Ask any cyclist about what they consider most important, and they’ll tell it is riding comfort. Largely, cycling comfort depends on the bike seat.
Having a comfortable bike seat, popularly known as a saddle, means being in a position to have fun cycling for longer.
According to outdoorright, finding the most comfortable bike seat can be tricky, more so when you are an overweight rider. However the website gives a detailed view on the best bike seats for heavy riders. So, how do you find this essential gear?
I’m going to cover the different aspects that you have to consider to find not only the most comfortable but also the best bike seat.
So, consider these things before making the purchase.
1. Type of Cycling
There are different categories of cycling, and each has a particular type of seat. The commonest are:
- Road cycling – Saddles in this category are generally narrow with minimal cushioning.
- Mountain biking – Saddles in this category have a streamlined shape and feature durable seat covers.
- Commuter biking – Saddles in this category look like road cycling saddles, only that their padding is not much.
- Recreational cycling – Saddles in this category are generally wide and feature plush padding.
- Tour biking – Saddles in this category fall between the mountain biking saddles and road cycling saddles. They come with adequate cushioning, especially for the sit bones, and have an extra-long and narrow nose.
2. Type of Saddle
Overall, there are two broad classes of the saddle; performance and cushioning.
Performance saddles are generally long and narrow, and they feature minimal padding. That enables them to harness maximum pedaling power. So, some people find these saddles comfortable because of that.
Performance saddles are popular on road bikes, tour bikes, and mountain bikes.
Cushioning saddles, on the other hand, are wider and have shorter noses. They are well-padded and are associated with cruising cycling and recreational biking.
You should note, however, that more padding doesn’t always translate to bike seat comfort. Sometimes, extra cushioning causes discomfort as your bottom sinks into the seat.
So, the secret is to first try the seat before passing judgment.
3. Type of Seat Cushioning
If you want to feel comfortable on a bike seat, it has to be well-cushioned. You should note, however, that two different cushioning exists, and they all have different comfort levels.
They are as follows:
- Gel seat cushioning – The cushioning promises the plushest comfort by conforming to your body shape, and it generally suits recreational bikes. The downside is that the cushioning compacts faster.
- Foam seat cushioning – The cushioning doesn’t compact faster as gel cushioning and offers more support and a pliable feel. It generally suits long-distance and plus-size riders.
But still, some saddles come with no cushioning. Instead, they feature seat covers, as discussed below. The issue with going for no-cushioning seats is that they can be uncomfortable to some bikers, more so when the covers are new.
With time, however, you may find yourself getting used to using them, and so you may no longer view them as uncomfortable.
4. Type of Saddle Cover
I had mentioned the saddle cover material above as a no-cushioning option. So, let me now break down the different options that exist.
They are as follows:
- Leather – Leather easily molds to your body shape. So, the initial period can be discomforting, but you’ll eventually find it comfortable. The downside is that the material is not waterproof.
- Synthetic – Unlike leather, synthetic saddles don’t need a break-in time. So, they feel comfortable from day one.
- Cotton – Cotton stretches as you ride. The material requires a shorter break-in time if compared to leather and is known to offer excellent comfort.
5. Saddle Width
A comfortable saddle shouldn’t be too wide to rub you when you pedal or too narrow to press you. So, it needs to be in between if your target is comfort.
You can find the saddle width on the product specifications. But still, this can be tricky if you don’t know your sit bone width.
So, again, I suggest that you first try the saddle. Consider stopping at the local bicycle shops to try the available saddles. You are more likely to find the most comfortable bike seat.
6. Saddle Height
Saddle height is equally as important as the saddle width. If you go for a highly raised saddle, your body weight can shift sideways, and this will irritate your perineum, which is usually sensitive.
Also, a saddle that is too low may not only interfere with your cycle but can injure your knees. So, go for average height.
The best seat height should allow your leg only to take a slight bend, about 80-90%. So, this is something that you can confirm by trying the bike.
Preferably, the seat height should be adjustable to allow you to make quick modifications before you hop on the bike.
7. Saddle Angle
The angle that you position the saddle can either make it comfortable or irritating. It usually affects your weight distribution, which is pivotal for your riding comfort.
If, for example, the nose is hugely tilted downwards, you’ll put extra pressure on your neck and arms. And if the tilt is extremely upwards, more pressure will be on your legs, and that’ll also result in an uncomfortable biking experience.
The tip here is to go for a bike seat that’s nearly level to try and evenly distribute your weight.
8. Presence or Absence of a Cutout
The most comfortable bike seats are designed to protect the part between your sit bones, what we call the perineum. They relieve the perineum from pressure while providing better airflow, and this is essential for comfortable long rides.
But given that we are all different, some riders prefer seats with perineum cutouts while others prefer not to have the cutouts at all. So, this factor is just a case of personal preference.
It’s possible to find the most comfortable bike seat if you know what to look for. Luckily for you, I’ve done the hard part. Above is a definitive guide that shall direct you accordingly when shopping for your next bike seat.