tend to have some padding in the front area of the saddle to make it more comfortable when the rider is in a very forward position (steep inclines). The fi'zi:k Tundra is my mountain bike saddle of choice.

A time-trial or triathlon saddle by contrast, will have a very squat shape. These nose-less designs are made to support the rider's seat bones when they are in the aero tuck, but leave out unnecessary padding in the frontal area. The shorter squat design is possible because there is almost no movement (ideally) in the rider's seat position whilst they are in the TT or Triathlon position. Take a look at the fi'zi:k Mistica as an example.

5 - Seat-post Compatibility

You should also consider whether a saddle will fit to your seat post; critically whether the seat post clamp is designed for oval or round rails.

Carbon rails tend to be made oval shaped, to give them greater strength. However, some seat post clamps will not accept oval saddle rails, so you will restricted to tubular metal rails.

6 - Materials

Saddle top-surface materials are also a significant factor to consider. You need to account for intended use, and durability.

Leather (as found on traditional Brooks England saddles) is beautiful and malleable, but it does not respond well to being saturated with water. By contrast, synthetic materials are more weather resistant, but their looks tend to deteriorate faster, and they can be less breathable.

7 - Budget

Finally, you should consider how much you have to spend on a saddle. More expensive saddles tend to be lighter, use better quality padding (such as memory foam), and demonstrate better quality craftsmanship in their construction.

As a rough guide, a good quality saddle will cost between £50 and £100.


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