Are Wide Bike Seats Always More Comfortable?

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A bike seat, more commonly known as a saddle, plays a key role in your comfort on the bike. Therefore, it is important to get a saddle with the proper fitting. Wider bike seats are not necessarily more comfortable. This is a common misconception that many people have and it really depends on what type of riding you will be doing. Narrow racing saddles may look uncomfortable, but a wider seat results in friction between the saddle and thighs as you pedal a lot, causing chafing. As a rule of thumb, a saddle should be thinner if you are pedaling a lot on your rides. Read through this article to get detailed information regarding different types of saddles, how to choose one, and how to improve comfort.

An overweight person gets it difficult to find a suitable seat for himself. Our team has tested and reviewed some of the most comfortable bike seats in the market that big bottom people can pick for themselves.

Wide bike seat
Wide bike seat | Credit: unsplash.com

Tips for choosing ideal extra-wide bike saddle

Think carefully before deciding to purchase wide saddles. Wide bike saddles should only be opted for if you have a wide sit bones width, or if you ride occasionally or for cruising. If you believe that you definitely need a wide saddle, then here is some advice on how to go about buying one.

1. Personal preference

Start by considering your own body. Everyone has different anatomy and saddle preferences can vary a lot. The saddle must be able to support your sit bones perfectly. Also, consider whether you need a groove/cut-out or not. Some people prefer them, some people don’t. Finally, you might want to get a breathable fabric for ventilation on the saddle if you feel it gets too hot.

It is tough for overweight people to find the right saddle for themselves. Know what kind of bike seat a big bottom guy should choose.

Saddle with cut out
Saddle with cut out

2. What is it built from?

Next, you think about the materials used to make the seat. You can choose from synthetic and natural leather, waterproof and not waterproof, gel padding and foam padding, or even no padding at all. Don’t make the mistake of buying the softest and most cushioned saddle out there. Initially, it might feel great, but just like width, softer is not always better. On long rides especially, soft seats do not provide enough support and it becomes really uncomfortable. So, choose the right hardness by testing it out beforehand.

Difference in padding
Differences in padding

3. Design & Structure

The overall structure of the saddle is also important. Of course, there is the width for proper support. But there are also other aspects such as the suspension, attachment system, nose length, etc. There is also the matter of how much curvature a saddle has, some being flat while others have a wavy shape when viewed from the side. Take all of these into account and see which works best for you and your bike.

Types of bike saddles

The choice of the saddle not only depends on your body structure but also what sort of riding you do. According to the cycling type, bike saddles can vary quite a bit in design and structure. Broadly speaking, we can categorize saddles into three main types:-

1. Performance saddles

Sometimes called racing saddles, performance saddles are the ones used by advanced and professional riders. These saddles look the most uncomfortable. They are narrow, lightweight, and often have little to no padding, with road saddles being at the end of the spectrum. Mountain bike saddles are similar, but generally have a bit more padding to absorb all the bumps from the rough terrain. These saddles are designed this way to allow for maximum movement of the thighs while pedaling without causing any chafing. You can also sit leaning forward on them if needed.

Performance saddle
Performance saddle

2. Comfort saddles

A comfort saddle is slightly wider and features more padding than performance saddles. You will find these sorts of saddles on touring or commuter bikes where the rider will probably be on the bike for long periods of time. Hence, the added comfort is necessary. However, they are not so wide that you have difficulty pedaling for long periods of time.

Comfort saddle
Comfort saddle

3. Cruiser saddles

The final category is a type called cruiser saddles. These are the widest and offer the most cushioning for your bum. Cruiser saddles are found most commonly on recreational bikes, town bikes, or kid’s bikes. They are designed to provide comfort on short, leisurely rides around the block where you will mostly be sitting upright on the bike. Since you most likely will not be pedaling hard on these bikes, the extra width does not pose much of a problem.

Cruiser saddle
Cruiser saddle

Saddle for riding styles

Whenever you go out to buy a new saddle, you will find that they are categorized according to cycling discipline. It’s best to get an appropriate saddle for your riding style even if it does not seem too comfortable. Just try them out, there’s a reason behind the specific designs. The most common categories for which you will find bike saddles are:-

  • Road cycling

  • Mountain biking

  • Touring

  • Commuting

  • Recreational cycling

Features

A bike saddle is made out of multiple components that all come together to impart specific properties into the saddle. It is a good thing to know about these parts before you go out to buy a new saddle.

Saddle parts
Saddle parts

  • Shell

The shell is the primary structure to which all other parts are attached and hence, it determines the shape of a saddle. Typically they are made out of high-density resin. Higher-end saddles with carbon fiber shells that are lighter can also be found.

  • Cover

This is the topmost part which ‘covers’ the saddle. It could either be made of synthetic or natural leather which is more expensive. Also, the surface of the cover could be slick or coarse. Many riders such as mountain bikers may have to move around sometimes on the saddle, requiring a slick cover. Meanwhile, road cyclists or time-trial athletes will find a coarse cover more advantageous as they need to stay firmly in position.

  • Rails

The rails are found on the underside of a saddle. This part is used to attach to the seat post. Rails could either be solid or hollow. Steel, titanium, Chromoly alloy, and carbon are the most commonly used materials for rails. Steel and Chromoly are heavy but cheap whereas carbon and titanium are lighter but pricier.

  • Suspension

This is a feature found in some saddles, not all. Components of suspension include parts such as elastomers or springs to help absorb vibrations. If they are not on your saddle, you could buy a bike with suspension built-in.

  • Cushioning

Cushioning or padding could either be present on a saddle or not depending on the saddle’s intended use. When they are available, you have two choices – gel or foam. Generally, gel padding is softer and better suited for less intense forms of cycling. Foam padding, made out of polyurethane, is usually harder but it is also found in a range of varying softness.

Quality & Price Range

Bike saddles are available in a really wide range of prices. You can find a seat for as low as $20 or as high as $250 or more. So, what do you get with increasing prices? The main advantage of a more expensive saddle is that it will have higher quality materials and will most likely be lighter in weight. These materials will last longer, be more comfortable, and reduce the overall weight of the bike. These include carbon rails, natural leather for the cover, or padding that can better conform to your body shape. We do not recommend trying too much to save money while buying a saddle. Be prepared to spend $50 or more. A poor saddle can completely take the fun out of cycling and it is very much worth it to have a high-quality one.

Tips for improving comfort

So, you now have all the know-how of what to look for in a saddle and you are confident that you can find the right one. Regardless of this, a very long ride in tough conditions can cause discomfort and soreness, even with the perfect saddle. Not to worry, here are some tips that you can employ to make things easier:-

  • Every 10-15 minutes, stand up on the pedals for a short while.
  • When passing over bumps, stand up slightly and let your legs absorb the shocks.
  • If you are a predominantly off-road cyclist, try getting full-suspension for the seat post.
  • Add some padded cycling shorts to your biking gear. They can not only soften the bumps but also wick moisture and reduce friction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can a bike seat be too wide?

Ans.: Yes, it can. If a bike seat is too wide, it will interfere with the movement of your thighs as you pedal. This will cause chafing which is not something you want. A bike saddle should correspond to the width of your ischial tuberosities, aka the sit bones. It’s a good idea to measure your sit bones width before buying a saddle. You can do this by simply heading to your nearest bike shop. They will be more than helpful and have special devices to take this measurement. You can use the following table to get a rough idea about what saddle width is suitable for you.

Sit Bone Width Range (mm)Recommended saddle width range (mm)
(According to riding position)
UprightModerateAggressive
70 - 90125 - 140120 - 130120 - 130
90 - 110135 - 150125 - 140125 - 140
110 - 130145 - 160135 - 150135 - 150
> 130> 160> 150> 150

Q2. Do bike seats get more comfortable?

Ans.: Yes they do if you have found the right one. New riders will often complain about their saddles being too uncomfortable. Many will make the mistake of switching saddles after just a couple of rides, thinking that they have not yet found the right one. However, the truth is that even if you have found the perfect bike saddle, it will still take a bit of time to get used to. When trying out a new saddle, you should always give your body a few days to stop feeling soreness.

Conclusion

Hopefully, now you understand that wider is not always better. Buying a saddle is an important decision and one that must be well thought out. Be sure to take your time before taking a final decision. The best advice we can give you is to visit a bike shop. They will be able to guide you and some even let you try out saddles before buying.

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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