If you don't have the right bike saddle, cycling can be more of a chore than a joy. Different riders have different needs, which means that you need to take a number of important factors into consideration when choosing a saddle. In addition to the type of riding you plan to do (road vs. mountain, casual vs. competitive), you need to think about your own body and which style will be most comfortable.
If you're ready to get a new bike saddle, then read on. We've created this useful buying guide and even added a few reviews at the end, including our spotlight pick, the Brooks England B17 Standard Bike Saddle. You're not likely to find a more comfortable saddle, as its design has remained unchanged for over 100 years.
Considerations when choosing bike saddles
Bike saddle types
While some saddles are designed for all-around use, others are engineered for a particular type of riding. The three most common saddle types are comfort, mountain, and road.
Comfort saddles are generally intended for casual use. They are softer and more comfortable than the other types and suitable for a leisurely ride around town.
Mountain bike saddles are more narrow than comfort saddles. They also have less padding than their comfort counterparts.
Road saddles offer the least amount of padding of the three. They are designed for long-distance road rides. These saddles are firm and lightweight, making them ideal for distance riding.
Cover: The outer shell of the saddle is usually made of a synthetic material, although some touring bike saddles are made from genuine leather. Leather is the most durable and comfortable saddle cover material, though most synthetic options — especially carbon fiber — do just fine for most users.
Cushioning: Most saddle cushioning is made of either foam or gel. Foam lasts longer than gel in most cases. Although many road bike saddles have little or no cushioning, they're designed to keep you in your seat for long distances. So, don't let their hard exterior scare you.
Hull: The hull is essentially the skeleton that gives the saddle its shape. Most hulls are made from plastic, though more expensive models may include a carbon-fiber hull. The shape of the hull is more important than the material, though, as it dictates how the saddle fits against your body.
Rails: The rails are the two metal bars between the saddle and the seat post. While these are usually made from steel, pricier models may use titanium, which is more lightweight and durable than steel.
Comfort is the most important factor to consider when choosing a bike saddle. After all, if you can't walk after taking a ride, then you probably won't be taking another one any time soon.
Male vs. female saddles
Some bike saddles are designed specifically to fit certain bodies. While getting a gender-specific saddle isn't necessarily a requirement, it's the best option for some. Male saddles usually have a more narrow tail, while female saddles have a wider tail.
Most bike saddles cost between $10 and $100. Saddles on the lowest end of the scale usually have plastic hulls and gel cushioning. A $50 saddle may include a carbon fiber hull. For $100, you should be able to get a lightweight, highly durable saddle that includes a high-quality cover made of leather or carbon fiber.
Q. Do I need professional help to install a new bike saddle or can I do it myself?
A. While it's perfectly fine to get help from a bike shop to install your saddle, most users should be able to install it themselves. Most saddles come with easy-to-follow instructions and any tools that you may need.
Q. Will carbon fiber saddles be too slippery for me?
A. They shouldn't be. While carbon fiber saddles are somewhat slick, they are that way by design. They create less friction than other covers, allowing your legs to move freely while you peddle.
Bike saddles we recommend
Best of the best: Brooks England's B17 Standard Bike Saddle
Our take: This model has remained virtually unchanged for over a century. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
What we like: Hard saddle is great for sports touring enthusiasts. Breaks in over time and adjusts to fit your body. Male and female models available.
What we dislike: Roughly 100-mile break-in period.
Best bang for your buck: Cloud-9's Sunlite Bicycle Suspension Cruiser Saddle
Our take: A great saddle for both on- and off-road riders.
What we like: One of the most comfortable saddles on the market. Dual density gel foam and chrome coil spring suspension keep you pain free and happy for hundreds of miles.
What we dislike: Some found it difficult to mount the seat on a rail clamp.
Choice 3: Outerdo's Mountain Bike Saddle
Our take: This model on the softer side is great for short rides and beginners.
What we like: Pressure-relieving center cutout also improves airflow. Works great for both road cycling and mountain biking.
What we dislike: Can become uncomfortable while distance riding.
Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.