Choosing The Best Bicycle Seat

Choosing the best bicycle seat can be extremely important. It can be the difference between a long and happy riding experience and a bike that is slowly decaying in your garage. The seat that comes with your bike will usually be the most commonly used saddle for that type of bike. (For instance, a road bike will have a very different saddle than a cruiser.) But, this is no guarantee that it will be the right one for your body.

Make sure your seat is adjusted properly ( see below). Try the seat out that came with your bike for frequent rides over a period of weeks. Your body should adjust and your butt should toughen up some. If you find that you are still getting sore you should re-check your seat position. Don't be afraid to tweek it a bit to optimize the position. A good pair of quality bicycle shorts will also help a lot.

It’s always good practice to change your riding position often like standing to pedal up a hill and standing when you go over bumps. If you are riding on flat terrain shift to a higher gear and stand to pedal occasionally.

If you still have a problem you should consider a different bicycle seat.

Before choosing a bicycle seat I suggest that you sit on a curb, or a low step, and see where you feel pressure. This will tell you about where your sit bones are (these are the ischial tuberosities points commonly known as sit bones) and this is where you need support onyour saddle. You may want to have someone measure where you point out the pressure spots.

If the saddle is too narrow it causes pressure on the soft tissues between your sit bones. If the seat is too wide you will get chafing from the friction as you pedal. Women usually have wider sit bones and need wider saddles.

Road bike seat

On a road bike the riding position is such that your hands support some of your weight and the pressure angle on your sit bones is different. Plus, faster pedaling calls for a narrower performance seat to minimize friction.

comfort or cruiser saddle

On bicycles where the riding position is more erect like a comfort or a cruiser your body weight is directly on your sit bones and you can use a wider  seat.This holds true also for any bike or trike with pedal forward frame design.

Actually, a cruiser like saddle will ususlly work OK on most bikes other than a road bike.

Comfort saddle with springs

For a bit more cushioning you may choose a saddle with springs. This should not however be used with a bike that has suspension already built into the frame.

A common mistake in choosing a bicycle seat is looking for the softest one. This will not give you the support that you need for your sit bones and will actually put more pressure on the soft tissues between them. A seat thet is real "spongy" will llkely not be supportive enough. The vast majority saddles now have a cutout to relieve the pressure on the soft tissue. 

Seat positioning fundamentals

A good starting point for positioning the bicycle seat is level with the ground, though you may find your optimum position is with the front tilted down just a few degrees.

As a starting point the height should be about same heightas the handlebars . Another often used reference is to position the seat .833 times the length of your inseam from center of the (pedal) crankshaft.

You are probably going to need to tweak the seat height so that while seated, with the bottom pedal at the six o'clock position, (you should always pedal with the ball of your foot) your leg should be not quite straight.

If the seat is too low, and your leg is not extended enough, you will risk having knee problems. If it is seat is too high you will twist from side to side as you pedal and your butt won't like that at all. Fore and aft positioning is important as well. You should position your seat so that a plumb line dropped from the bony protrusion in front of your kneecap falls on the center line of the pedal axle to a maximum of 1/2 inch behind the center line when the pedal is positioned at 3 o'clock. Usually riders that have a fast pedal cadence like to have the position set on the center line and those with a slower cadence prefer a position a bit behind the center line.

You will need to ride for a while and make a few adjustments to find the sweet spots that work the best for you. Also, don't be afraid to take your bike to a bicycle shop and have them set it up for you. They will charge you a few bucks but it's worth it.

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