Sizing Tips for Bike Saddles
Once you've got your bike dialed in, you'll want to spend a lot of time in the saddle. Improving your comfort and efficiency with a properly fitted and positioned saddle is an essential step to getting the best possible experience from your cycling workout. Sizing a saddle to your proportions can be done by yourself or by a professional bike fitter, and it's important to try several saddles until you find one that matches you just right.
Hunting for Sit Bones
The ideal contact point between you and your saddle is underneath your pelvic bones or sit bones, which are located underneath the flesh of your buttocks. You can feel your sit bones if you sit on a flat surface such as a table. The two firmest points underneath you are your sit bones, and the distance between them determines the best size for your saddle. You can measure this distance yourself, or you can go to a professional bike fitter to have the distance determined. Most saddles come pre-measured for different proportions. If you're a woman, women-specific saddles with a wider base usually match your proportions best.
Eliminating the Chafe
If you're experiencing chafing from pedaling in your saddle, you'll want a narrower nose. Saddles with a variety of measurements in the front are available without a reduction in the width where you contact with your sit bones. Because you'll be shifting forward and backward slightly in your saddle during your ride, this particular measurement can be key in reducing the inevitable soreness from chafing. A pair of cycling shorts made of smooth material such as Lycra can also reduce your chafe by providing a smooth contact point with your saddle.
Setting your seat to the right height is a key measurement for a good riding position. Lean your bike against a wall so you can mount it without tipping over, and drop your pedal to the lowest position in your cycling stroke, so the crank is pointed down at the floor. In this position, your knee should be just slightly bent and you shouldn't be reaching to place your foot on the pedal. Getting this position set will improve your cycling efficiency and eliminate pain in your knees and back during your ride.
Finding Your Tilt
The tilt of your seat is important for sizing up a good riding position. A seat that's tilted too far forward won't provide enough support, increasing pressure on your hands and wrists. If your saddle is tilted too far back, you'll experience pressure on the soft tissue between your legs from the nose of the saddle. Try and level your saddle perfectly with the ground. You can tilt it just slightly forward if your bicycle position is more aggressive, or if you commonly use aerobars for better aerodynamics during a race.
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.