Saddle Up! How To Find The Right Saddle For Your Ride
Saddle comfort can make or break your ride, regardless of whether you're riding short commutes or long endurance days. Saddle manufacturers recognize that different customers and ride styles have different needs and, while it there are solutions out there, it can be mind-boggling trying to sorting through all the options. Hopefully, we can help you sort through it all a little bit by telling you a few things to look for:
1. Brand names
Some brands are well known for providing quality saddles so you can often rely on an established brand having a saddle that will suit your needs. Most often, a saddle specific brand will also have groups of saddles that they will identify as being suitable for a category or bikes (mountain, road, commuter, triathlon) or ride styles (upright, race, recreation). When you find this level of specialization, you can usually be confident that in narrowing down your saddle choices to a category or a few saddles just based on their recommendations. Selle Italia is a good example of a brand name that will have something to suit your needs.
As well, some manufacturers offer a saddle fit guarantee of a few weeks or a month which can take the risk out of saddle selection. Some riders invest hundreds of dollars before they find a saddle they like.
2. Saddle Cutouts
Another term for saddle cutouts is "soft tissue relief channel" and that name should tell you just about everything you need to know about that feature. It really does do what it says. If I had to come up with an estimate of the proportion of saddles we've sold over the past few years that have a soft tissue relief channel, I would have to say "100%". So, you are more likely to find a saddle that you are happy with if you look for a one with a cut-out or soft tissue relief channel.
3. Know Your Ride Style
Do you ride more upright (comfort, cruiser, recreation) or do you lean forward more (road bike, or even a triathlon bike at the extreme end of the forward position spectrum)? If you aren't sure, again, a saddle manufacturer's website is often a really good reference to check in at. The issue is that your pelvis rests on the saddle at different angles, depending on your torso angle. You want your saddle to cushion your ride so the cushioning needs to be in the right spot to support your weight.
4. Width of Hips or Sit Bones
Many saddle manufacturers will have some protocol or gadget for measuring the width of your "sit bones". Call them by their medical name or not, the term "sit bones" makes it pretty clear what we're talking about. With or without actually taking a measurement, you probably have an idea where you fit on the spectrum of narrow, medium or wide. If there are multiple size options for a saddle that suits your bike and ride style - and most likely there are only one or two options - you can usually follow your instincts on that one. If you aren't sure, there is a simple and free way to measure the actual width of you sit bones:
- Put a piece of soft corrugated cardboard on a hard surface like a hard wood or plastic chair.
- Wiggle around a little in order to make an impression or indentation on the cardboard.
- Take the cardboard and outline the indentations with a pen or crayon.
- Find the approximate center point of each circle and measure the distance between the points and, there, you have the measurement of the width of your sit bones. Most saddles will report this width in millimeters so convert your measurement to millimetres if you need to.