Sizing Tips for Bike Saddles

The right size seat won't hurt your butt.

The right size seat won't hurt your butt.

Not every butt is the same, so when choosing a bike or the seat to ride on it, shop around for the proper fit. There are literally hundreds of seats for hundreds of butts. You can find one you like if you follow a few proven rules that cyclists rely on for a comfortable ride. It's not always what you think. Sometimes bigger is not better.

Wide

To much width on a bike seat can be a bad thing. What looks like a comfortable, tractor-style seat can inflict terrible pain to your rear end. This happens when the long wings on the sides of the seat dig into the soft tissue of your thigh, causing enough trauma to make you sore for days. The sides of your seat shouldn't extend much past your thigh when sitting down. This is the size that most everyday cyclists prefer. But if you plan on cruising only a few miles at a time on a cruiser bike, the tractor seat can be acceptable -- but only for a few miles.

Narrow

Choose a narrow seat for more competitive riding, or rides more than five miles at a time. What looks like a seat that may kill your rear end can actually benefit you. The point is to plant your butt on two ordinary bones that everyone has in their butt. These two bones, also know as the sit bones, should be the only place where your butt touches the seat. You can feel the sit bones with your hands. Place pressure with your fingers on your butt cheeks. You will be able to feel both sit bones easily. When you sit on a bike seat, these two bones should fit in the fat part of the seat. It's not very wide. It doesn't have to be. If you're close but the bones don't fit quite right, move the seat forward or back until the bones center on both sides of the seat.

Nose

Road bikers like a longer nose on their seats. It can help you to maintain control of your bike on downhills or fast corners by clamping your legs tight against the nose. You can then guide the bike similar to how you would guide a horse, by leaning from left to right, using the nose of the bike with your legs. Mountain bike seats should have short noses. Mountain bike riding can get technical, and at times you may need to even bail off the bike. The shorter nose prevents clothing from getting caught and allows you to lean left or right faster without the nose interfering. Short nose saddles should always be installed on mountain bikes. This type of seat can also have just a bit more width than a road bike seat but not much.

Padding and Height

Too much padding might make your seat too tall. This top-heavy seat also can prevent you from getting on and off the bike. It catches on your shorts and compresses into an uncomfortable wrinkle. Seat padding should consist of semi-dense foam. The seat should yield no more than about one-half inch when you press your thumb into it. This holds true for both mountain and road bike seats. But the rules are dropped when it comes to cruiser seats. These seats can violate just about every rule because they aren't expected to perform, go fast or tackle a mountain trail.

Considerations

There is no real difference when it comes to gender for bike seats. Some women's seats are smaller, or even more padded, but you should choose your seat according to how it performs and feels. Almost every seat is going to hurt you for a few days or miles and then you will permanently forget it if you keep riding. Another seat design that should be taken into consideration is the split seat. This type of seat has two sections for both cheeks. It's split down the back to provide relief for your private parts. This design works for women's and men's saddles. They are highly recommended.

 

About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.

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