How to Choose the Right Saddle

NEWS FLASH: You don’t have to be uncomfortable riding your bike!

Many women think saddle pain is just an unfortunate side effect of cycling. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. For sit bone pain and any women’s bike seat pain, there’s a solution! If you’ve been dreading time in the saddle. We have a ton of tips that can help you deal with your discomfort.

One of the most important things you can do to ride more comfortably is find a saddle that is right for you. "Choice of seat is also very important. I don’t want to recommend just one brand, as you should pick your own based on your anatomy," Liv ambassador Radka Kahlefeldt explains. She's exactly right: If there was a single saddle that worked for everyone, life would be a lot easier. But different body types and anatomies come into play here. Bike seat pain for females is common, but doesn't have to be.

If your saddle isn't comfortable, here are the main things to consider:

Saddle width: Your saddle width isn't determined by your height or weight, but rather by your bone structure. Many bike shops now have a measuring device that you can sit on to find out the width of your sit bones. (Width of your sit bones has very little to do with your size: This writer is a 5'4" 125 pound woman with larger sit bones than her 5'11" 270 pound father, for context.) That width is important because you want a saddle that allows your sit bones to be entirely on the saddle, but not so far in that you end up compressing them together as you pedal. Once you have that measurement, you can choose saddles that are in the correct range for you.

Saddle type: Some women prefer a cut-out saddle, which means there's a divot in the middle. For some women, this alleviates pressure on sensitive tissues and feels more comfortable. However, some women may find that it pinches awkwardly. You'll want to try a few styles for a couple rides to find what's right for you.

Minimal padding: If your saddle and your bike shorts fit properly, you shouldn't need a seat with a lot of padding, and definitely shouldn't need to add a pad over your saddle. Too much padding is a bad thing: When you pedal, your sit bones are seeking a surface to press into, and if you have a lot of padding, you may actually be putting more pressure on sensitive tissues, not less.

Different saddles: It's actually a great idea to mix up your saddles if you ride different bikes. Your position on your mountain bike won't be the same as on your road bike, so what works for one may not work for the other. And switching saddles regularly also ensures that you're shifting which areas are getting the most pressure during a ride.

Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website. She also coaches running and cycling, as well as yoga both online and IRL in Collingwood, Ontario.

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