How to find the perfect bike saddle

In a previous post, I mentioned that I’ve been having saddle troubles. Since I first proclaimed my sit bone pain (amongst other parts), I’ve been in saddle research mode. After my century tomorrow, I’m prepared to keep pushing forward with my search. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

The Great Saddle Search

Most saddles come in one of two shapes: T-shaped and pear-shaped. Many Specialized and Fi’zi:k saddles are T-shaped. If you have chaffing or saddle sores in the crease between your thigh and butt, this could be an indication that your saddle is too wide—or too pear-shaped. Pear-shaped saddles tend to be wider from the base to the nose, whereas T-shaped saddles have a more dramatic transition.

Selle Italia Turbomatic -- a very T-shaped saddle

The Selle Italia Turbomatic — a very T-shaped saddle

Measure your sit bones. Specialized makes this easy with their squishy bench, designed to give you an idea of how wide a saddle you require. You can also measure them yourself. Find clay, play dough or any surface that lets you leave an imprint of your sit bones. Then measure the space in between. Be aware that a company’s saddle width measurement can include parts of the saddle that you’re not actually sitting on. 

Keep your mind open. If you tried a saddle without a cutout and hated it, don’t discredit all saddles designed this way. Some women chafe as their soft tissue rubs against the side of a cutout. Others need a cutout to relieve pressure. In terms of perinium pain, many saddles without cutouts offer an ample amount of flex, relieving pressure to the area. The same goes for padding. You may be surprised by how comfortable your sit bones are with little padding. Some complain that too much padding increases pressure to soft tissue, especially on long rides. 

Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Research any one saddle and you’ll find a list of people who love it and those who would prefer to burn it at the seat post. Ignore reviews and test them out for yourself.

Fizi:k saddles tend to have a ramped back, which tilts the pelvis forward.

Fizi:k saddles tend to have a ramped back, tilting the pelvis forward.

Go male and female. Many women ride men’s saddles. And many saddles come in women’s and men’s versions. While women tend to have wider sit bone measurements than men, this isn’t true across the board. 

It pays to be patient. Quickly sitting on a saddle in a bike shop is no indication of how well the saddle fits you. Many saddles are designed to flex while you ride. Always get in some extended saddle time before you ditch your seat. 

            Other considerations:

  • Don’t get stuck on one brand. Shop around or order saddles from online merchants who will accept returns.
  • Help the saddle out. Chamois cream was invented for a reason. Find one that works for you and use it religiously. Also wear shorts that have a decent chamois and watch for hems, creases or bunching that can contribute to chaffing and discomfort.
  • If it’s old, replace it. This applies to saddles and shorts. Saddles lose their stiffness and shape over time and shorts lose their padding. Keep this is mind when buying secondhand.
  • Get a bike fit. The problem might not be your saddle. If you can’t find a comfortable seat, have a professional fitter check your setup. 
  • When you find “the one” rejoice…and then stock up. Some manufacturers tend to redesign their saddles, so it pays to always have a spare.










2 thoughts on “How to find the perfect bike saddle

  1. Pingback: You may not want to sit down for this... | Mud & Manolos

  2. Thanks for the ideas for getting the right saddle! I am currently looking for a new saddle.

    Also wanted to let you know it’s really tough to read your site because the black text on black background

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