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I'll need a new saddle for my bike soon. I use it mainly for short commutes (30 minutes). About once a year I go touring for a few days, up 8 hours in the saddle.

My current saddle just came with the bike. I see there are a lot of different saddle types available now, from the ultra thin, to the wide & comfy to the downright fruity.I associate the thin saddles with racers, but thats the limit of my knowledge.

When choosing a new saddle, should I choose based on my body frame or my cycling type (i.e. get one for short commutes, one for touring)?

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Choosing a saddle that fits you is very important. The wrong saddle can lead to numbness and pain in the crotch area, and in the long run serious health issues. The right saddle for you should fit comfortably regardless of what type of riding you do and will depend mainly on the width of your pelvic. Ideally you should get a professional fit. If one is not available to you, you should try a few saddles of different sizes to determine what fits you before you purchase.

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  • Unfortunately, trial-and-error still seems to be a large part of choosing a saddle. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Jun 11 '11 at 19:20
  • Some good bike shops will lend you saddles to try. You should ask if they do that. – posipiet Jun 11 '11 at 19:30
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The only rough rule that applies is that the more you ride, the narrower and harder saddle you need. Beyond that it's very individual and there seem to be be no shortcuts - you need to go through a few saddles.

Also, a saddle that fits on one bike may not be the best fit on another bike, due to differences in position.

At best you can try to get an arrangement with your local bike shop where if a saddle doesn't fit you, you can return it at a markdown.

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My LBS lets you use a trial saddle for a week. That's a pretty good way to get an idea. You put a deposit down, take the saddle home and ride as much as you can. It took me a few tries to find the right one. One of the ones I rejected I liked a lot the first two rides but the third started reveal lack of fit.

If you do different kinds of riding (commuting, touring, etc.) it might be overkill to get a saddle for each. But you do need one that is going to work for your longest activity. If it works for long touring, it should work for a short commute.

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  • Kudos to this LBS. I have a feeling this is rare as a general practice, as the trial process might impact the resale value. Fizik, a saddle manufacturer, has a test program that many LBSes participate in, but it applies only to their own saddles. They have brightly (and oddly) colored test saddles, so someone absconding can be identified (and they don't really match many paint schemes also). There may be other manufacturers that do this, but I'm not sure. – Weiwen Ng Sep 9 at 18:20
  • @WeiwenNg Probably rare indeed. Unfortunately, I also found quite recenly that the saddle I bougjt (wider than the current, after measuring my sit bones) is not good either. Now I can only try to sell it as second-hand and have no idea which other saddle to try... The strange thing is that I used to bike without any chamois not so long ago (I no longer have those saddles). Even above 100 km. Now I have problems even from regular shorter rides. – Vladimir F Sep 9 at 19:43
  • I’ve seen bike shops with a set of test saddles. I think they were WTB, with bright yellow stitching and other branding to mark them as test equipment. – RLH Sep 9 at 23:08
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There are a couple of factors that at least help you narrow your search.

  1. Sit-bone width. You can measure this at home, and lots of shops have special benches for measuring this, but the saddle should support you directly under your sit-bones (ischial tuberosities). Some manufacturers today produce a given saddle model in a number of widths to accommodate this.
  2. Riding position. If you're sitting more upright, you'll be sitting on a wider part of your sit-bones. Some manufacturers have different lines of saddles to suit different riding styles.
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Another suggestion I've heard is that you should invest in a leather saddle such as a Brooks, and it will over time mould itself to fit your sit bones. A Brooks B17 was the suggestion (if I recall correctly), as you can get one for about £50.

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As others state, you often have to try a lot of saddles to find one which is right for you.

One way to do this is to buy a few recommended ones from eBay or similar second hand shopping site. If they look a bit scruffy it doesn't matter. If they don't work for you, resell on eBay, hopefully without losing much money besides postage.

Once you have one which works for you consider buying new or, for the environmentally-conscious, nearly-new.

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My current saddle just came with the bike. I see there are a lot of different saddle types available now, from the ultra thin, to the wide & comfy to the downright fruity.I associate the thin saddles with racers, but thats the limit of my knowledge.

I assume you meant "wide & soft" instead of "wide & comfy". A wide and/or soft saddle is not comfortable.

A wide saddle means you sit on the muscles that propel you forward, not a good long-term strategy.

A soft saddle means you sit on the muscles that propel you forward, not a good long-term strategy.

When choosing a new saddle, should I choose based on my body frame or my cycling type (i.e. get one for short commutes, one for touring)?

One saddle type for all kinds of riding is the best.

The saddles used by long-distance riders are the best. Short-distance riders may get away by using a non-optimal saddle, but why would you choose to deliberately ride on a non-optimal saddle?

Long-distance riders typically select saddle that:

  • Is fairly narrow, around 14cm wide. This optimal saddle width is dictated by the sit bone size, and it varies from individual to individual. Women on average have slightly wider sit bone than men.
  • Contains some amount of relatively firm padding, but not too much and not too soft.

Nowadays, there are a lot of saddles with practically no padding. The riders invariably wear bike shorts with lots of padding. The padding has moved from the saddle to the shorts. The reason for this is that padding is heavy, and nobody weighs bike shorts but everyone weighs bike saddles.

Fight this trend of moving padding from the paddle to the bike shorts! A reasonable saddle usually weighs around 300 grams. Anything lighter and the padding has been moved from the saddle to the shorts, limiting you to riding only in bike shorts that have lots of padding.

However, too much is too much, and too soft is too soft. There are saddles sold for unsuspecting buyers on being really, really soft with lots of padding. Don't buy such a saddle.

Having a good saddle means you can ride with any shorts, not just bike shorts.


Also, remember that any reasonable bike saddle hurts like hell if you haven't ridden bike for a long time. It generally takes at least two weeks to "break in" your butt. Reasonable saddles do not have a break in period (leather saddles do but they are not reasonable), but the bicyclist has a break in period.

There are countless of people new to cycling or resuming cycling after a long pause. Invariably, they will find their saddle to be uncomfortable. They go to a bike shop, and buy a "better" saddle. The bike shop owner sells some product that cost 15 EUR to produce at 60 EUR price, after the consumer decides that 120 EUR saddle costs too much (it would cost 20 EUR to produce by the way). Then the bicyclist finds the new saddle uncomfortable as well, but faced with the prospect of having to pay 120 EUR for an even "better" saddle is so horrible, the bicyclist tries to continue riding while pondering what to do. Then after two weeks the 60 EUR saddle does not seem so uncomfortable anymore. The bicyclist starts to post how good the 60 EUR saddle is to the social media, recommending everyone to get the 60 EUR saddle. Guess what? It wasn't the saddle. It was the two weeks of riding with it. Even the original saddle that came with the bike would have been equally comfortable after those two weeks.

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In case you like inovations, what about something redefined like this ?

https://www.moonsaddle.com/

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  • that's horrific – Paul H Sep 9 at 18:13
  • @PaulH do you hate also Graham Bell ? Dennis Bell is a distant cousin of Alexander Graham Bell. Mind recycling your phone then in case you have some ;-) But I suppose you may have some interest in old stuffy ones - how much do they pay you ? Funny I used top part of jumping boots on my sadle and handle bars to have my bike way more comfortable. Hope we will never meet on bikes ;-) – Tom Sep 10 at 7:33

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