We asked our expert colleagues on sister site Cycling Weekly to give us their round-up of the best bike saddles on the market. Here’s what they suggest:
When riding a bike, you spend quite a lot of time sitting on your derrière. If the saddle below it is uncomfortable, it truly can be miserable. To help avoid any discomfort, we’ve rounded up the best bike saddles on the market to help you find the perfect fit.
Pro cyclists have had races ruined for them by saddle discomfort. The bike industry takes this piece of equipment very seriously – there is an array of saddle styles to choice from. There really is a saddle out there to suit you – the art is in finding it.
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Best bike saddle shape
It’s common for people who are struggling with discomfort to look for the most padded, springiest saddle they can find. Though this might work for some, it isn’t always the answer. Indeed, a very padded saddle can cause further discomfort as you sink into it – and some riders get on fine with carbon shells. What matters more than padding is the shape.
There are many different shapes out there – both designed to cater for anatomical differences (such as sit bone width) and riding positions.
Quite often, when a person is suffering with discomfort in the saddle, particularly at the rear, they’re riding on a perch that is not the correct width. The ischial tuberosities are the parts of your body designed to bear your seated weight, and they vary between individuals – regardless of jean size.
Most saddle models come in several widths, and bike shops often have devices designed to determine the best option for you. This just involves sitting on a stool with gel in it – so don’t be concerned.
People who ride race bikes, often in the drops and always pressing hard on the pedals, will distribute pressure differently when compared with people who ride in a more relaxed, upright and endurance focused position.
Narrow, flat saddles such as the Fizik Arione are designed to suit aggressive riders who like to get low on the bike.
People riding time trial bikes take that to the extreme – and there are specific time trial saddles out there designed to cater for this position, with a forward rotated pelvis, and the sit bones typically up, off the saddle surface.
Alternatively, something like the Fabric Scoop, Fizik Aliante or Specialized Toupé will suit someone who sits in a more upright position, this placing more weight on the sit bones.
Some people find a saddle with a cut out or pressure relief channel – which runs down the middle – makes a big difference to perineal numbness, caused by compression of the nerves and reduced blood flow to the area.
Though not all female cyclists will get on better with women’s saddles, since they’re designed with their anatomy in mind, most will find a better fit in the women’s, or genuinely unisex, ranges. Examples of unisex saddles are the Pro Stealth, Specialized Power and ISM models – as these have been designed with women in mind as well as men – and tested by female athletes too.
Women who ride in an aggressive position frequently suffer from soft tissue discomfort, and often benefit from a saddle with a cut out – like the Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow or Specialized Power, which is unisex. On average, women also have wider sit bones, and therefore generally need a wider saddle.
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How do you choose the right saddle shape for you?
Choosing the right saddle shape for you can take a bit of work. We’d advise first noting what you don’t like about the saddle you currently use. Are there any specific areas rubbing you up the wrong way? Pressure at the front might call for a relief channel or cut out, pinching at the rear could call for a wider base, for example.
Determine what sort of riding you do – and look for saddles that are specifically created with that in mind. Many brands offer a wide range, and if you go into a local bike shop there will often be a measuring and fitting process – Selle Italia has the ‘ID Match’ and Fizik lets you asses your ideal perch via an app, for example.
Many local bike shops offer a ‘test’ saddle, whilst some brands accept returns – so look into these options to save yourself cash on any failed experiments.
Best bike saddle rails and materials
Most brands have several ‘styles’ and then each style is available in a couple of widths and at a few different price points.
The price is largely determined by the material used for the rails. Cheaper saddles will use steel, the middle ground is manganese or titanium, and carbon is used on top end models. Most modern bikes conform to a standard, so most saddles should fit on any bike – though you might need a different clamp for carbon.
Carbon rails are lighter – hence the expense. Top end models may also use a more premium fabric on the top – but this makes little difference to comfort.
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Best bike saddles: for men
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Best bike saddles for men: Fizik Arione Saddle
Read more: Fizik Arione Saddle review
Fizik uses an app to determine the right saddle for each rider based upon flexibility, riding style and weight. The Arione is designed for flexible riders who like a narrow seat. It’s long, which means that riders can move around a lot and find multiple comfortable positions.
Best bike saddles for men: Fabric Scoop Flat Pro Saddle
Read more: Fabric Scoop bike saddle review
Fabric’s scoop is unique in that the padding and its waterproof cover are glued to the base, as opposed to a cover being fixed over the base and padding. There are several models – the ‘Flat’ styles suit more agressive riders and the ‘Shallow’ models will be better for endurance positions and the ‘Radius’ caters for upright (hybrid or mountain bike) riders.
Best bike saddles for men: Bontrager Montrose Elite saddle
Read more: Bontrager Montrose Elite saddle review
This fairly wide saddle features a cut out relief channel and is designed to be fairly multi-purpose – suited to anyone from touring to mountain bike riders and even racers. The rails are long, which means you can adjust its position on the bike to the extremes.
Best bike saddles for men: Prologo Scratch 2 PAS Tirox saddle
Read more: Prologo Scratch 2 PAS Tirox saddle review
If you’re intending on completing long rides and want something suited to endurance, then we reckon this one is worth a try. There’s a pressure relief channel to reduce compression, and multi density foam adds provides a bit of squish. The nose drops slightly, which could be a bit ‘Marmite’.
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Best bike saddles: unisex
Most saddles that don’t list gender are designed for men. But in recent years a few brands have created models that have been extensively tested by both men and women. Typically, these are short, stubby nosed saddles that work well for racers who adopt an aggressive position.
Best unisex bike saddles: Pro Stealth saddle
Read more: Pro Stealth saddle review
A short saddle suited to aggressive riders, the Stealth comes in several widths and has a wide pressure relief channel.
Best unisex bike saddles: Specialized Power
Read more: Specialized Power saddle review
The Power saddle was developed alongside Boels-Dolmans women’s pro cycling team, with rider Evie Stevens who had a lot of problems with saddle comfort. It transpired, though, that the short nosed saddle worked well for men too. There’s not much padding, and this shape suits a rider who sits forward on the bike and tends to adopt one position and stay there.
Best unisex bike saddles: ISM PN 3.0 saddle
Read more: ISM PN 3.0 saddle review
Though they can be used on road bikes, ISM saddles are typically used by time triallists and triathletes. The noseless shape has been designed to eliminate numbness to sensitive areas – and the brand has a lot of fans, even though the aesthetic isn’t exactly the biggest selling point.
Best bike saddles: for women
Whilst the saddles above are popular among racing women, there are loads of dedicated female specific saddles – here’s some we like.
Best bike saddles for women: Prologo Kappa Evo DEA T2.0 women’s saddle
Read more: Prologo Kappa Evo DEA T2.0 Women’s Saddle review
A semi-rounded shape means this is a good starting point and we found this perch comfy. There’s no cut out – but not every female rider wants one.
Best bike saddles for women: Specialized Ruby Expert Gel women’s saddle
Read more: Specialized Ruby Expert Gel Women’s saddle review
Specialized uses its ‘body geometry’ technology to create a range of comfy saddles, shoes, gloves and more. This saddle comes in three widths, and the range has been recently updated to include some top-end looking fabrics across the price points.
Best bike saddles for women: Pro Griffon Lady women’s saddle
Read more: Pro Griffon Lady women’s saddle review
A smaller cut out and rounded profile is coupled with plenty of padding at the rear, which might suit a more upright position. We found this saddle was particularly comfortable on rutted roads.
Best bike saddles for women: Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow women’s saddle
Read more: Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow review
A large relief channel suits riders who rotate their hips when they ride. Our reviewer found it a little wide – but it’s a popular model among female racing cyclists.
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Other considerations when buying a bike saddle
If you’re struggling with a lot of discomfort, it’s probably a good idea to check that the cause isn’t bad bike fit. A wonky saddle, one that’s too high or too low, or handlebars that are too low or far away can all cause problems.
When buying a new saddle, remember that it can alter your saddle height due to increased or reduced padding, so make sure to measure the distance between the middle of the bottom bracket and top of the saddle before and after swapping.