Choosing the right saddle is imperative to achieving a proper bike fit. If you are spending serious time in the saddle, there is no reason to suffer the discomfort and physical consequences caused by a saddle that doesn't perfectly mirror your anatomy. The body only contacts the bike in three places (pedals, saddle and handlebar) and the saddle is the primary point of connection. The slightest adjustment to the saddle will affect both the position on the pedals and also on the handlebar. If you are undergoing a proper fitting, selecting a proper saddle should be done very early on. Changing saddles well into the fitting process will skew a myriad of measurements.
A seat built for the masses won’t work for every individual because bone size and width differs from person to person. Finding the right saddle for your unique geometry is quite simple. The selection process can be broken down into three steps.
1. Determine your riding posture. Posture will tell you what portion of the Pelvis is in contact with the seat. Less aggressive posture will result in more pressure on the rear of the saddle whereas a more aggressive posture means pressure farther forward. Once we determine which posture you ride in, we can narrow down seat options to which model will best fit your riding style.
2. Select your preferred trim level. Comfort comes from even pressure distribution over the entirety of the saddle. At this point you want to determine your ideal balance of padding placement, shell material and rail construction, each of which will have an effect on pressure distribution and ultimately comfort.
3. Find the correct saddle width. Each individual has uniquely sized sit bones, and once you know the size of your sit bones, we can fit you with an appropriately sized saddle. This is something that we can measure for you at Skiis & Biikes.
Determining the width of a rider's sit bones (or ischial tuberosity) is important because these bones support the majority of a rider's weight. A cacophony of issues can arise if the ischial tuberosities are not in contact with the appropriate area on the seat. Improper saddle selection can affect reach to the handle bar, ability to effectively use the glutes, hip-knee-foot alignment and most horrifyingly, improper selection can lead to blood-flow restriction and nerve damage. If a rider feels uncomfortable on a saddle--you know the feeling--they will have a tendency to shift their weight not only fore and aft but also side to side. If the rider is twisted side to side they are only resting on one iscial tuberosity. These riders may feel unbalanced on the bike and can also develop substantial physical asymmetries.
Rider posture and bone structure are paramount, but let’s not forget the importance of gender. Males and females have vastly different saddle requirements and it is key to find a gender specific design. But not to worry, any saddle maker worth it’s salt offers a wide spread of gender specific saddles to suit your needs. Trek and Specialized have all the options you need to ride in absolute luxury.
If you are looking to buy saddles for more than one bike, it is important to approach the selection process again from step one. It is likely that the same rider will require two different saddle widths if there is a change in riding posture between the two bikes. This is due to the shape of our bones. The ischial tuberosities decrease in width as the pelvis rolls forward. Meaning that as your posture becomes more aggressive, the pelvis tilts and has an increasingly narrower width. Always select the right saddle for each bike you are riding, do not copy and paste.
"Just by changing the saddles he could actually show me […] how my body was correcting itself and how I was aligning straighter."
- Burry Stander, Specialized Racing
A common fallacy in competitive cycling is that the lightest component is always the best component. Although that may be true for some things, saddle weight is far less important than saddle fit. A few grams saved does not make up for the discomfort of a poor fit. A proper fitting saddle will lead to weight-eclipsing benefits in comfort, form and body symmetry.
Burry Stander goes through an extensive BG Fit by Specialized.