What's the Best Bike Saddle for Comfort?
Cycling is one of the best exercises in the world, combining stamina, cardiovascular exercise and loads of fun. However, there are a few factors that keep people from riding regularly. One of the biggest complaints I hear from riders is that riding is uncomfortable. Finding the most comfortable bicycle saddle is essential to ensuring you'll ride frequently, and it's not an impossible task.
There are, however, some huge myths out there that need to be addressed. Not all bicycle saddles are built the same way, and despite their appearances some can actually be horrible for your back, posture and overall 'behind' comfort level. Choosing the most comfortable bicycle seat for men or for women isn't always what you'd expect.
This article will tackle the issue, and talk about what you'll want to look for, and what you might want to avoid. I understand that everyone is different, but hopefully these general tips will set you in the right direction and get you spinning comfortably again. I'll review a few bike seats that are the most comfortable in my opinion, giving some pros and cons for each one. Let's get started!
Tips for finding the most comfortable bike saddle:
When experiencing riding discomfort, many people will make the conclusion that they need to upgrade their saddle. Here are a few tips for finding the most comfortable bike seat or saddle whether you ride daily, weekly or just every now and then.
- Avoid Padding: You might think that extra padding is the answer, and it is not! If you take anything away from this article, I hope it's this: excess padding on a bike seat can actually make you less comfortable than a firmer seat. You need a stable platform, and a slab of gel doesn't do anything good for you. Increased friction and back pain can result from a low quality gel seat. (And don't even get me started on gel seat covers!)
- Less is More: The most comfortable bicycle seats will usually have a pretty small surface area, and that's because it makes riding much easier. A bigger seat will weigh more, cause friction while you pedal, and will let you 'slide' from side to side as you pedal, reducing your mechanical advantage. Don't believe me? Look at all the higher end saddles and notice how big they are!
- Consider Leather Saddles: They may be expensive, but I do encourage you to consider a leather bicycle saddle. The main advantage they carry is their ability to form to your shape. No seat will be perfect for you over the counter. They're painful to 'break in', but leather seats tend to be the most comfortable bicycle saddles you can buy over time1. After a few months, you won't notice your saddle at all, and that's a good thing. (Plus, leather looks great).
Brooks B17: A Super Comfortable Leather Bicycle Saddle:
The Brooks B17 is a classic and gorgeous product, and it's one of the best and most comfortable bicycle saddles on the market today, believe it or not.
Brooks makes their saddles with hard leather, and on first inspection it's hard to believe that it'll be the best bike seat you've ever had. It takes a lot of patience, but over time the leather will stress and relax to suit your body perfectly.
Not only that, it's a fantastic saddle for a vintage ride, a mountain bike, or any type of road bike that could use a looks upgrade. It comes in Honey and Black leather tones, and with steel rails and strong rivets this is a saddle that should last a lifetime. I recommend reading the reviews to confirm this info.
If you're not into the B17, there are some other models of Brooks saddles you might want to look at, there's something to please everyone.
Velo Biologic: Among the Best & Most Ergonomic Bike Seats
The Velo Bio:Logic saddle is an ergonomically designed, low maintenance bicycle saddle with some awesome features. It's got a popular design feature in the 'cut-out', a feature that is popular with men for *ahem* reasons that need not be stated. The cut-out also serves to allow air flow while you ride, keeping you cooler.
This is considered one of the more comfortable bicycle saddles because they've mastered that balance between cushioning and firmness; it's just the right amount of both. It also happens to be an extremely affordable seat by my standards, and it's great for someone who doesn't want to splurge on a fancier item.
Plus it's a waterproof saddle, so there will be no fussing with leather protectants and such. It may not have the cachet that a leather saddle possesses, but in many ways it's a lot more practical, so consider going synthetic.
Origin8 Classique: Great Looking Leather Road Bike Seat
If you like the concept of a leather saddle, but find that Brooks offerings don't have the look your after, or if you're wanting a leather road bike saddle that's comfortable yet sleek, the Origin8 Classique Sport is worth taking a look at.
It's a full hard leather saddle that's really low profile and light weight. It combines modern and classic looks and as such it'll be right at home on almost any style or design of bike.
Beyond the classic look, the saddle is adjustable, there's a tension key underneath that allows you to tighten or loosen the leather to customize the fit and comfort level. A warning to new riders: this saddle takes a long time to wear in, but you'll be rewarded once it is. As road bicycle saddles go, it's the most comfortable leather option I've come across to date.
Selle Royal Respiro: An Inexpensive Bike Saddle with Taillight
Here's another great non-leather bicycle saddle that's one of the more comfortable bike seats around. It's got a perfect measure of cushioning, yet it's not so soft as to cause undue chafing and friction during hard rides. The waterproof qualities of this saddle are great, and it even has a clever built-in tail light for visibility during night or evening rides.
Selle Royal produces a lot of integrated gear, so if you go for a saddle by them be sure to check out their panniers and lights for integration purposes.
It's just under 500 grams and it's around $30, so it's really not much of an investment as cycling saddles go. There is a women's and men's version of this one. Selle Royal is a great brand worth investing in, and they look great on almost any style of frame, from mountain to road.
Which option is the best for me? Questions to ask yourself:
Just because a certain type of bike saddle is considered most comfortable, or just because it has a ton of positive reviews doesn't mean that it will necessarily fit with the type of riding you intend to do.
- Do you ride in all weather, or just when it's not raining? If you ride in rain, consider that you'll need to condition and protect any leather bike saddle you purchase, or it will start to crack and degrade over time. If that sounds like too much hassle, a man-made option is probably better for you.
- Do you ride a road bike, mountain bike or a hybrid? (Or something else?) The type of riding you do affects the type of saddle you should be acquiring. The most comfortable road bicycle saddle isn't necessarily the best option for a mountain rider or a BMX bike.
- Do you live in an urban center? You'll need to take care to lock your saddle up, especially if you invest in a Brooks, because bike thieves are targeting them as quick sources of cash. Run a cable lock through the steel rails at a bare minimum.
If you have questions or require a clarification, please leave a comment below, I'm happy to help out with specific brands and riding styles.
1) How to Restore a Vintage Bicycle | Beautiful Vintage Bike Tips, Will Henry, Bikesmarts