Bike seats, or saddles as they are also known,
come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re having
trouble getting comfortable riding your bike,
chances are the problem is in the bike seat
that your bike has.
Most Comfortable Bike Seat Buying Guide
Types of Riding
There are several different types of bike riding a person can engage in. When you are searching for the right bike seat you will want to take the type of riding you do most often into consideration to ensure you choose the most appropriate seat. We have listed the different types below.
- Road Riding – If you frequently engage in road racing you want to choose a bike seat that is long and narrow and that has very little padding. While you are road racing you will not be resting your sit bones on the seat so the necessity is not really there the way it is with other riding types. Little padding will also minimize chaffing that can occur during road racing. If you are new to this type of riding consider choosing a narrow seat that is a bit softer than the hardcore racing seats are while your body adjusts.
- Recreational Riding – If you love to ride cruisers and usually ride in an upright position, a cushioned bike seat is the way to go. These seats are usually wide with a lot of plush padding, coiled spring suspension and a short nose. The focus of recreational bike seats is comfort. Getting a seat post that has springs will provide additional cushioning.
- Mountain Riding – Mountain trail riding involves a combination of standing up on the pedals and sitting on the seat. If you do a lot of mountain riding, get a seat that is designed for mountain bike rides with cushioning in the sit bone areas, a long lasting, weather-proof cover, and streamlined design.
- Touring Riding – Long distance riding requires a whole different kind of bike seat to ensure comfort on long rides. The best seat to get for those who regularly do this kind of riding is a performance seat or all-leather seat that is a combination of road seat and mountain seat. For long distance rides you want to concentrate on finding a seat that has a long, narrow nose and plenty of cushioning in the sit bone area.
- Women-Specific Riding – Look for a woman-specific seat that accommodates wider hips and perch bone area. Women will ride much more comfortably with a seat designed for their anatomy.
Parts of a Bike Seat
The bike seat is made up of several parts. Knowing what these are will help you understand what you are reading in the descriptions when you are doing your research.
- Cover – The bike seat cover goes over the foam padding on top of the shell of the seat. This cover can be made from leather or a combination or gel, Lycra and fabric, vinyl, or closed cell foam. The job of the cover is to protect the foam and keep it looking good as new for years to come.
- Shell – The shell of a bike seat creates the shape that the seat will take when it is finished. This shell can be made from carbon fiber, molded plastic, nylon, or leather. The only issue with leather is that it can be a lot more expensive and it is not as weather resistant as other shells.
- Suspension – The suspension components that are built into some bike seats are designed to help absorb the shock and vibration that riding over bumpy terrain can cause. These components are usually elastomers or springs.
- Rails – Rails are the part of the bike seat that attaches the seat to the bike and run along the bottom of the bike seat. There are two parallel rails made from steel, aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber that can be hollow or solid depending on the manufacturer. The new bikes on the market have the rails as part of the seat.
Cushion Types for Bike Seats
There are two common types of cushioning most often used for bike seats. Each of these types of cushioning will respond differently once the weight of the rider is on the seat.
- Foam Cushioning – Foam cushioning offers riders padding that springs back to shape once the rider isn’t sitting on the seat anymore. Foam is a great choice for road riders. If you’re a long distance rider, look for firmer foam since it doesn’t flatten as quickly as regular softer foam does.
- Gel cushioning – Seats with gel cushioning conform to your body and provide the rider with a lot of plush comfort. Gel compacts quickly so it may not be very favorable for long distance riders.
- Saddle Pad – A saddle pad is additional cushioning that can fit over the existing seat. It provides additional softness and cushion for seats that may not provide as much cushioning as you thought they would. Saddle pads don’t usually have padding that stays where you need it. Many people choose padded bike shorts instead which don’t shift or move out of position.
Types of Bicycle Saddles
There are many different varieties of bike seats on the market for all different kinds of bikes and preferences. We have outlined the three main types of bike seats below so you understand the differences between them.
- Comfort Bike Seat – comfort bike seats are wide with a large amount of padding for lots of comfort. The design of a comfort seat allows for easy pedaling. You can use a comfort bike seat for long distance riding and are made to help absorb the vibrations from hitting bumps and rough terrain. Women-specific seats are designed similarly to comfort seats with wider seats and cushioning along with a center recess.
- Racing Bike Seat – Racing seats are designed to prevent chaffing and to allow the rider full movement while riding. The design of the racing seat shifts the rider forward so the majority of the weight is on the hands and feet. Racing saddles are thinner than other designs and are much lighter too. Racing saddles have made advancements in design that allow for less stress and negative effects on the reproductive organs.
- Cruising Bike Seat – This type of bike seat provides the rider with a lot of cushion and support from end to end. Since this type of seat is designed for a cruiser where you are sitting upright, cushioning is typically over the entire area of the seat. These seats are usually wider than other styles since you are sitting dully on them for the majority of the ride. Some cruising seats are banana-shaped like the seats of long ago that were popular on children’s bikes and have a padded shell.
- Other Bike Seat Types – Other styles of bike seats include inflatable seats, seats that have air or water in them for cushioning, and seats that have a separate cushion for each cheek. Some bikes seats even have sheepskin for maximum comfort.
The Best Seats for Common Riding Positions
There are three main types of riding positions that riders use when on a bike. We have provided some information about these riding positions below along with the seat style that fits them the best.
- Upright Riding – The best bike seat for upright riding is the cruising seat. They are very wide, have springs that minimize bumps and rough terrain, and are fully padded. The rider who rides in the upright position has pretty much all of their weight on the seat so cushioning is very important. Cruising seats do well on cruiser bikes and some hybrids. Riders who ride cruisers usually ride at a very leisurely pace.
- Regular Riding – There are men and women specific designs that work well for those who engage in regular bike riding. The padding is usually medium to moderate and can be gel depending on the manufacturer. Regular bike seats can have ergonomic designs and can have cut outs or recesses in down the center for more comfort. The ideal riding style for these types of seats and this riding position is mountain bike, fitness riding, and touring bikes and usually involves a medium to fast pace pedaling speed. Regular riding positions involve sitting slightly forward to put some of the weight on the handlebars and foot pedals. It is more comfortable to find seats that have a narrow nose to avoid chaffing.
- Professional Riding – The best seat for those who engage in professional riding is a racing seat. There are women and men specific deigns available. These seats are the lightest and narrowest of all the seats. They will usually have some padding and have cut outs at the top and can be anatomic or ergonomic for additional comfort. Road bikes, tri bikes, racing mountain bikes, and road racing bikes most often fit this riding position. This position involves leaning forward, pedaling fast and hard and most of the weight is on the hand and foot pedals. It is the fact that so little time is spent directly on the seat that allows for the use of narrow, lightweight design of racing seats.
Choosing the right bike seat is nothing to take lightly if you spend a lot of time on your bike. With all of the different styles, designs, and brands, it can be difficult to choose one unless you know what you are looking for.
This guide has provided you with a lot of information on the types of seats available, the types of riding each seat is best suited for and a lot of other helpful information that will make narrowing the list much easier.
Buying a bike seat can be looked at as an investment if you spend a lot of time riding your bike. You want to enjoy the ride and not walk away sore, bruised, and not wanting to ride again. With all the advancements in design, it is much easier to find the perfect bike seat for your specific needs.