The Saddle is the Most Important Part of a Bicycle

The Saddle

Bicycle frames are vital. You certainly couldn't have a bike with no frame, bucko. And wheels are important. You're not going anywhere very fast with out wheels, bunky. And brakes, tires, handlebars and pedals all play their parts, it's true. Yet there is one part of a bicycle that can either make riding a comfortable or uncomfortable experience. Yes, your ride can be hell or heaven solely because of this single component, the long suffering, supportive, frequently fragrant all-powerful bicycle seat, fondly known as the saddle.

Choosing a saddle is very important, so listen up.

In the old days, if you had a "racing" bike, chances are it came with a saddle like the Brooks "Honey Top", shown top right, so named for its color, not for its gentleness on your nether regions during the break-in period. Eventually this saddle might feel like a honey, but for the first couple of weeks it feels more like a bitch with her teeth clamped deep in your left butt cheek for miles and miles. If you're training for two to four hours a day, after a while your ass is going to look like those red-ass monkeys at the zoo. During the break-in period, however, the leather molds itself to the shape of whatever tools you carry in your spandex shorts, so after that first couple of weeks of hell, it transforms itself into a "friend" you wouldn't mind spending hours "in the saddle" with. Like most relationships, with a little patience it ends up feeling juuuuuust right.

If in the old days you got your average Schwinn one-speed or Raleigh five-speed bike, chances are you got with the bike a saddle like the Selle Royal "Royal Drifter" women's saddle shown at right, second and third photos. This saddle has its own suspension to absorb shock. If you are a fat-botttomed girl (and me and GoldenToad got nothin' against that at all BTW) you might consider one of these for your cruiser bike around town, but if you want to go all the way, baby, less is more when it comes to cushion. After twenty or thirty miles sliding your butt around on this gel beauty you may find yourself ready to hang it up for the day. If you want to ride a hundred miles, get something that fits but doesn't ride like the pillow on your bed. You want your butt to stay where you put it, not go sliding around on gel or foam.

Sit Bones
Sit Bones
Performance Forte Womens Softail Saddle
Performance Forte Womens Softail Saddle
Selle Italia Women's Lady Gel Flow Saddle
Selle Italia Women's Lady Gel Flow Saddle
Selle San Marco Women's Aspide Glamour Saddle
Selle San Marco Women's Aspide Glamour Saddle
Terry Women's Damselfly Saddle
Terry Women's Damselfly Saddle

Today's saddles are designed to treat you right, designed to support you where you need support and leave you alone where you need to be left alone - the perineal area in particular. The perineal area is the area between your legs that lies between your reproductive gear and your elimination port, and you don't want to be putting your weight on it. If you do, it will get numb, and continued pressure might lead to other problems in your bedroom when you might want to have sex, for example. To make sure you don't damage yourself, many modern saddles provide a depression or hole where your perineal area would usually come in contact with the saddle.

You want your weight to rest on your "sit bones" - the two bottom-most projections of your pelvis, as pictured at right. If you align your sit bones correctly with the saddle, your comfort in the saddle will greatly increase.

If you are a full figured lady with a good, healthy bum on you, and you're hesitant to abandon all padding, you might try a saddle like the Performance Forte "Softail" saddle shown at right. It's a little wider to accommodate a wider bum, and it has the hole designed to avoid pressure where you don't want it just now.

The Selle Italia "Lady Gel Flow" saddle, is a bit smaller and has a bit less padding. The more you ride, the less padding you are going to probably want. Padding tends to trap moisture, and as Pearl Izumi biking attire company so aptly put it, a dry ass is a happy ass. Another benefit to less padding is decreased weight. The more cycling one does the more one tends to like speed. Since weight is the enemy of speed, the weight of saddle padding may be repugnant to you the greater your craving for speed.

Toward that end, if you've been training hard and long and your butt is in pretty good shape - no matter what size it is - you might consider a serious saddle like the Selle San Marco "Aspide Glamour" saddle, which is designed much like those used by riders in the Tour de France. Designed as it is to avoid pressure and support your sit bones, it can be as comfortable as a saddle with more padding.

The Terry company pioneered the idea of a saddle that keeps pressure off your perineal area. In terms of padding, the Terry "Damselfly", like the other saddles in this section, is designed with women's anatomy in mind. Personally I always have women's anatomy in mind, but that is a subject for a different kind of article. Why to I have the sudden urge to ask the Damselfly out on a date?

Fizik "Nisene HP Wing Flex" Saddle
Fizik "Nisene HP Wing Flex" Saddle
Performance Forte "Classic" Saddle
Performance Forte "Classic" Saddle
Terry "Liberator" Saddle
Terry "Liberator" Saddle
Selle Italia "Gel Flow" Saddle
Selle Italia "Gel Flow" Saddle

On the cutting edge of men's saddles is the Fizik line of saddles. Using mesh and other unconventional materials, Fizik delivers comfort and air to sensitive regions. Pictured at right is the Fizik "Nicene HP Flex Wing" saddle.

Next in line is the updated version of the saddle I ride until it screams, the Performance Forte "Classic" saddle. In know this saddle very, very intimately. I like the way the leather develops a slightly adhesive quality after ten or twenty miles that helps me keep my butt where I want it to be. This new version has an enlarged cutaway to protect that sensitive area. I find the old version very comfortable. If I bought a new saddle today it would probably be the Performance Forte Classic.

The Terry "Liberator" is the very first saddle ever designed to relieve pressure on the perineal area. The Liberator, I believe, may be the only bicycle seat ever recommended by doctors. It offers a little more padding for those who want it, but not excessively so.

The split design of the Selle Italia "Gel Flow" saddle is fast becoming a classic. The split enables the saddle to be more flexible and better absorb shock, and its light weight makes this saddle a contender for riders who want to cut down weight so they can pick up speed.

So that's the skinny - or not so skinny - on bicycle seats. Best of luck choosing the one that's right for you.

Comments 40 comments

mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 7 years ago from North Carolina

Now there's something you don't see everyday!

Fun for buns!


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

There was a fellow called Tom,

Who invented a hilarious bomb,

He lit the wrong fuse,

He wasn't amused,

See his epitaph in Arson.com


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

LMAO just re-reading my Tom tribute,LMAO don't know where that came from, its a blessing actually, adding some variety to your page


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Death by humorous misfire? Do they let you into heaven if you go that way?

Any comment from you is a blessing, Blondepoet.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks, May! Someone needs to show concern about the impoverished pedaling posteriors of the world!


Mezo profile image

Mezo 7 years ago from Egypt

that's fun info, thanks for sharing :)


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Happy to share the info, Mezo, but not my bicycle seat!!! LOL


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Who knew? Vital info. (I have a tricycle, myself, with a sedate seat and three gears.)


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I'll bet you burn up the road! The primary attribute one need's in a saddle is that it does not hurt you.


R. Blue profile image

R. Blue 7 years ago from Right here

Maybe we could design a "special" seat for BP and May.....attachments included. As for me....I'm just glad there's a seat.....that post could be hell.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I saw one of those online one time - the "attachment" was driven by the pedals. Pretty kinky. Yes, RB, riding that seatpost would be reminiscent of a procedure most of us go through after the age of 50. That would get the kinks right out, I would think.


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

While designing my bike I must demand a ladies seat that is my only stipulation. 10min on those men's seats oh boy, well put it this way, you have to hobble after getting off.I need to protect my vitals, they all I got haha


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Yes, you don't want to go off looking like a taco, Blondepoet. :-P


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

hahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahah

A taco hahahahahhahahahhaha


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Tom

I couldn't agree with you more. Take away the saddle and you have what? The thought makes me cringe! Btw, this reminds me of the "happy nuns" joke! :D


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Ha ha ha! Or the "Rectum! Damn near killed 'im" joke.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

The saddle has to be the right height as well otherwise you get sore knees


Camping Dan profile image

Camping Dan 7 years ago

In the past I had some of the top of the line mountain bikes. But it does not matter how well built the bike is when you cannot stand being in the saddle. Once you really find one you like, buy two or three so that you can always have that seat even if your bike changes or they stop making it.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Here's Cindy, trying to inject some actual information into this hub.  Well, thank you Cindy!  You are absolutely correct.  In fact, one can get irreparable damage out of having their saddle adjusted incorrectly.  I recommend seeing a professional in a bike shop to help you get it just right for optimum power and comfort. 

Rule of thumb, you want a little flex in your leg when the pedal is all the way down.  You don't want to be fully extended. 

Great idea, Camping Dan! Thanks!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

I bought this el cheapo bike from Decathalon, but it hurts my knees everytime I ride it for a distance. I've heightened the saddle, but it seems to slide down low again, so i rather take the bus than cycle. (Yeah, sometimes I do have a serious side!)


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

You gotta get rid of that bike! They do, however, make a shim if your seat stem is the wrong size, or if not, you may be able to get a new seatpost clamp.

I take the train instead of the bike sometimes, too, especially in the worst winter months. Biking in the freezing rain in the dark in traffic just doesn't hold the attraction it once did for me.


mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 7 years ago from North Carolina

If you attach me and BP together, on a bicycle, we'll be crashing all over the place?! No thanks for that matter!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Sounds like a recipe for a crazy adventure machine to me!


Marie Dwivkidz profile image

Marie Dwivkidz 7 years ago from UK

Spot on! I rode Land's End to John O'Groats (about 1000 miles) on a Brooks Honey saddle. Like an armchair by the end, but agony for the first 985 miles. Choose your contact point wisely!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I had the black one, I forget the name of the model. Like sitting on an axe head for the first couple of hundred miles, but still not really comfortable until the end of the first riding season. After that, a wonderful saddle for years!

Thank you, Marie!


Artisan Walker profile image

Artisan Walker 7 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

I beg to differ, Tom The saddle is undoubtedly important. Mine was gel. Slender, but comfortable. I love hi-tech junk.

No, the most important part of any bicycle is the helmet.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

How could I argue with you? Thank you, Artisan.


composed profile image

composed 7 years ago from the place where I have what it takes

Good stuff! I have the Selle Itailia Gel Flow myself. It's pretty comfy, which goes against most people's conventional wisdom. Those big bulky ones are not as comfortable as most people automatically think. It was always a challenge trying to explain that to people when I worked in a shop.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

A bike tech told me that on a long ride, cushion is not your friend. Thank you, Composed!


kea profile image

kea 7 years ago

I agree. I have a Fizik Tri2 and it was well worth the money. Decent bike shorts are important too. So is body glide for those long rides.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

I haven't tried body glide yet, but I might. But ya those shorts are vital as well if you want to avoid significant posterior discomfort.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

I think you like riding a bike. Beside your busy activity. We have to know part of our bike by ourself.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Very philosophical! Thank you, Prasetio!


marcofratelli profile image

marcofratelli 7 years ago from Australia

LOL. Yep, the best design is the one where you have padding for each individual 'glute' of the maximus variety, plus a little space in between the padding (or a slot) to allow 'air' to pass through the area when it is necessary.

LMAO re: taco!!! Hilarious stuff!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Exactly right. The other details are personal build and taste issues. I heard the 'taco' remark after the first leg of the Cape Cod Getaway MS Ride two years ago. After the 75-mile ride, one of the female riders said, "It does NOT look like a taco."

There is also a roll on kinda stuff one can put on their bike seat area to help prevent chafing, but the saddle remains the most important thing.


Bicycle Tires 6 years ago

I think you like riding a bike.


sportandfitness profile image

sportandfitness 5 years ago

We are on the same page when riding a bike comes into the picture... Great hub, I enjoyd reading it! :)


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

Thank you!


bruzzbuzz profile image

bruzzbuzz 4 years ago from Texas , USA

Great hub. I ride thousands of miles each year and can truly state that the split seat is the greatest invention I know of. Great hub. Voted up for sure!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks, bruzzbuzz! One think I like about this hub is that it attracts fellow riders. Ride on!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    More by this Author


    Click to Rate This Article
    working