Bike saddle choice is incredibly subjective and can be confusing. Price can vary dramatically and it’s not always obvious what you’re paying for. In this guide we explain the different features of saddles, how saddles go up in price and some advice on how to pick the correct one for you
Bike saddles come in a huge range of shapes and sizes. This is for good reason as everyone’s different, so one person’s leather arm chair is another person’s rusty razor blade.
Before you start contemplating a new saddle, you should make sure you know how to set the correct saddle height. We’d also recommend a professional bike fit, as this will determine your flexibility and ideal riding position, which are important considerations when choosing a saddle to meet your needs. Factors like saddle angle should also be covered in a bike fit.
The different features of saddles
The rails of a saddle are a frame on the underside, which the seat-post of your bike clamps on to. Most modern bikes conform to the same standard, so any reputable saddle will fit any reputable bike.
Rails are one of the main areas that affect saddle price. Entry-level saddles have steel rails, these then move up to manganese, titanium and then carbon.
As you move through the materials, they get lighter and more expensive. Carbon rails are the most expensive and lightest. Carbon and titanium are also slightly more forgiving than steel too, allowing for more comfort. The important thing to remember is that the basic steel railed model will often have the same shape as the top end carbon railed version.
A common misconception is that more padding equals a comfier saddle. If this were the case the people who spend the most time on bikes, Tour de France riders, would be using very padded saddles.
The reality is that padding deforms and creates more contact, so on longer rides it can be less comfortable. Thick, soft padding may initially seem like a good idea to alleviate saddle discomfort, but often a squishy saddle will just compress down under the sit bones and push up in the middle, creating pressure spots in other areas.
Can a saddle be too firm though? Some riders (male and female) ride bare carbon saddles and get along fine. This isn’t for everyone, but it does highlight that far more important than padding is shape. To maximise comfort you should aim to get a saddle that is the right shape for your style of riding and sit bones.
Shape is the most important aspect of saddle comfort. Saddles come in a plethora of different shapes, designed to support different riders and different styles of riding.
Narrower, flatter saddles such as the Fizik Arione tend to suit more aggressive riders with a lower position (such as Bradley Wiggins). The Specialized Romin is another example.A slightly wider saddle with a curved profile, such as this Fabric Scoop, is often the choice of riders who sit more upright. The Fizik Aliante and Specialized Toupé are also examples of saddles designed for a more upright position.