Bicycle Saddles Examined and Explained
Your comfort on a bike comes down largely to the saddle that you use and the support it provides. If you are sitting on a saddle that causes pain or discomfort you are not going to enjoy the prospect of going for a long ride. The posterior is a sensitive part of the bottom and is prone to becoming very sore quite quickly.
We have all heard the saying that everyone is different and this is true of certain parts of the body – our bottoms are no different. Some bums are naturally more cushioned than others, the shape of the pelvis and the style with which we ride are all going to mean pressure is applied slightly differently to the rear end.
For this reason there is a wide range of different types of bicycle saddles that have been designed to meet the specific riding styles and body types that are going to be using them. The various types of bicycle saddles are also going to be specifically conducive to the various types of terrain that is ridden over.
A bicycle saddle (and we will see the basic components of a standard saddle below) essentially features a cradle that is attached to a seat pillar. The materials used to construct the saddle cradle and the various ways in which it is cushioned, braced, sprung or otherwise treated will affect the riders experience either positively or negatively.
The various bicycle saddle descriptions below is an attempt to illustrate the various options that are available to the rider. It is up to you to determine what type of saddle will provide you with the most comfortable seat.
Bicycle Saddle Materials
The early bicycle saddles were made using leather and could be considered to be very hard on the rear end. However these saddles tend to soften as they get some use with the leather gradually molding itself to the shape of the body that uses it. The leather also becomes more comfortable in this softening process until your leather saddle almost feels as if it is a part of you. The problem is that early wearing in period that can be very uncomfortable. If you have not done a great deal of cycling before you might find that the first few months riding on a leather saddle to be an uncomfortable experience. This might be the type of saddle you buy after becoming accustomed to long hours of riding.
Vinyl Top Plastic Base Saddles
The more modern alternative to a leather saddle is the saddle made with a plastic base that has been covered with rubber foam as a padding material and then topped with vinyl. These saddles are generally less expensive that are suitable for recreational cycling and while they provide a basic level of padding they are not going to be as durable or as form fitting as other options. Also, the thin layer of foam and any added suspension such as coil springs can quickly become uncomfortable on longer rides.
In recent times there has been a move towards providing those who are a little more sensitive in the posterior region with a more padded or comfortable type of saddle. For some, softness is a major factor that is sought when buying the saddle and gel saddles have filled this niche in the market. Gel saddles are usually created with a gel insert that is placed into a moulded plastic base with a covering placed over the top made from a material such as Lycra or vinyl plastic. The consistency of gel allows the saddle to become shaped to the specific shape of the person sitting on it and rather than becoming completely squashed down, it is still solid enough to provide the required support for the rider. When the saddle is not in use the gel allows it to reshape itself.
Bicycle Seat Shapes
As well as the different types of materials used to soften the seat another major aspect of the bicycle saddle that will affect your riding experience is the saddle shape. Some people require seats that are wider to feel comfortable under their bottoms. Road racing saddles may be incredibly narrow at the nose and even quite narrow at the tail. The more social amateur rider is more likely to require a saddle that is quite wide both at the nose and the tail. As said earlier, everyone is different and a thin profile racing saddle may be completely unsuitable for the occasional cyclist.
There are two main bicycle saddle shapes available, narrow and wide. Narrow bicycle saddles are the types of saddles that we see professional road cyclists use. They allow the legs to pump quickly unimpeded, they will allow the rider to slide forward and backward as the terrain and the effort changes and they keep the weight of the bike to a minimum.
Wider bicycle saddles will help the rider stay in a fixed position. They will also provide the occasional rider with the support and cushioned comfort that their sensitive parts of the body will require.
There is a significant selection of bicycle saddles that have been designed specifically for the female cyclist. The pelvic bone construction of the female form is greatly different to males and this means the cushioning and shape of the saddle is going to be different too. A saddle that has been created for a female rider is usually wider at the back and the nose is shorter too. The cutaways of the saddle are more pronounced too accommodate the thighs too.
The choice in the type of saddle you use is a very personal one. It may come down to the physiology of the rider or the type of cycling you intend to do. No one type of saddle is going to appeal to every rider and this is why there is such a large, some might say bewildering, range of choices available. Identifying the features that you require and then trying out a few different types of saddles is a great way of determining whether a certain saddle is going to suit you.
Bicycle Saddle Brands
There are many brands of bicycle saddles available around the world. They cater for all types of riders and carry a range of features as a result. Listed below are some of the leading bicycle saddle brands that accounts for the majority of the sales around the world.
|ISM Adamo||Origin8||Planet Bike|
|SDG||Selle Italia||Selle San Marco|
We will be examining each of the bicycle saddle manufacturers listed above as well as the saddles that they produce.