Selecting the right saddle and placing it in the right position is essential to providing the most powerful and comfortable bike fit position. The right saddle selection allows the pelvis to be well supported while providing a spinal position that alleviates strain and stress through the lumbar, thoracic and cervical regions.
A poorly aligned pelvis on a bike saddle will usually result in a myriad of issues from lower back pain, upper neck pain or issues through the extremities such as hand numbness and a lack of ability to transfer power to the pedal interface.
Saddles are available in many saddle widths, shapes and foam densities to suit riders of various shapes and sizes. When selecting a saddle, you should narrow down the likely range using key characteristics about you (pelvic width, riding style, preferred foam densities) and then trial each one during a bike fit to determine the individual comfort of each saddle. We commonly hear of cyclists purchasing saddles based on online reviews – the only problem is that the saddle that is perfect for one person, might be completely inappropriate for another.
All saddles are not created equal
Most saddles are designed so that the rider is designed to sit on a relatively small area that matches the width of their sit bones and provides the correct level of support. This is a really important aspect of bike fit when setting up a saddle to trial. You need to ensure that where you are sitting on the saddle and the height of the saddle is the same on each saddle that you are comparing.
To demonstrate this, we have lined up all the saddles below and placed line markers for where you are meant to sit on each one. As you can see, one saddle might be pushed all the way forward to match the bike fit position of a saddle that is pushed all the way back.
This is further complicated when you take into account that most saddles have a difference in height between the saddle surface and where the rails are clamped. This means that comparing different saddles will require the seatpost to be moved up or down to match an existing bike fit position.
Finally, most saddles are not designed for the saddle rail to be horizontal, the angle of the saddle rail will vary depending on the type of saddle you have and what sort of position you are using with that saddle. We have illustrated many saddles below that have been set up to have similar set ups – as you can see, the saddle rail angle varies alot between brands and models.
Features of a good saddle
An essential feature of a good saddle is a cut out through the centre to alleviate pressure on the perineum and soft tissues of the cyclists. Most saddle discomfort issues we encounter during a bike fit are related to having too much pressure on the soft tissues resulting in numbness and general discomfort. Cut outs allow the ride to place their pelvis squarely on the saddle and eliminate the need to twist their pelvis and place their perineum off to the side of the saddle (to avoid numbness).
Good saddles are designed to allow the pelvis to rotate forward on the saddle and there are several ways to achieve this within a design. A pelvis that can be rolled forward allows less strain on the spine and facilitates a lower bike fit position without any additional strain on the back.
There are many good saddles on the market depending on your style of riding. Selle SMP is usually our first recommended saddle brand for road bikes as they cradle the pelvis in the saddle and allow a forward tilt of the pelvis when cycling.
Time trial is a harsher position on the body and depending on the needs of the cyclist, we would usually recommend Cobb Cycling, Selle SMP and ISM Adamo saddles as our first suggestions during a bike fit.