The bicycle seat is a sophisticated invention that took some 150 years to perfect. But yet, they are probably the most maligned component in the entire field of sport. All problems one develops from the prostate to lumbar are heaped on the bicycle seat as if it were some conniving trouble maker. A good analogy is a pair of shoes. They need to fit your feet, not cause discomfort, suit your style of gait or whatever special-purpose you acquired them for. A bicycle seat must be expertly set to suit your body size and riding style. We will take a look at the many different types of bicycle seats out there in the market and look into their merits and demerits in this guide.
Different Types of Bicycle Seats
There is nothing random about the design of a bike saddle. It has evolved along with bicycle design and bike styles. Inventors and innovators discovered early enough that a comfortable seat was very desirable for each type of bikes such as a comfort bicycle, an MTB, a BMX and more. Though it may not look like it, a bike seat is a clever piece of engineering. The long narrow shape allows the rider to pump his legs at high rpm; the back just broad enough for pelvic support and minimal padding to absorb shocks.
1. Racing Saddles
This design allows freedom of movement and the eradication of chafing. They are thinner, harder and lightweight. Racers stoop low to avoid wind resistance, to facilitate which, riders on these seats have their weight on the forward part and transferred to the feet and hands with less on the seat. A racing saddle can also be without a nose, or cutaway, which greatly helps in taking off pressure on sensitive tissues.
The rails may be of titanium or carbon to keep down weight.
2. Comfort Saddles
Comfort saddles, as the name implies, are wide, have substantial padding and are designed for long-distance rides with moderate pedaling. The padding somewhat acts as a shock absorber, which is quite needed as you traverse bumpy country roads and trails. These are ideal for the female anatomy as they are wide with a brief nose and center relief from the cutout.
3. Cruiser Saddles
Cruiser saddles are supported at both ends and are amply cushioned. Cruiser handlebars are upright and therefore most of the weight is on the saddle. Cruising as the name implies means a relaxed, easy ride with light pedaling such as commuter riding.
The most common type of cruiser saddle is the banana saddle pictured below. Other than cruisers, it is ideal for kids’ bicycles too.
4. Mountain Bike Saddle
A mountain bike is of necessity used in rough terrain where both bike and body take some beating and require a lot of body shifting such as sliding to the back of the saddle going downhill or shifting forward on a climb.
They are fairly narrow with medium padding to dampen jolts and blows. The rear of the saddle is shaped to move back easily and the nose has a downward slope to assist in moving forward.
Gel seats are hugely favored by weekend riders and those who bike for short distances. The gel pads your sit bones and distributes the weight evenly. The riding position is upright so you can take in the scenic beauty of your weekend outing. Normal, padded seats irritate the groin, chaff and cause numbness in the legs over long distances. A gel saddle is both shock-absorbing as well as it molds itself to your body contours. Though gel is heavier, the seats come in both light and heavy models. They are often wider throughout. Some feature bumps to support the sit bones.
6. Suspension Saddle
The suspension mechanism is built into the underside of the seat. Its main purpose is to suspend the bike and rider thus isolating them from uneven terrain. They are typically used in mountain bikes and also on hybrid bicycles.
They are narrow and lightweight.
7. Cutaway Saddle
The cutaway saddle has evolved to reduce the discomforts associated with biking; irritation, pain, numbness, etc. Especially the nose is a big bother as it digs into the groin area. By removing material from the saddle top, pressure points are eliminated. Some have cutouts or holes. They come in different models; mountain bike, gel, performance. etc.
8. Wide / Cushion Saddle
The riding style defined by users of wide/cushion saddles would be easy, unaggressive pedaling. The posture is upright, the handlebars are at the same level as the seat or higher and your full weight is on the saddle.
These sides are wide all through, especially the back. Amply padded, they sometimes have inbuilt springs on the underside. They are the heaviest of all saddles.
9. All-Leather Saddle
All-leather saddles are very aesthetic, expensive and will need to be broken in. Also, they should be covered to protect from wet weather, so keep a plastic cover handy. They are of medium weight and wide at the back. They absorb body heat. The seat is mounted on a metal frame and the leather seat is both the padding as well as the shell. Once broken in, it adapts to body contours giving a customized feel. All-leather seats have longevity.
10. Noseless Saddle
These seats are light to medium weight. They are centerline cleft, noseless and are gender-specific.
11. Gender-Specific Saddles
The picture features a gel saddle with a reduced centerline suitable for women. Because of differing pelvic structures, generally speaking, men saddles are narrow and long; women, wider and short.
All manufacturers offer saddles for men or women. There is nothing wrong for a woman to use a man saddle as long as she does fine with it and finds it comfortable. If you want added comfort from your cycle, you can make your bike seat more comfortable in a few easy steps.
The foot doesn’t fit the shoe, it’s the other way around. You should choose a saddle for your body size, shape and importantly, style of riding. Then again you may have the perfect seat but it feels awful. Why? You have not set it properly. Now that you have garnered some knowledge of the different saddle types, be sure to try different models to figure out what works best for you.