February 1, 2011
When it comes to picking out the right saddle for your bicycle, the options can seem overwhelming. That's partly because there really isn't one correct solution. Some prefer or need something softer; others, something firmer. Some riders comfortably ride the saddles their bikes come with for thousands and thousands and thousands of miles.
A lot of us, especially those of us who tour and spend extremely long days on our bikes, have to work a little to find the saddle we're comfortable with. Women-specific saddles generally have a cutout in the middle to relieve pressure on soft tissue, and are a little wider for added "sit bones" stability. Terry makes a ton of great saddles for women (and men), and has been at the forefront of female-specific cycling gear for years.
Of course, among the standbys for touring cyclists are the saddles from Brooks, which have been on the market for more than 100 years. Not for the faint of rear-end, the popular B17 flagship model usually takes about 500 miles to break in. At that point, it starts receiving reviews like, "At the risk of sounding pedantic, I will say that I will NEVER sit on any other brand of saddle henceforth," and "easily the most comfortable saddle I have owned."
It's important to keep in mind a few little things that can make all the difference. Proper seat height is very important, and personally I like to keep my saddle tilted slightly forward to relieve a little pressure. Any other suggestions?
Photo by Sarah Raz.
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One key issue you don't really mention is that the width of the saddle should match the width of your sit bones. Wider isn't necessarily better in this case, though women tend to have wider sit bones than men. Softer may not be better, either. Too much padding can distribute the pressure from your sit bones (which are designed to hold your weight) to other parts of your anatomy, with uncomfortable results. I recently switched from a wider, softer seat to a narrower, firmer one and I'm amazed at how much better it feels.
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It helps to soak Brooks saddles in neatsfoot oil before use. Simply wrap the saddle in tinfoil and pour in the whole bottle of oil. Let it soak for an hour or so. Remove it and let it drip overnight. Wipe it down the next morning. Leave it sit a couple more days, then, ride. Like a baseball glove, a Brooks needs oil to be supple.