Just what is a
comfortable bicycle seat? Is there one answer?
"A comfortable bicycle seat is not hard to find."
The issue of a
comfortable bicycle seat is
probably one of the most
contested things in cycling. One person thinks a very soft seat is the
answer while another believes a rock hard saddle with no padding is the
way to go. There is more to comfort than just the design of the seat.
Saddle tilt, height and position are integral parts of
comfort in a bicycle seat. Let's explore the issue a
little and let you decide.
can make a big difference in the comfort you experience
on your rides. Check out my seatpost
for more information.
normally wear cycling shorts when you ride be sure you are wearing them
when making these adjustments or your measurements will be off when you
put them on and ride.
are made like they are for a reason. There are
no seams in the crotch area to cause rubbing and pinching of blood
vessels. You might want to check out our page about cycling
clothing. It isn't just for looks.
Many times the
adjustment of the saddle can solve comfort issues you
will experience. My friends and I obsess over the perfect
position of our saddles. 1mm here, 2mm there until we get it
just right from bike to bike to bike. If the nose of your
saddle is tilted down your body weight is moved forward putting more
strain on your arms and shoulders. If you have the nose of
the saddle tilted back you can experience pain and discomfort in your
Here are some generalities to help you begin to adjust your saddle
position. First, start off with the seat parallel to the
ground. Put a carpenters level on your saddle if you want to
get it just right. Loosen the clamp and get the seat
centered. Now take the bike for a ride and see how it feels.
Move the nose up or down in small increments to get the
position that is right for you. It may take some time to find
out just what works for you but the time you spend will pay you back
with a more comfortable bicycle seat.
If you bicycle
seat is too low, excessive pressure can be put on your
knees. If the seat is too high, your hips will rock from side
to side and this can give you saddle sores. If you have never
had saddle sores, be glad, you don't want them. Get your seat
height right and do all you can to avoid them.
Here are some general tips on setting your height so you can have a
comfortable bicycle seat:
- Sit on your bike with your feet on the pedals.
You can do this on a trainer, have your stoker hold the bike
up if you are setting up your tandem or have a friend hold your bike.
- Pedal backwards and get your feet in 6 and 12
- Unclip, if using clip less pedals and put the
the 6 o'clock position's heel on the pedal. Your leg should
be extended all the way. If your knee is bent at all, raise
the height. If you can't reach the pedal with your heel,
lower the height of the seat. Now, when you put your foot
back on the pedal in a normal position there will be a slight bend in
This will feel
different at first but give it some time. You
will need to get used to the new position for a while and see if your
comfort level increases.
If you want to
really get a comfortable bicycle seat, the horizontal
position will need to be considered. If your seat is too far
forward, you will give up leverage and tire more easily. If
your seat is too far back you will strain your back. Try this
simple, yet kind of strange, method to see where your position needs to
- Once again sit on your bike with your feet on
pedals. You can do this on a
trainer, have your stoker hold the bike up if you are setting up your
tandem or have a friend hold your bike.
- Tie a small wrench from your tool kit with a
string and tape it to the notch in the side of your knee-cap.
The string should be long enough to hang down past the
pedals. The string should pass right next to the center of
your pedal axle. If the string is in front of the axle, move
your seat back. If the string is behind your axle, more your
- Once you have completed this, be sure you have
tilt correct before tightening everything back up.
adjustments in saddle position can go a long way to having a
comfortable bicycle seat.
The basic bicycle
saddle design has differed
since the invention of the safety bicycle. Here's a picture of a
bicycle seat from the 1900's.
Bicycle seats in
general design really haven't
changed all that much. The biggest fundamental change to make a
comfortable bicycle seat is the use of a foam instead of springs for
taking out the shock. The basic shape is the same. That is generally
speaking. Let's take a look at some comfortable bicycle seat examples
below and their specifics.
Lightweight Racing Saddle
The Selle Italia
Cx Zero is a perfect example of a
super lightweight racing saddle. Believe it or not this is an example
of a comfortable bicycle seat. Made of all carbon fiber with
integrated rails, this saddle tips the scales at 81 grams. This is
unheard of in terms of lightness! But then, you'll pay for
the weight savings. Coming in around $450 you are getting the
pinnacle of lightness.
This is more
along what I ride. I really like the Selle
. It comes in lots of colors to match
your bike. It's very comfortable on long rides and is pretty
light at 220 grams. I have put many miles on this saddle and
it doesn't let me down.
How could either of these be a comfortable bicycle seat you
It depends on the rider. I prefer a very hard saddle and find, like
many others, the super soft models to compress the soft tissues too
much and cause perineal numbness. I don't spend all of my time sitting,
even on a 100 mile ride (century is another name for this).
Time Trial Saddle
Is it really that
different, a time trial saddle?
You bet! Used for Time Trials and Triathlons, these saddles are vastly
different in their construction over a standard saddle. The rider in
the aero position these disciplines demand puts the majority of their
weight on the front third of the saddle. This requires the different
looking padding on the front to protect the riders, "valuables".
saddle is typically
a very large, extremely heavy (4 or more pounds on some) saddle. These
saddles, despite their name, are not a good choice for very long rides.
The softness of the gel gives an initial impression of comfort but over
the long run (20 or more miles) this softness leads to pressure from
tissues being squished together by the softness of the saddle.