How to choose the bike saddle for women
Whether you’re viewing the rolling greens of the countryside, conquering the mountains or planning a cycle across the bustling streets, the bottom line is – your bottom is in the line. No matter what the scenery might offer, without the right saddle and perfect padding it just isn’t fun. There’s no reason to tolerate aching muscles and pressure points when you can find a seat that goes the extra mile.
Know your body
You might know whether you’re an apple, pear or hourglass in clothes but there are plenty of butts out there too. Each of us is beautifully unique and so the seat we need can vary.
You might have had an existing seat that just didn’t sit right (pun fully intended) which is a good place to compare from. If your hip bones hurt when you ride, you might need a wider saddle. Additionally, if you have a wider hip set, this can be a great option in terms of comfort.
If you aren’t excited by crotch numbness or aches after a long ride, you might need a larger cut-out – also something to consider if you regularly ride long distances, or use your bike during that time of the month. If your inner thighs are getting chafed, you might need a narrower saddle so that there’s less friction.
The easiest way to find out is to try a few – whether you borrow them from a friend or test in store is up to you.
Think about how you ride
The type of bike you have, and the way that you ride it, can determine the type of saddle that will suit you best.
If you prefer to ride in a more leaned over position, you will naturally put more pressure on your soft tissue, which is something that needs to be compensated for. In this case, you need a saddle with a wider cut-out. This is because leaning forward on the saddle puts pressure on the sensitive area of your vulva, which can quickly lead to pain, numbness and lasting soreness. Definitely something that will take the pleasure out of your ride, but it doesn’t have to be, not with a wider cut out.
But what kind of cut out do you need? Here’s how to work that out.
Some saddles have a cutaway in the hull, with these there are either a hole right through to the top of the saddle, or soft foam over that hole. Either way, they are good options. Some just use softer foam under the crotch which is perfect for shorter journeys but not always long term cycling. Irregular shaped seats are also available, these are the ones which are shaped to better support a women with wider hips and so take pressure off between that gap.
Pressure reducing saddles are also an option. There are quite a lot of ways to make this happen, but they can be pricey.
Alternatively, if you have a more upright bike with a less aggressive reach, or you just like to sit with a straighter posture, then you should try out a saddle with a wider saddle or slightly more padding for your bottom. Even those of us with a big ol’ peach need extra padding sometimes.
Get a Professional Fitting
If you are a serious biker then we recommend getting a professional bike fit from your local store. Depending on how much you use, or intend to use, your bike, this might be an unnecessary expense – or it could save your butt, literally.
The experts will be able to assess your level of flexibility, physical limitations and your cycling goals. Not only that but they can ensure you’re correctly fitted on the bike, and they will know if you’re being a bit too ambitious. We’ve all been there. The bike needs to fit you, not the other way around. There are more than enough options now to be demanding. Besides, you deserve it.
These experts will be able to guide you on everything we just discussed. Most experts will have their own system of narrowing the choice, either by deciding what type of cyclist you are by testing your range of flexibility and your position on the bike, or using a fit system that measures the distance between your sit bones. Regardless, work with them and be assertive to get the saddle that best matches your anatomy. They are smart but they aren’t you and nobody gets offended by a few questions.
A good saddle should support your “sit bones”, rather than your entire bum. Sit bones are where you make contact with the saddle, usually your pelvis and femurs. Any good saddle needs to provide adequate support in these two areas so make sure to give it a good wiggle to make sure that there are no pressure spots. This is why professional and hobbiest saddles are offered in up in three widths.
You might think that skipping out on this step is easy because you know your body, but be aware that experts can bring some in depth knowledge to the party too. For example, just because you have a bigger bottom it doesn’t necessarily follow that you have wider sit bones.
Many women do get on just fine with men’s saddles, just as many women happily ride men’s bikes, but generally women have wider sit bones so there’s a choice of suitable wider saddles to suit. So get your sit bones measured! Even as part of an expert evaluation.
In general terms, adequate support with your saddle depends on the width. The saddle should be wider than your sit bones to make sure that everything is pressure free. Most local bike shops offers a measuring tool for just this (Selle Royal, Selle Italia, Fizik and Specialized all have these tools to be used by their dealers are just a few examples). To be clear, sit bone width has nothing to do with your clothing size – so don’t base your saddle width on your clothing tags because that will more than likely lead to stiffness, chaffing and aches – and they’re just numbers anyway.
And isn’t that what many of our decisions come down to? When it comes to road bike saddles there is a general rule; the higher the price the lighter and more performance oriented it is.
The extra cost is probably worth it if you are racing or putting in a large amount of miles, but like anything you need to work out the balance and what is reasonable for you. For more casual riders, a mid-price saddle will usually get the job done and if you have a budget, tell them at the store.
There are a couple of other things that can drive up the cost of a saddle though. The first is the material of the seat covering. Again, this is about balance and personal situation. If you want something for summer, it could be worth looking at something more breathable.
The core material of the saddle can also drive up the price. Many higher end saddles have a carbon inside that makes it lighter and helps absorb vibration from the road, or in other words, makes the journey much less bumpy.
On a final note, the material that the saddle rails are made from can also pump up the price.
Again, the lighter the material, the more expensive the saddle so think carefully if you don’t want to have to switch up your seat or spend extra cash.
And if all else fails…
There is always the return policy. Many women cyclists struggle with saddle discomfort and we don’t always get it right, but luckily there are plenty of great options out there for return – refund or credit.
Almost all bike shops have a 30 days Return policy and 100% money back garantee. Fear not, you can find the right saddle for you.