We all know that the anatomy of women and men are different. So it is only logical to assume that they will need different kinds of bike seats. But is this true? Do women and men actually need different bike saddles? If so, how do they compare? Truth be told, there actually isn’t a significant difference when it comes to bike seats for men and women. Keep reading this article to find out the details about gender-specific bike saddles.
Differences between women’s and men’s bike saddles
In a 2008 study, researchers have found that there is a difference in how pressure is distributed on a saddle for men and women. The results showed that for males, the pressure was more evenly distributed while for females, there are two distinct centers of pressure at the sit bones and that the sit bones width was larger. Furthermore, when riders moved from the tops to the drops of the handlebars, the pressure shifted to the anterior region much more drastically for women than for men.
In the following points, we have explained some general differences in the design of a saddle for men and women. However, it is important to note that these might not conform to everyone’s needs. Also, you should always pick a saddle that best suits you instead of looking for a gender-specific one.
Women tend to have wider hips than men. This translates to a larger width between the ischial tuberosities, more commonly known as the sit bones. We know that when sitting on a saddle, your weight should act through the sit bones. Therefore, a female rider might find a wider saddle to fit better. However, not all women will need wide saddles, while some men might. It’s always a good idea to get your sit bones width measured and buy a saddle according to that.
Cut-outs or relief channels
Almost all women-specific saddles out there will have a cut-out, groove, or relief channel. This is because women often face more pressure in the soft tissues region as proven by the research mentioned above. Men can go with either cut-out or no cut-out. That’s not to say that every single female cyclist will feel comfortable using some sort of a relief channel. Again, we urge you to try out different saddle designs and see what works best for you.
The design of the saddle nose is especially important for cyclists who frequently ride in an aggressive position. When you lean forward, your pelvis also rolls forward. In this position, there is a higher chance of putting more pressure on the soft tissues. We have already said that this is more of a problem for women and therefore, they might need a saddle with a split nose. Additionally, women’s saddles tend to have shorter noses than men’s saddles. This is more related to height rather than gender and hence, shorter men might also need a short nose.
Bike saddle position for men and women
Ideal saddle positioning is dependent upon two main factors – riding style and body size. Saddle position according to riding style is a topic for another time. Let’s stick to rider’s size as that is more relevant to our discussion. The reason we keep saying size and not height is that the ratio of leg length to torso height varies from person to person. If you have long legs, you will have to set the saddle at a higher position. Similarly, if you have a tall upper body or long arms, your saddle should be further back on the bike.
Since women are, on average, shorter than men, the saddle might need to be set lower and more forward on the bike. That being said, most women have long legs compared to their upper body, and so the saddle height difference may not be much between men and women. Just remember that these are not hard and fast rules, but more of a generalisation.
How to pick the right saddle
Picking the right saddle is not really a simple task. And it normally requires quite a bit of trial and error before you find the “one”. The first thing you should do is identify what requirements you have and what problems you are facing with your current saddle. If there aren’t any issues, then it will be wise to stick to your current one. Believe us, a lot of riders would be jealous of that. In case you do need a new saddle, here are some of the primary factors to take into consideration:-
- Cycling Discipline: Different riding styles demand different properties from bike saddles. Road bike saddles are typically narrow and long, with minimal padding. Triathlon saddles are similar but might have a split nose or no nose at all. Saddles for mountain biking are sturdier and have a more durable cover. They also have more padding to absorb impacts over rough terrain. Town bikes or leisure bikes will have a large saddle with plush padding, which works fine for short rides but is not so great on longer rides.
- Width: The right saddle width depends on the individual rider’s sit bones width. If they do not correspond, there is a risk of causing long-term saddle soreness and damaging your soft tissues. First you have to measure your sit bones width which can be done at any bike shop. Then you can buy a saddle of a suitable width. You should be able to tell whether your weight is acting on your sit bones or not.
- Riding Position: Your usual body posture while cycling is also a key determiner of the kind of saddle you need. On a leisurely ride, you might sit upright on the bike. However, during a race you will be leaning forward for better aerodynamics. The more you lean forward, the more of your weight is shifted from the ischial tuberosities to the pubic rami which are closer together. Meaning, you are gonna need a narrower saddle.
- Materials: The material choice will mainly come down to your budget. For the shell, which is the main structure, you can get a cheap plastic or rubber shell, or an expensive carbon fiber one. When it comes to rails, steel is a solid choice. Meanwhile, carbon rails are much lighter but also stiffer and pricier. The cover can be synthetic or made of natural leather which is expensive but more comfortable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How does bike fit vary for women?
Ans.: Even though manufacturers advertise some of their bikes as women specific bikes, in reality, the difference between these and men’s bikes are minimal. The only differences are in terms of size. On a women’s bike, the top tube and stem are shorter, the handlebars are narrower, and the pedal cranks may also be shorter. All of this is due to the fact that female riders are on average smaller than their male counterparts. Sometimes you’ll find that a medium women’s bike of a brand is the same size as their small men’s bikes. Therefore, you should just look for a bike that fits you rather than one specific to your gender.
Q2. Can men ride a women-specific bike?
Ans.: As we have stated previously, the most important aspect of a bike is how well it fits you. Since the differences between men and women specific bikes are not significant, there is no reason why a male rider cannot use a women’s bike. In fact, a women’s bike might turn out to be a better fit for some men who are shorter than average. In that case, you can simply switch out any component that you don’t find suitable, such as the saddle.
In conclusion, regardless of whether you are a male or female rider, a bike saddle is something that will vary for every person. We have listed some general differences that you will notice among women’s and men’s saddles. However, you should not focus too much on these details when you actually go to buy one. The most important thing is to find a saddle that works for you, your body, and your riding style.