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Choosing the right mountain bike saddle

October 21, 2020

Choosing the right saddle is to large degree very personal thing, but some general rules apply. Width, padding, size and shape of the saddle must be taken into the account.

Width

Width of the saddle is determined by two things. First, your anatomy: the distance between your sitting bones. Some manufacturers (Specialized, for example) offer same models of saddle in different widths and provide the LBS with appropriate tools to measure your behind. If the saddle is of the correct width, main pressure will be on the sitting bones. If the saddle is to narrow the pressure will be on the soft tissue between the bones, if the saddle is to wide it will scratch your thighs.

The second one is your position on the bike, the more upright you are the more wide saddle you need. Some manufacturers put appropriate charts/pictograms on the saddle package.

Padding

The harder – the better. If the saddle is hard – main contact points will be sitting bones and not the soft tissue between. If the saddle is to soft, you will sink into it and then saddle will press into your sensitive areas causing discomfort and even more serious problems. Hard padding might require some time to get used to - using bicycle shorts with chamois padding will help.

Shape

Very personal issue. Some prefer flat/straight saddles, some prefer saddles where bottom of the saddle slightly goes up (waved shape). For me flat saddles works best on the road bike. Waved shape saddles works best on the mountain bike where angle of the terrain goes to the extreme changes and position on the bike changes often. The raised back of the saddle gives extra support while peddaling uphill. Also, fatter nose of the saddle is needed on the mountain bike because you might found your self on the steep hills on which you will pedal while sitting more to the front of the saddle.

San Marco waved and flat saddlesSan Marco waved and flat saddles

I prefer the shapes with the hole in the middle to completely remove the pressure on the sensitive parts, but some find the borders of the hole annoying.

Saddles from Specialized, San Marco, Sella Italia, Fizik, Ergon and SQLab, to name a few,  usually come highly recommended.

Mountain bike discipline is also important factor. For freeride/DH you need stronger saddle that can take abuse and hard landing, for jump bike you need small saddle that will be out of the way.