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Bicycle saddle (seat) padding

Saddle fit [02] Saddle padding

Updated: 16/11/2018.

After a post about bicycle saddle materials, this post focuses on the saddle padding – it’s thickness and softness – and how to choose optimal padding type.

1. Too soft saddle can, and does hurt

Many cyclists, in order to find a comfortable saddle, make the mistake of choosing one with a too soft (and often too thick) padding. The problem with thisk soft padding is that, especially after a longer ride, it becomes uncomfortable – like a sofa that is too soft. How come?

After some riding time, muscles get stronger and used to the saddle. Then, a saddle that is too soft won’t provide support in the seat bone area, but gets squiched and puts pressure in the soft tissue are (prostate for men).

Seat bone area (red) and pubic area (green). Source: www.sq-lab.com
Picture 1
Seat bone area (red) and pubic area (green).
Source: www.sq-lab.com
Picture 2 Saddle that is too soft (left) Firm saddle (right) Source: https://www.cervelo.com/en/engineering-field-notes/the-four-and-a-half-rules-of-road-saddles
Picture 2
Saddle that is too soft (left)
Firm saddle (right)
Source: https://www.cervelo.com

In addition to not supporting weight properly, too soft padding chafes on the body while legs are moving during pedalling, causing more discomfort.

However, for short rides, especially if a rider isn’t very fit, or used to sitting on a saddle, a soft padded one could be a good choice. Although it often happens that at the beginning of the “season”, people buy a soft saddle – then, as they become more fit and start riding longer, they buy a new – less soft saddle. That is something to consider.

2. Too hard – the other extreme

The other extreme are saddles that are very hard, firm, almost without any padding. Such saddles can be a good choice for riders in good shape, riding in padded cycling shorts/tights. In fact, if riding in padded shorts, most saddle padding can be more harm than help (apart from adding needless weight). Padded shorts + hard saddle is usually more comfortable than a slightly softer saddle without a padded shorts.

The disadvantage of hard saddles is the afore mentioned – they get pretty uncomfortable without a padded shorts. That is why, for more leisured cycling (commuting, running errands etc.), or if one doesn’t ride in padded cycling clothes, it is often better to choose a saddle in between the two described extremes – neither too soft to cause discomfort, nor too hard to require special padded clothing.

Bicycle saddle shapes and their effect on comfort is explained in this post:
Bicycle saddle (seat) shape

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