Saddle Selection Guide – How to Pick your Perfect Saddle
Everyone wants a comfortable saddle. Year after year, riders who were once comfortable on their trusty saddle find themselves feeling uncomfortable and in need for something different. Want to know which saddle best suits your need? Check out our special Mantel Saddle Selection Guide. This helps you find your perfect match in just five simple steps. Want to know how it all works? Then have a read through this blog.
The fact that not every saddle suits every rider won’t come as a surprise. There are multiple explanations for this. Firstly, the saddle was designed to support only a part of your total body weight. The rest is partly up to your hands resting on the bars.
So Why is your saddle no longer comfortable?
The rest of your body’s support comes from the power in your legs. If you haven’t ridden your bike in a while, then you’ll probably feel considerably less comfortable than before. This is because of your legs, which aren’t used to supporting your body like that any more and which don’t currently have the power to do so for a prolonged period of time.
Another explanation is the fact that -like any item- your saddle is susceptible to wear. The rigidity of the shell decreases over time, meaning it becomes less supportive. Finally, it could just be that you’ve never really been all that comfortable on your current saddle, in which case it really is high time to do something about that!
Saddle Selection Guide
A new saddle often helps alleviate complains. What works best differs from person to person. All of us have their own wants and needs. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a “universally suitable” saddle. There are various different brands, and even more types and shapes of saddles.
Just ask your fellow cyclists: all of them will recommend their own saddle as being the ultimate in comfort and quality. One might ride a wide saddle with a cut-out, the other might have a fully flat, narrow and closed saddle.
How does our Saddle Selection Guide work?
We took a look at several different items when we developed our saddle measuring system. We then drew up a standard method you can perform at home in order to determine the correct saddle width.
The most important measurement when determining the correct saddle width is the distance between your seat bones. The seat bones are the two bones at the bottom of your pelvis. These bones support your weight while you ride, and the distance between the two varies from person to person.
Additionally, there’s a distinct difference between men and women; on average, men’s seat bones are placed closer together than women’s seat bones. This is why women’s saddles are a little wider than men’s saddles.
If your seat bones aren’t properly supported, you’ll sit “next” to your saddle, which will result in pressure points and discomfort in all the wrong places… It’s one of the main causes for saddle sores. The image below demonstrates what happens if your seat bones aren’t properly supported by your saddle.
How to measure
In order to determine the distance between the seat bones, you’ll need a couple of items. This is a job you can perform at home. All you need is the following:
- Piece of cardboard
- Measuring tape
You’ll also need a hard, flat surface so you’ll be able to apply some pressure to your seat bones, creating a clear impression in the cardboard.
If you want to be sure of your measurements, repeat the test once more and see if you get the same result. You’re best off measuring the distance in millimeters.
Getting the right width is the first important step in choosing your new saddle. After this, there are a few more things to consider when picking your new saddle.
Cut-out vs No Cut-out
Most saddle manufacturers believe someone who’s not all that flexible will benefit more from having a cut-out in their saddle.
This has to do with the fact that a flexible rider will be better able to tilt their pelvis, preventing pressure from building under the perineum and maintaining a better blood flow. Less flexible riders aren’t able to rotate their pelvis quite as much, creating more pressure on their soft tissue. This can cause issues such as tingling or even a numb sensation.
There’s a fairly basic method to check your flexibility. Place your feet side by side with your legs stretched and see if you can touch your toes. If you can’t, we recommend you have a look at saddles with a cut-out. If you’re able to, then consider both the versions with and without a cut-out.
Saddles come in all different shapes. A number of manufacturers name the amount of movement on the bike as their basis for offering different shapes. Pro maintains that the way you ride influences the shape of your saddle. A flat saddle would be best suitable for riders who remain still on their bike.
By “sitting still”, we refer to the lack of movement in the upper body while you ride. A lightly curved saddle is suitable for intermediate riders, while the round saddles are best for the “workers”- riders who move their torso around a lot while they ride.
Finally there are a few other choices to make. These don’t quite influence the way you sit on your saddle as much. An example is the materials used to make the saddle. More often than not, there are a few different versions of the same saddle available.
The prime example of this is the Fizik Arione, which is available with a magnesium, K;ium (titanium alloy), or carbon rail. Then there’s the Arione R1, which has a carbon rail and a carbon-reinforced shell.
Type of Rail
Why would you choose for a magnesium, titanium, or carbon saddle rail? The answer is simple: weight. A carbon saddle rail is marginally lighter than an aluminium one.
Do take into consideration that a carbon rail might not always fit a regular saddle clamp. Ritchey offers a range of different clamps to link your new carbon-railed saddle to your seat post.
Hard or Soft Saddle
Yet another personal preference: hard or soft saddle. Some find a full-carbon saddle very comfortable to ride on, others might prefer a little padding.
The longer you’re on the bike, the more you’ll often benefit from having a harder saddle. Most road bike saddles take this into consideration, as they’re usually harder than city bike saddles for instance.
A saddle which is too soft can cause your seat bones to sink into the saddle. This can cause unwanted pressure on your soft tissue areas despite the fact that the seat bones are supported by the right width and shape of the saddle.
Want to determine your own optimal saddle shape and width? Then walk through our Mantel Saddle Selection Guide.