Choosing a saddle can be a real pain in the backside, literally, particularly if you get it wrong. But let’s be honest, cycling takes some getting used to in the comfort department. A long day in the saddle for the unacquainted can leave you walking a little like John Wayne for a day or two. So what can be done to improve things? First, get some padded shorts, seriously, you won’t regret it. Second, choose a saddle that suits your anatomy. Nearly all bike saddles have the same construction, metal rails that attach to the seat post, a plastic or composite shell that has a narrow nose and wider region at the back and a foam or gel padded covering. This, however, is where the similarities end and the choice begins.
When you’re perusing the range of saddles on line it seems logical to go for the big fat one with three inches of cushioning, well don’t. Particularly for guys, less is generally more when it comes to saddles – even a sliver of unpadded carbon fibre will be more comfortable than the wide loader. I’m not suggesting you go for the carbon sliver but you get the idea. For the girls, a slightly wider saddle is appropriate but it still needs to fit comfortably so don’t get carried away. There are plenty of gender specific designs out there so make sure you get the right type. Having got this far, you’ll now have the option of traditional leather saddles (NB these take some serious breaking in) or a vast array of shapes and sizes of foam or gel padded saddles.
Protecting the delicate areas of your body is no joke when it comes to cycling and most quality saddles are designed with this in mind. It is for this reason that a lot of saddles have holes in to try and avoid putting pressure on sensitive organs and the blood supply thereof. There is some debate about the efficacy of such designs, however, personally, I have found these shapes to be the best. There are more radical saddles out there constructed with the same issue in mind, some without any nose at all. The problem with these can be one of stability for the cyclist, though having never tried one, I can’t comment on their comfort.
Flexibility is also of key importance, as you pedal your pelvis rocks a little and pressure shifts across the saddle. It is important that the saddle is able to compress or flex in response to this in order to maintain comfort. A fairly minimal plastic or composite saddle covered in a thin layer of gel or medium density foam is likely to offer the best combination.
The last thing to remember takes us back to the first point; cycling comfort does come with practice. The first few rides are likely to be a little uncomfortable even when you have the optimum set up. However, if you have a quality saddle you should find that the aches and pains start to diminish as you get used to spending time on your bike.