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I got on quite well with the stock saddle on my tourer, until recently. That's not surprising as the plastic has broken. The bike manufacturer isn't great for spares, and I'm sure I could do better, but how can I get something similar? Try-before-you-buy from a proper shop isn't currently the option it normally would be, so it looks like I'll have to order something. Are there features I should be measuring on the old one? Most manufacturers seem to list very little in the way of dimensions, favouring a description. There's plenty of information out there about putting the new saddle in the same place, but nothing much about getting one similar to the old one.

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  • Is it a name-brand saddle? If so, you may be able to buy the same thing rather than an approximation.
    – Adam Rice
    Aug 12 '20 at 15:31
  • @AdamRice no, it's branded with the bike manufacturer's name, and no clues underneath. They're not great for spares, and anyway, while it's good, I could probably do better if I knew where to start. Sit bone measurements are one thing, but nose dimensions (for example) don't seem to have numbers
    – Chris H
    Aug 12 '20 at 16:21
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    Unfortunately there are a lot of variables, some of which there's no good way to measure. Width, length, and height, of course. Padding thickness and overall shape. The saddle on my bike is made by a company that makes saddles in 3 widths and 3 shapes (for different riding postures), and different product series. It's confusing.
    – Adam Rice
    Aug 12 '20 at 16:41
  • @AdamRice yes, and I don't help matters by fitting aero bars on a tourer and using 4 different postures on a single ride. I'm currently looking at used options on ebay as I could do with something ridable quickly - as it is I'll being using the one off my MTB at the weekend, and while it's OK for a few hours of trails, I'm not sure it's really up to longer rides
    – Chris H
    Aug 12 '20 at 16:44
  • Saddles are usually measured at the widest place and by length. Take it off and to a LBS to find something similar with their help, as I would do. Or visit the saddles page of an on-line store, sort the saddles by width and chose something similar by appearance.
    – Carel
    Aug 12 '20 at 17:36
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Summary:

  • There is no set of measurements you can use to compare seats between brands.
  • The best way to get the same feel every time would be to find a seat model you like that has an enduring reputation. You may even want to get a spare, just in case.

Details:
The seat a bike company includes on a new bike is most often the one they could get for the lowest price. It's almost impossible to find a match for these seats.
On more expensive bikes bike companies will specify something that is name brand and can be purchased again from various venders.

In either case if you get a seat that works for you it's almost a miracle. Bicycle seats are like shoes - they really need to be tried on. Some companies offer an easy return policy on seats so you can try out seats at home and return them if they don't work.

The measurement that pops up most frequently is seat width.

Every saddle should either come with a width measurement or can be measured.
enter image description here

Even seats with the exact same measured width will have different curvature, length, padding thickness, padding type, frame, design and flex.

Since there are so many factors in what determines how a seat feels some seat makers have web functionality/methodology asking you questions that will allow them to make suggestions for the correct seat. The Selle SMP "Saddle Finder" is one example. Another is the Saddle Finder for Treks Bontrager brand (not a recommendation) They base their recommendation on things like male/female, age, type of bike, type of cycling, frequency of riding and sit bone width based on pant size.

The information provided by seat makers is based on standards created by the seat maker that might help you pick seats that are similar within one seat maker's model range. It is unlikely that one makers information will help when comparing seats from different makers.

There are some seat makers and models that have been around for a long time.
The best way to get the same feel every time would be to find a seat model you like that has an enduring reputation. You may even want to get a spare, just in case.

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    I'm intrigued by "sit bone width based on pant size" - I've dropped from 38" to 34" by cycling, and have been both 40" and 32". The padding on them may have changed but the bones haven't. Does this approach seem to work?
    – Chris H
    Dec 22 '20 at 18:11
  • There was a Bikefit.com podcast on this topic. There's one dimension you may be missing. Look down at the saddle from the top. Consider the shoulders of the saddle, i.e. the features that are to either side of the rails when you're looking down. Some are more sharply tapered. I think that the current generation of snub nose saddles, e.g. Specialized Power, PRO Stealth, are less tapered. This is by no means a standardized term. And heck, there are probably more fit parameters that nobody has even thought of a name for.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 22 '20 at 19:35
  • @WeiwenNg absolutely - The shoulders make a big difference. Also, assuming the same hardness of shell and foam, and the same outer shape, the thickness of the foam over the shell makes a big difference especially at the nose - I suspect this was why I was comfortable on a touring saddle but not a very similarly shaped race saddle
    – Chris H
    Dec 22 '20 at 20:34
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    @ChrisH I'm skeptical of the pant size/sit bone relationship. I suppose they wanted a measurement that people would know and landed on pant size. Then they generated a rough relationship between sit bones and pant size. Using numbers/measurements to recommend a seat is always going to be more of an art than a science. I would imagine that loosing / gaining weight will have an effect on seat comfort even though the bones didn't move.
    – David D
    Dec 22 '20 at 21:34
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In the end I got my hands on 2 rather different saddles to try, though both were (about) the same width as I was used to.

One looked almost identical to the original, to the extent that only slight construction differences convinced me it wasn't the same. It felt awful, like the nose was pointed up unless it was pointed so far down I slid forwards. Presumably the rigid part accounted for much more of the nose volume.

The other was quite different - considerably firmer and flatter, and slightly narrower in the nose. It demands a better chamois, and took some tweaking to get the position and angle right, but it's comfortable enough for long days in the saddle (I did a 400km a few weeks after fitting it, which took 23 hours). It also makes getting out of the saddle much easier on climbs or rough stuff - a bonus I wasn't expecting.

Unfortunately there really is no substitute for trial and error.

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