How to choose your bike seat wisely
Consider the Type of Riding You Do
Bike seats are frequently placed into one of these five categories:
Recreational cycling: If you sit upright while pedaling a cruiser, urban or commuter bike and prefer short rides, try a saddle designed for recreational cycling. The saddles are often wide with plush padding and/or springs, and sometimes sport a short nose.
Road cycling: Are you racing or clocking significant road miles? Road cycling saddles tend to be long and narrow and have minimal padding for the best power transfer while pedaling.
Mountain biking: On mountain trails, you alternately stand up on the pedals, perch way back (sometimes just hovering over or even off your saddle) or crouch down in a tucked position. Because of these varied positions, you’ll want a mountain-specific saddle with padding for your sit bones, a durable cover and a streamlined shape that will aid your movement.
Bike touring: For long-distance riding, you’ll want a saddle that falls between a road and mountain saddle. Saddles for bike touring typically provide cushioning for your sit bones and a fairly long, narrow nose.
Bike commuting: A lot like saddles for road cycling and bike touring, saddles that are good for commuting have some padding, but generally not too much. Bike commuters who ride rain or shine may want to consider the weather resistance of the cover materials.
Decide What Type of Cushioning You Want
There are two broad categories for bike saddles: performance saddles which have minimal cushioning and cushioning saddles which tend to be plush.
- Performance saddles are typically long and narrow and have minimal padding to create maximum power transfer and minimal chafing while pedaling. They are commonly found on road bikes, mountain bikes and touring bikes.
- Cushioning saddle tend to be wide with plush padding and/or springs to absorb bumps in the road. They often have a short nose. They are typically found on bikes designed for recreational cycling and cruising.
Get the Right Bike Saddle Size
Bike saddles come in different sizes to accommodate different body types. Finding a bike saddle that is the right size for your body mostly has to do with the width of the saddle and how well it supports your ischial tuberosities (sit bones). Generally, you want a saddle that’s wide enough for good support, but not so wide that it causes rubbing and chafing.
Note that men’s and women’s saddles are designed to accommodate differences in hip width and ischial tuberosity (sit bones) location based on “typical” gendered body types. Regardless of whether a saddle says it’s for men or women, choose the option that fits your body the best.
A saddle’s width is measured from edge to edge across the top of the saddle at the widest point and you can find this dimension by looking in the “Technical specs” section on REI.com product pages. But figuring out the exact width to purchase can be a little tricky. While it is possible to measure the width of your sit bones and use that number to roughly find what width saddle will work, nothing beats sitting on a saddle and seeing how it feels. So, if you don’t already know what width saddle you want, we recommend stopping in at your local bike shop and trying a few out. If you bring your bike, the shop may even let you put the saddle on your ride and take it for a spin.