On a sunny, comfortable day, there’s nothing better than hopping on your bike and going for a ride. Maybe you’re going to ride down to the park to play a pick-up basketball game with friends. Maybe there’s a new bike path around town that’s worth checking out.
No matter the reason, there’s no question that Americans love riding. More than 66 million people went cycling in the past year according to a 2018 survey. More than 100 million bikes are manufactured annually and there are twice as many bikes in the world (one billion) as there are motor vehicles.
No matter your experience level on a bike, you need to have the right tools when you go for a ride. A helmet is obviously an needed piece of equipment as is comfortable clothing. But when it comes to riding, a bicycle saddle might be the most important piece. After all, the saddle is what you’re going to be sitting on when you ride. Finding the right saddle can be a challenge because different saddles are made for different types of riding. Like a lot of things you buy, you’ll probably want to try a few out before you buy one.
The type of riding you do will likely determine the bike saddle you end up buying:
- Cushioned bike saddles work great for everyday riding. They have a lot of padding, so they provide a lot of comfort for rides around town.
- Performance saddles are great if you’re into road biking. Keep in mind that these bike saddles are narrower with less padding. This is because riders are often riding in tucked positions when doing road biking (think the biking seen in the Tour de France) since it gives them more power and cuts down on chafing.
- Mountain bikers should look for a bicycle saddle that’s mountain-specific. Because the conditions are rockier, bikers want something that provides padding and is durable.
Determining the right saddle for your preferred type of riding is important, but so is the type of cushioning for your bike saddle. After all, if you’re going to be spending hours on your bike, you want to be comfortable:
- Foam cushioning works great for road riding because it springs back to shape pretty easily. It doesn’t compact quickly and saddles with different degrees of firmness are available for riders to purchase.
- Like insoles for your shoes, gel cushioning provides probably the most comfort of any cushioning material. Gel cushioning conforms to a rider’s body and everyday riders have found this works great for after-dinner rides around the neighborhood. One thing to keep in mind though is that gel compacts quicker than foam does.
- Another option is a saddle pad, which can be put over a saddle for extra cushioning. It does offer comfort, but it probably won’t be as contained as a regular bike seat and may not give you comfort in areas where you’re wanting it.
Whether you’re looking at leather bike saddles, carbon saddles or some other type, here are three things to keep in mind before you plunk down money to buy one:
- Testing: Before buying anything, you want to make sure you’ve got a bike saddle that’s going to give you the comfort you want. That’s best determined by testing out a few bike saddles.
- The price: These days, there are bicycle saddles available by the dozen to buy in all sorts of materials and sizes. With that in mind, there are also a variety of prices depending on what you’re wanting to spend. Keep in mind that the price on a bike saddle goes up as the materials improve and the weight goes down.
- The rails: For novice riders, the rails are the two posts that connect a bike seat to the seat post. On general use bikes, the rails are usually made of chromoly, but performance bikes usually have titanium rails for their strength and flexibility.
With the right bicycle saddle, your everyday bike rides will be more enjoyable. You’ll feel great riding on a comfortable, padded seat and you’ll be doing your self a great service by getting a durable piece of essential equipment.