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We are buying an electric mountain bike, a Specialized Turbo Levo SL, for my wife. It's a men's bike, and I see, for example, the SCOTT Contessa differs from men's models by having a women's seat, and narrower steering handlebars. Does it make sense to buy separate a women's seat for 1-3h, 3x/week rides? Do they differ much from men's seats?

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    I suspect this is a duplicate, but can't find a suitable target. There may already be a better answer than the one I've just written
    – Chris H
    May 28, 2021 at 12:29
  • Denis you say in a comment that she hasn't ridden much and it would be on off-road nice roads up to 3h. May I suggest not buying that particular bike without a thorough test ride. It's an excellent bike, but it is for aggressive mtb riding, i.e. v wide bars, v slack angles, long travel suspension (160mm), very grippy style tyres (sluggish on the wrong surface). This might mean it's not the right bike for longer, casual rides for a less experienced rider - look at the images of how it's marketed and think if you are that target market.
    – Swifty
    May 28, 2021 at 15:53
  • If it's the right kind of bike for her as a rider, then it's money well spent. If it's not the right kind of bike then it's not money well spent and the saddle swap won't change that. Still a good question
    – Swifty
    May 28, 2021 at 15:58
  • When Womens/Mens bikes, saddles and such the difference (when more than color) is based on the idea of average women and average men have different dimensions. US Airforce discovered there are no average people. If it works, do it.
    – mattnz
    May 28, 2021 at 20:13
  • If you’re going to change the saddle, customize to the person, not to the “average” of the person’s gender.
    – WGroleau
    May 29, 2021 at 15:30

2 Answers 2

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What matters is that the saddle is comfortable for the rider given the rides they're doing.

There are obvious differences between male and female anatomy, which aren't to be neglected (here's some in-depth further reading, though the focus is on long road rides). This can lead to a need for different structure towards the front of the saddle in particular. This is most true if riding in aggressive (tucked) positions, so road racing, time trials etc.

We can't make any assumptions about how sit-bone width relates to hip/pelvis width or sex, and in a more upright position the sit-bones, which always bear most of the weight, are hopefully the only parts experiencing real pressure.

In technical mountain biking, you're not on the saddle much anyway, so it matters still less. Still, the longer end of this, if spent on the sort of trails where you'd sit down, can be really rather uncomfortable.

You don't say how much cycling she's done. If she's coming from very little, some initial discomfort may be expected - try gel-padded shorts/tights and anti friction chamois cream at first. New riders change quite a bit around the weight-bearing parts, and may even lose some fat, i.e. change shape, so rushing into a new saddle may not be a good idea.

My suggestion is that she starts with the stock saddle. It may be absolutely fine. If she's experiencing discomfort, especially numbness or obviously pressure-related discomfort that isn't improved by padded shorts and chamois cream, then it's time to look for a new saddle. It would be sensible at that stage to consider women's saddles, though not exclusively.

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    Saddle comfort is hard to measure, and even more difficult to shop for. I sometimes wonder if there's a market for a Saddle Library, something akin to a Toy Library, where you can borrow a saddle for a week or a month and ride it for real without the sunk cost.
    – Criggie
    May 28, 2021 at 12:33
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    @Criggie they do exist (or did before covid), but typically tied to one brand. I reckon I can dismiss a really unsuitable saddle in an hour or so of riding+tweaking, but knowing whether it's up to long days is another matter - even after tweaking it takes a long day to know.
    – Chris H
    May 28, 2021 at 12:43
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    @ChrisH Thanks for answer and link. She hasn't ridden much, especially not off road, that's why we decided on electric so we can go together, we will mostly ride off-road nice roads, nothing wild, but it should be comfortable to seat for up to 3h. We'll try with stock first and then see how to go from there
    – DenisZ
    May 28, 2021 at 12:57
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    @Criggie a lot of LBSs do that May 29, 2021 at 22:17
  • @criggie et al I bought a premium saddle once, but found it didn't quite work for me and sold it for a good price, looked new, retained the packaging etc. which helped. So whilst there was a sunk cost it was minimised, not least because it was expensive to start with and its branding/desirability made it retain value. Have seen shops with tester saddles too
    – Swifty
    May 30, 2021 at 8:25
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Firstly, I believe that Specialized have done away with men's and women's models of bike. When you look at the website the women's models are gone. So the saddle may or may not be a men's fit, just some kind of average for their main demographic (though that is probably men).

Secondly, in either case it wouldn't make sense to throw out the supplied saddle without putting it to the test, to just put on an untested women's-branded saddle. Either saddle could be perfect, or could be uncomfortable, but that isn't predicted well by gender. For all of us, some amount of trial and error is required to find the right saddle on the right bike, for the kind of riding we do. Some shops have tester saddles to avoid this being too expensive an undertaking.

You've discovered, by asking the question, that some manufacturers continue to offer female specific models with different contact points, while others simply have one line of 'unisex' bikes, because we're all so different and the gender line is so blurry for cycle requirements. Whatever gender, we can tailor the bike to suit us as an individual, whether or not they did some guesswork in the factory already.

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  • Reading an article provided by @chris I realized even more there is for sure some difference in anatomy which can be problematic for women, and my wife always complains about uncomfortable seat when she rides my old bike. For my self, never really have a problem. Beginning of the season i need couple of rides and few days, then it's good all season, no problems even with different bikes that i rode. So we will definitely try original, and see how comfortable it is. But I was mostly curious if there is some particular shape for women.
    – DenisZ
    May 30, 2021 at 10:01

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