An uncomfortable bike saddle can turn cycling – especially when going on long-haul rides – into a grim and painful experience. If you find that you’re saddle sore it’s due to a number of factors: anatomical, riding style, bike seat, and the padding (or lack of!) in your bike shorts or bib all have something to do with it. As with all things in the biking world, there is a huge variance in what riders need and that means that there’s a huge amount of choice on what there is to offer, making finding the right one to suit you a challenge. Finding the right saddle is a personal choice that can be complemented with selecting a bib or bike short with more or less padding, depending on what you’ve chosen for your seat. Women may find this quest for a comfortable ride particularly challenging as pelvic shape and size varies more than men and can change over time.
Road-bike: These saddles are typically v-shaped with a more pronounced seating area and a longer nose.
Cross-country mountain bike: These saddles will have a pronounced seating area, and are sometimes more t-shaped to let the rider move forward for aggressive climbs.
Gravity, enduro, and trail bikes: These saddles are v-shaped, with rounded edges and a shorter nose to make it easy to move around on the saddle.
You need to find the best saddle size for you. Most professional bike shops will also help you find the right fit. Apex bikes also provides a handy online bike sizing guide.
Saddles can have a relief channel or a cutout in their design. Its purpose is to prevent pressure on soft tissue while riding, which is the goal of sitting properly on a bike seat. Saddle channels are usually gender-specific—v-shaped to match a man’s pelvis and u-shaped for women. Cutouts can help keep those lady- and man-bits from feeling saddlesore!!
Overall, performance saddles often have less padding to save weight, which is important for racers. Comfort bike seats usually have thicker foam or added gel. That extra padding can prevent you from feeling bruised after a long ride—but spending long hours on an extra-padded saddle can actually cut off circulation, cause heat, abrasion, and bunching. None of what you want on your ride!! It’s all about finding the right amount of padding for your personal riding style and comfort level.
If you prefer to have the padding in your saddles, Selle saddles may be for you. Their website has a helpful guide to help determine which saddle will suit you best by category (road, off-road, gravel, urban), use (fitness, leisure, city), size, and price.
As mentioned, some people prefer to have extra padding in their clothing, not necessarily in their saddle. A few recommended bibs and bike shorts that offer extra padding from some experienced riders include:
Chamois cream or bum butter
Chamois cream is a viscous substance that helps eliminate chafing from friction between skin and clothing during a ride. It comes in various forms including balms, creams, and powder. Some sort of anti-chafing prevention is a definite must.
A seat pad or chamois(x) can add extra padding. The Endura chamois is a pick of a long-distance cycling friend. If that one isn’t right for you, Endura can help guide you to which seat pad would suit you best based on the length of your ride.
The pursuit of a comfortable ride shouldn’t be overwhelming but it can take some time and some trial and error. Many local bike shops do have a supply of test saddles and will let you try a few before making a commitment. But remember, the choice of the type of saddle or clothing you are comfortable with is subjective – no one can tell you what feels right for you!