One of the things I found most difficult about setting up a bike was finding a comfortable saddle. When you think about it, of all the parts on a bike, this really is the most important. If you are not happily seated, you will spend your entire ride fretting, or simply being in pain. There is one certainty about saddles, if you don’t get yours ‘right’ you won’t ride a bike for very long.
Given the importance of finding a good seat, I am amazed at some of the uncomfortable perches that come attached to a new bike. Perhaps cycle manufacturers just assume that the purchaser will immediately remove the supplied seat and replace it, so do not bother giving it much thought. Or maybe I am just too fussy!
The trouble with saddles is that you may need to try quite a few before you will find one that you like. Additionally, your tastes may well change over time 😦 This can get very expensive if your local bike shop expect you to purchase each time you want to try a new style. There is also often a problem in that your local supplier generally won’t stock a very wide range, so you have a rather limited choice. If you are lucky enough to know someone else who rides, they may have some spare saddles that you could borrow and try. (It would be great to have a ‘saddle library’ so that you can borrow, try and return the seats until you find one you like!)
If your local shop get to know you a bit, they may be willing to let you try a saddle for a few days and return it if you are not happy. The expectation is that you will ultimately find one that you like and will then purchase it from them, which is fair enough. I was lucky enough to find a store like this which was great.
Many riders (including myself) start out thinking that the softer the saddle the better. If this works for you, then go for it. There are some great gel saddles out there and I rode with one of these for about a year. But I tried about 3 different types before I found one that was sufficiently comfortable. If you only ever plan to ride shorter routes such as a trip to the local shops, then you may be happy with this type of saddle forever.
However, if you decide to ride further afield, you may start to encounter problems. The issue with soft plushy seats is that they don’t really support your body as well as the harder saddles. And when you ride a lot, support becomes absolutely crucial.
This is when it is time to start looking at the firmer seats. I read as much as I could about the pros and cons of different styles and eventually decided to try a Brooks saddle. The articles I read indicated that once they were ‘ridden in’ they were very comfortable and would take the cyclist a long way with no problems.
There is a lot of information out there on the internet about seats and if you are at this point in your cycling career, I suggest you read as much as you can before making a decision. (Your experienced cycling friend may even reveal a stash of firmer saddles to try if you just ask!)
It did not take as long as I had imagined to ‘ride in’ my new saddle – a B17 S Standard. In fact, I was delighted with it right from day 1. After about 3 months, it became a bit softer and is now a firm (pun intended!) and very comfortable favourite. However, it was also at this stage that I started to use cycling knicks. (Having the padding on my rear instead of permanently attached to the seat made a big different to comfort levels – not sure why, but the cycling buffs out there all seem to agree!)
Over the years, I have progressively purchased Brooks saddles for each of my bikes. The B17 S is great on the mountain/touring bike while I have a Flyer S (has springs on it) on my roadbike. (I have not provided many photos on this post, but you can see a full range of Brooks products here. They have a wonderful range of bike accessories!)
I was absolutely delighted when purchasing my Dahon Tournado – it came with many high quality attachments, including a very smart Brooks B17 Special saddle. Both the bike and its customized case had been put together with considerable attention to detail which was most appreciated. Sadly, Dahon are now no longer trading and Tournados are therefore no longer available.
I would be happy to ride for many hours with any of my Brooks saddles now. Interestingly, I doubt I would get very far with the gel saddle which I liked so much when I first started riding.