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Saddle Sizing

The importance of getting the right bike saddle for you is the key for comfortable and fun cycling, but this can be a minefield. With so many shapes, styles, the sheer volume of options available can be overwhelming.

Whether you’re a road, gravel or mountain biker, and whatever your gender, we’ll help you find the right saddle for your riding needs.

A comfortable saddle is crucial for riders of all cycling disciplines because, unless you’re a downhill mountain biker, BMX or trials rider, it’s something you’re going to spend a lot of time on.

There are few other aspects of cycling that are so personal, and the perfect saddle for one rider could be akin to a torture device for another.

Not only do our individual shapes and sizes determine what will suit us best, but also riding style, discipline and overall level of flexibility. With so much to think about, finding the right bike saddle can be daunting, especially with so many different saddle models, sizes and shapes on offer.

A bike saddle doesn’t only give you something to perch on but is also one of the three crucial contact points with your bike that can affect its overall perceived ride quality.

A well-fitted saddle should enable you to get the most out of your ride, whether that’s sustained power efforts, riding for days on end or getting you to the trailhead, you should be able to do all of this free from discomfort. If you find the right saddle for you, it can feel genuinely empowering.

It’s a common myth that bike saddles are inherently uncomfortable, which can, unfortunately, put people off riding altogether. A suitable saddle shouldn’t cause any discomfort at all: no numbness, pain, chafing or pinching. 

Like a great pair of bib shorts, a good saddle for you is the one you don’t notice is there.

If you’re relatively new to cycling, it’s important to stress that it can take some time for your body to get used to being in the saddle for sustained periods of time. 

Just like that aching feeling you might get from your first visit back to the gym after a while, you have to build a degree of strength and resilience to be comfortable. 

The good news is, providing your saddle is right for you, your body will soon adapt to your new position in the saddle. However, if you’re still suffering with saddle pain after the first few weeks then it would be wise to look to get a Professional Bike Fit as many complaints of Saddle Discomfort when its purely down to the position on the Bike.

Just like when sitting on a chair, it is the sit bones at the lowest point in the pelvis that support the body’s weight, and these are crucial for saddle fit. When in the riding position, the perineal area for men and the pubic bone arch for women may also rest on the saddle.

Although these areas can hold a small amount of weight, pressure reduction here is critical to avoid numbness and pain that results from this nerve and blood vessel-rich area.

Sit bone widths vary between individuals, and therefore saddle manufacturers often produce models in a range of widths. Also, statistically speaking, women have wider hips than men, so they on average also have wider sit bones and require wider saddles, although recent research  has shown that the difference is quite small.

If your saddle is too narrow, you might experience undue pressure on the sit bones or unevenness in the saddle. If you go too wide, you risk chafing.

Differences between saddles for different disciplines relate mostly to riding position, which not only depends on what type of bike you’re riding but also how you ride it.

A road cyclist competing in a road race is likely to have a much more aggressive position compared to a road cyclist on a long-distance tour, for example.

This position then relates to the rider’s hip angle, which will affect how the pelvis interacts with the saddle, and hence what shape is best.

For faster-paced efforts and more aerodynamic positions such as those found in road riding and triathlons, flatter, longer saddles tend to work best.

On the other hand, curved-profile saddles are often favoured by riders in a more upright endurance position, more commonly used by gravel riders, commuters or trail riders.

Aside from saddle shape, you may find that some saddles designed for off-road riding have features designed to reduce trail vibrations, such as flexible wing panels or more compliant shells.

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How are women’s saddles different?

Although some female riders are comfortable on unisex saddles (or vice versa!), a lot of women prefer a women’s-specific saddle. Women’s saddles have slightly different shapes, including central grooves or cut-outs, as well as different densities and areas of padding, corresponding to women’s anatomy. 

The aim here is to be supportive where it counts, i.e. the sit bones, and relieving any pressure where it’s best avoided around the soft tissue areas.


A high-quality saddle will have different densities of foam used throughout to relieve pressure.

While thick, soft padding may seem like the solution for ultimate saddle comfort, over the course of a ride this compresses, deforming around your anatomy, and can end up putting pressure on the soft tissue areas.

Many saddle manufacturers use pressure mapping to determine where to place padding, which can range from simple foam to gel, or even memory foam.

Many modern saddles are now constructed using areas of variable density foam to give support and relief where needed.

Why do some saddles have a cut-out?

Some saddles feature prominent cut-outs to relieve pressure on soft tissue.

Central grooves or cut-outs in cycling saddles not only help to alleviate soft tissue pressure in the genital area for riders but can also help to reduce the pressure on the perineal area (men) or the pubic bone arch (women).

Much like other aspects of saddle fit, it can take some trial and error to find a recessed shape that works for you.

Channels, grooves and cut-out features

Cut-outs and other features add complexity and, as a result, often add to cost.

Many saddles on the market feature central pressure-relieving channels or cut-outs. As mentioned, the idea behind this is to relieve any soft tissue pressure and to improve blood flow. If you’re experiencing numbness while riding, a saddle with a cut-out or central channel is something to look into.

If you’re not experiencing numbness, can you still use a saddle with a cut-out? The answer is yes – many people do. It really comes down to what’s most comfortable for you. Be warned, though, for some people a cut-out can create pressure points close to the edge of the channel.

If you often ride in mucky conditions, it’s worth considering a saddle shape that doesn’t feature a full-depth hole because you’re more likely to end up with a lot of dirt exactly where you don’t want it! Some off-road-specific saddles with cut-outs are designed with a draining shelf to prevent this from happening.

So How can we at the Performance BikeFit Studio help you find the right Saddle for you?

Here we use the the very latest Saddle Sizing/Fitting System by idmatch combined with the very latest in Saddle Pressure Mapping to determine the right Saddle for you.

The idmatch System uses Smart Calipers to take 3 specific measurements to determine the correct Sized Saddle for you.

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Intertrochanteric Distance Measurement

The intertrochanteric distance is the space between the two big femur tuberosities; these two perch points must be perfectly matched to the seat surface and are a crucial factor in establishing a cyclist’s ideal seated position. 

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Thigh-diameter measurement

Measuring the upper diameter of the thigh and comparing it to the intertrochanteric distance allows us to establish the best saddle shape for each single cyclist.

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Pelvic rotation measurement

Knowing the pelvic tilt/rotation helps us to know what kind of saddle will offer the most comfortable ride.

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The Smart Calipers will then make a recommendation on the correct Saddle Size & Style for your riding type.

This information could then be used to select whichever saddle manufacture you prefer, as the most important part is the Size, Shape & Style of the Saddle.

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What do these Sizes Mean?

The S indicates that it is a "Narrow" Saddle & the L indicates it is a "Wide" Saddle

The Number Specifies how much Pelvic Rotation the Rider has with 1 being Low & 3 being High, so a Rider with a 1 would need more Support & Padding for the Sit Bone as they would tend to sit more upright, whereas a Rider with a 3 would generally be able to get into a more aggressive position so would need a Saddle with a Cutout to relieve pressure on sensitive areas. 

We now have a number of Test Saddles from Selle Italia, Selle San Marco, Selle SMP, ISM in the Studio that you can test before you choose the one that suits you best.

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