There are three main points of contact between you and your bike when you are riding it: hands, feet and your bottom. And the majority of the pressure that is exerted by your body goes through the seat itself.
Not only that, your bottom is also responsible for your overall balance and stability of your ride.
So it comes to no surprise that the majority of discomforts experienced by cyclists originate from the saddle, even for the smallest of reasons.
Since bike saddles were originally created with men in mind, these discomforts have become especially true for women since they are anatomically different from men and have slightly different needs. Thus, seat discomfort is possibly the biggest reason why many women shy away from pursuing their hobby in cycling.
Good news for the women out there however, manufacturers of bike saddles have taken notice and are now producing women specific saddles of all shapes and sizes.
Choosing the right saddle still becomes a very difficult affair. Understanding that no two people are the same is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your picks. Your also have to ask yourself:
- How do you sit on your bike?
- What physical features of the saddle are good for your bottom?
- What is your budget range?
These are broad questions with each having many sub-factors within them.
These questions and their many factors are exactly what we are going to be discussing today in this article in hopes to guide you, or at least give you the information necessary, to help you make the right choice of bike seat for your womanly needs.
How Do You Choose a Women’s Bike Seat?
1. How Do You Sit?
The first and foremost thing that you have to think about is your sitting style. We have found that there are three factors that influence this.
Sit Bones Width
Sit bones, or ischial tuberosities, are the primary pelvic bones that rest upon the saddle, and it can be different for every single person. The whole point of a comfortable saddle is to make your sit bones feel comfortable.
So it is imperative to get your sit bones measured before getting yourself a new saddle.
You can measure it at home (jump to the FAQ section of this article or watch this video:
or take help of professionals at your local bike shop. Fizik, Specialized and Selle all have the tools necessary.
Tip: DO NOT wear your jeans while measuring your sit bones. Wear your bike shorts or a thin or tight pair of regular shorts to get the most accurate result.
A research done by Cobb Cycling has found that there is a correlation between the physical shape of a woman’s vulva (termed as ‘innie’ or ‘outie’) to the type of saddle they are probably likely to go for.
To summarize, innies have more flexibility when it comes to choosing the shape and size of the saddle, whereas outies tend to prefer more comfort on their seat, like with a larger cut out or a wider nose.
Your sitting position is highly influenced by the riding discipline that you are into.
If you are casually riding on your Dutch bike or commuting to your work, it is likely that you are cycling upright and most of the pressure is felt by your bottom. So some extra padding is the way to go. A cool gel padding will do wonders in that case over foam.
If you are riding off-road, again, some form of cushioning is called for, but not too much. You might also want to look at options with springs attached to the rails to absorb the shocks experienced in mountain biking.
➥ Here are some suitable saddles for women for MTB riding.
For road racing, it is common to see cyclists aggressively lean over on the handles to be more aerodynamic. In such cases it will be good to focus on saddle nose length and cut outs that provide you with maximum comfort, without compromising performance of course.
➥ For road cycling, check out our best selections of Saddles for Women Road biking.
2. Physical Features To Look Out For
When looking to buy a new saddle, it is important to understand the various options and their individual traits that are available to you. We will be focusing on the three that stand out and are most likely to affect your riding performance and overall experience.
Padding is the easiest way to make your bike seat more comfortable. Depending on your budget you can opt for regular foam padding or go for the more performance based and cool gel layers.
While it does make riding a bike seem more comfortable, longer cycling sessions are more than likely to distort the soft padding and make your sit bones directly hit the solid frame of the saddle, increasing your discomfort.
For such rides you can opt for a saddle with a firmer padding, like leather, or a new more premium 3D printed mesh.
But understand that your saddle is not an armchair and some discomforts are expected.
A key factor to look out for in any women specific saddle are the channels or cut outs. Women’s saddles are more inclined towards cut outs, so the cut out shape is what you should be focusing on.
As mentioned previously, women in general have two types of soft tissue variants that will influence their saddle, specifically the cut out design.
Depending on your self-assessed soft tissue variant you may want to choose your bike saddle cut out that provides the most comfort in the long run.
A common feature to take note of on both men and women’s bike seats. Rails help support your saddle on top of your bike and bear the brunt of your weight.
From the standard to the premium, we have saddle rails made of steel, manganese, alloy, titanium and carbon fiber.
As a general rule of thumb, the more premium you go the more expensive and lightweight your saddle will be.
But premium doesn’t always mean better. Carbon rails, while ultra-light, can be very stiff. That might be a source of discomfort on rough roads or tracks, especially if you are planning on going off-road like mountain biking gravelling. In such cases, flexible titanium rails will do wonders absorbing shock.
3. What Should My Budget Look Like?
The range of the amount you can spend on your saddle is awfully large. It generally depends on how you are going to be using it.
If you are cycling for longer periods of time, like commuting daily, or you are into competitive cycling, like time trials or triathlons, it is definitely worth to spend a little extra.
So you can ask, what does this extra investment get me?
To that we answer:
- Ultra lightweight and stiff rails made of carbon.
- Gel padding to keep your bottom cool even on the hottest of days.
- High quality synthetic or leather covering that is resistant to weathering and chafing.
- High performance design to give you that competitive edge
Incorporating of this might make you not notice the presence of your saddle while riding, and that is a good thing.
But it is not like going budget is bad. There are multitude of budget women specific saddle options that even professionals utilize. As long as you have found the bike saddle that suits your needs, you will be good to go.
Final Words: Pro Tips
It goes without saying that that was a lot of information to go through, all stemming from the single desire to find the right saddle for yourself.
Unless you are an experienced cyclist, arming yourself with all of this information is not enough.
Here are some extra pro tips from us to you:
Get a good pair of shorts. Getting more padding for your saddle is not the only way to achieve more comfort. Many cycling shorts come with inlaid padding to not only provide more comfort for your nethers, but also protect them from chafing. Just make sure the fit you snugly, not tightly.
Test your saddle out. Go to your local bike shop and test some seats out. This is the most foolproof way to find the best type of saddle for riding style and bottom. That coupled with the information we have provided, you can’t go wrong.
That said, hope you find the perfect bike seat for yourself soon and experience a whole new dimension in cycling.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) How do you measure your sit bones at home?
Ans.: To get started, you are going to need a small piece of cardboard/aluminum foil, a marker/chalk and a measuring tape. Once you have those, follow these steps:
- Place the cardboard/foil on top of a stair/bench and sit on top of it.
- Lift both of your legs up to mimic the upper stroke of the pedal. This helps your sit bones to indent the cardboard/foil.
- Mark the center of the indentations on the cardboard/foil with the marker/chalk.
- Measure the two points, preferably in millimeters (mm). This is your sit bone width.
To find the perfect saddle, add 20-30 mm to that measurement.
Q2) Is a wide bike seat more comfortable?
Ans.: Yes. Wider bike seats are able to cover a larger surface area of your bottom to provide more stability and comfort. They also can come with extra padding to enhance that comfort.
However, these types of seats are only great for long casual rides or very short ones. Aggressive or competitive cycling on these seats will only create more friction causing discomfort and chafing.