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My girlfriend have just bought a gel saddle for her hybrid bike. She does day trips with it (30-50 kms) and a bit of commuting. Some say this saddle is useless and she should buy bike trousers instead. What do you think?

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I rode for about 15 years wearing running shorts, doing 150 miles a week commuting some weeks, and taking several week-long tours. Most of this was done on the "HydroSeat" I mentioned earlier -- not your modern gel seat but a leather seat cover that included a relatively thin liquid-filled bladder. In the early model the bladder was filled with water and you had to refill it about every 2 months, but the newer model used a sealed bladder filled with silicone fluid. Only when the second one wore out (the leather cover, not the bladder) and I couldn't get another did I switch to bike shorts. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 3 '11 at 11:46
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4 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Generally you will find, for getting started a gel seat may help. As do padded shorts.

However, once you ride regularly, and build some muscle and tolerance around your sit bones, you will find it annoying.

So it is a good gateway drug to getting used to a saddle. Generally people find that narrower and simpler seats are more comfortable, once you start riding regularly and build up your seat area.

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I can tell you it takes a month or more of regular riding before it is comfortable on any saddle. I had not ridden since my late teens, started riding at 53, my butt was sore for a month, now I don't feel any discomfort. Butt break in required. –  Moab Jun 28 '11 at 15:56
    
@Moab: Absolutely! Butt breakin is very personal, and length of time is dependent on many things. I of course was speaking of the young-uns, who heal as fast as you look at them. :) –  geoffc Jun 28 '11 at 16:39
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Here's a well-kept secret: At least 50% and perhaps 90% of "butt break in" involves ripping the hairs in your butt out by their roots, through motion between skin and shorts, and from hairs getting tangled together. Once that's accomplished you can ride with considerably more comfort. You could use one of the old spinning spring Lady Epilators, of course, but a simpler (and less painful) solution is to just shave your butt. –  Daniel R Hicks Jun 28 '11 at 18:41
    
I remember my young-un days, sigh.... –  Moab Jun 29 '11 at 0:36
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Gel saddles are quite comfortable when new. Unfortunately, the gel tends to get displaced over time, so the comfy-ness tends to not last. However, as geoffc pointed out, these saddles are good introductory saddles for new riders.

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I think saddle choice is largely down to personal preference, if it works for her she should keep it.

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I think most of the current gel seats are worthless -- like too many bikes these days, built to sell, not to ride on. There used to be the old TushCush/HydroSeat sold by Nat Calvert that was pretty good (it was a bladder and leather cover for a standard seat), but he sold the business to someone else who ran it into the ground.

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