Since 2005 there’s been almost a 50% increase in the number of Americans commuting by bike. The bicycling industry is big business, and about $1.2 billion worth of used bicycles alone were sold in 2015. While we spend about $51 billion on airplane tickets and their associated fees every year as a nation, we are spending a whopping $81 billion on bicycling gear. If you’ve recently joined the bike revolution, you may be curious about how to choose a comfortable bike seat, the difference between carbon fiber saddles and a leather bicycle saddle, and all kinds of other considerations that make our bikes personal, unique, and comfortable. Here are some tips to choosing the right bicycle saddle for you.
- What position do you tend to ride in? The regular riding position has the rider leaning slightly forward with most of their weight on the saddle, but some of it on the handlebars and pedals. The upright riding position is usually for casual and leisurely biking, and all the biker’s weight is sitting directly on the seat. The pro riding position is lent heavily forward so that most of the weight is evenly distributed along the bars, pedals, and seat.
- What padding do I need for each position? As you may have guessed, the pro riding position is going to need the least amount of cushion in the seat. The saddles for this type of seat should match the sit bones and be anatomically correct. These are the lightest weight seats and come with minimal cushioning, though you can get a leather bicycle saddle or a carbon fiber bike saddle in this design. Riders who are sitting in the upright position need the most cushioning because the entire weight of the person sits over the seat. These sorts of saddles should be fully padded and wide, and many will also include gel or special springs to make them more comfortable. In between is the regular riding saddle which will have a lightly economic design, a medium amount of padding, a narrow nose, and a slightly wider rear then the racing saddle.
- What are the most comfortable saddle materials? Most modern bikes today have saddles made of synthetic materials like carbon fiber. They require very little maintenance and usually consist of a molded shell covered with a padding of some sort and then a cover. It’s also possible to get a largely synthetic saddle that gives the appearance of a leather bicycle saddle with a thin leather cover. However, one of the more recent innovations in biking is the return of the true leather bicycle saddle. While those who use their bikes on the mountain will definitely want to stick with heavily padded saddles, touring and road bikes now frequently come with a leather bicycle saddle option because riders are appreciating what leather can bring to the table. While leather can be tough to begin with, it eventually molds to the weight and shape of the rider in just the same, comforting way that your favorite leather hiking shoes do. While initially uncomfortable, a leather bicycle saddle will eventually be perfectly comfortable to you in a way that other styles will not be.
- How do I make sure my saddle is giving me the best possible ride?In addition to choosing your saddle carefully, it’s also important to make sure your saddle isn’t too high and that the angle doesn’t need to be changed. Your saddle can tilt both forward and back, and even a little tilt change could relieve discomfort. Try adjusting this and see if it doesn’t make your ride perfect.
- What else should I do for the perfect ride and the best seat?First, try lots and lots of seats. Make sure you sit on each for a while before you make a decision. If you’ve just gotten a new saddle, you’ll have to ride it a while before you know for sure if it’s right for you. It also never hurts to get in the habit of moving around a bit on the seat, which relieves pressure and makes everything more comfortable.
Cycling is a fun and healthy way to get around. Get the most out of your cycling experience by choosing the right seat!