Upgrading Your Bike II: The Perfect Saddle

Last week we began a series of blog posts looking at the age old subject of how best to spice up your ride, improving both your comfort and your bikes aesthetic appeal thus encouraging you to ride for longer. 

In the first post I explained that we’d take a visually top down approach and thus we began by looking at the quality and aesthetics of your handlebar grips or bar tape. It was quickly pointed out to me that for many riders your saddle is far higher than your handle bars, and  I guess it’s a fair point. So here goes with our hints, tips and advice on saddle upgrades. 

1: The whole package

Remember that your saddle is one small but important part of a whole package including you and the rest of your bikes components, keeping that collaboration in mind is critically important to the success of your upgrade choice. At a very rudimentary level your choice of saddle needs to match your choice of grips/bar tape and the shape needs to be in keeping with the flow of the bike, but at another level the saddle also needs to work for you as a rider, you're search is for the perfect combination. 

2: Trust your experience

The joy of any upgrade is that you have one very big asset, namely a wealth of experience relating to what you already have. Try to drill down into that experience asking yourself what does and does not work about your existing saddle. Make your future choice based on the relentless pursuit of improvement in every area. Remember we’re in the realm of the entirely subjective what matters is that it works for you.

3: Drop the illusion

There’s not a week goes by when a customer doesn’t walk into the pod complaining of a hopelessly sore ass and of their need for an immediate change of saddle. Because we’re a company with a high ethical code this often means the need to broker a slightly awkward conversation.  

If you’re new to cycling and feel like your saddle is giving you some serious discomfort that may be only part of the picture. It is much more likely that the discomfort you feel is the result of working muscles in your rear which have lay dormant for far too long. 

In simple terms your bum needs to tone up and while some saddles will make this a little easier no saddle will solve the problem only time and persistence can do that. 

4: Forget brands and find friends

Brand obsession can so often and so tragically kill an otherwise amazing upgrade choice. Just because a particular brand has a particularly dominant reputation in one particular area does not mean that the brand or the saddles it produces are necessarily the right choice for you. 

What might help you is to listen to the experience of other riders with similar experience and a similar bike to yours noting what does and doesn’t work for them. At this point the temptation would be to tell you to try their saddle but that takes us on

5: Leather takes time

If you’re looking to make a serious investment then you’ll soon find yourself browsing through a selection of leather saddles. When these saddles are first fitted they can prove quite a surprise, leaving customers wondering what it is they’ve actually paid for. The secret is time, leather moulds into a very specific shape over time and use. Because every behind is different this can mean that riding on your friends saddle is grossly uncomfortable; do not however discount the saddle on that observation alone. 

6: Beware of chaffing

Fine, detailed stitching can look exquisite but if it leaves you with chaffing it would be best left on the shelf. 

7: It’s a sensitive subject

The physical area in question is often both a sensitive area and an area prone to heat build up for this reasons many manufacturers have found it helpful to include saddles with pressure relieving channels. Such things were once the preserve of elite riders but can now be found at a much more reasonable price. They don’t suit every ride or every rider but with all other things being equal they’re worthy of careful consideration.  

8: Gender Matters

When ever we run a training course saddle sore is the number one complaint from female participants, thankfully manufacturers have finally turned their R&D to the development of a female specific saddle range. In truth it’s a development long over due.  Women's saddles offer a shorter nose and are fractionally wider at the rear.

9: Be Bold

Gone are the days when your saddle was just the thing you sat on. Upgrading your saddle offers you the opportunity to be bold so do it. 

10: Fit

Once you purchased a new saddle you need to spend a little time making sure you correctly fit it. Don't rush this. The "it'll do" approach will soon come back to haunt you if not 'hurt you'.