Finding the perfect women's bike saddle isn't always easy, but there is one out there that will suit you - and once you find it you'll be riding in comfort
Many women share a tempestuous relationship with the bike saddle. We love the bike, and we need to sit on the saddle to enjoy it – yet so many of us struggle to find a perch that provides the comfort we need.
Finding the right women’s bike saddle for you sometimes takes quite a bit of trial and error. With many saddles costing upwards of £50, and for premium versions upwards of £100, this can become an expensive process. However – choosing carefully can help limit the number of options you need to try before you find the perfect saddle.
Do female riders need women’s bike saddles?
There are many areas where the answer to the ‘female specific’ question is more grey than black and white: female specific bikes and helmets are clear examples. Though most women find a female specific saddle more comfortable, this doesn’t apply to all women.
Statistically, most women have wider sit bones than most men – so the rear of the saddle needs to be wider. This isn’t a hard and fast rule – as Cervelo show in their chart documenting Ischial tuberostiy spacing among men and women – so it’s best to use the sit bone measuring tools made available by most brands (more on that below).
Women’s specific saddles are also more likely to feature a cut out designed to relieve soft tissue pressure – but again not all women find this is the best option for them.
How do you choose the right saddle?
You have a better chance of getting your saddle right in the first instance if you take some time to look at your riding style and current discomfort before you shop.
There’s no hard and fast rule – saddle/bum relationships are as unique as snowflakes – but here are some generalisations that usually ring true:
- If you sit in an aggressive position – with your hands often on the drops – then you will probably suffer more with soft tissue discomfort. These riders very often get on well with saddles that have a large pressure relief area – the Selle Italia SLR Lady flow is an example, the Speicalized Power also suits this rider well, as do ISM saddles
- Cobb Saddles did some very interesting research, where they found correlations between the (self-assessed!) physical appearance of women’s anatomy, and the type of saddle they liked. Yes, really. In short, they found that ‘innies’ tended to like saddles with a narrow nose, whilst ‘outies’ liked those with a wider nose and relief channel
- If you tend to sit in a more relaxed, endurance position, your pain will often be in the sit bone area. For you, saddle width is imperative, so make sure you visit a local bike shop that offers a sit bone measuring tool (Selle Royal, Selle Italia, Fizik and Specialized all have these tools to be used by their dealers). To be clear, sit bone width has nothing to do with jean size – so don’t base your saddle width on your clothing tag
- Extra padding does not always equate to extra comfort. Padding sags – often resulting in even more discomfort. You really do want to try to find a saddle that’s the right shape for you, not one that allows you to sink into it during the honeymoon period, before revealing bitter disappointment
We’ve rounded up some of the best saddles we’ve tested – here’s a summery for inspiration…
Our pick of the best women’s saddles
The Power saddle from Specialized is a rare exception to the rule around women needing women’s saddles. It’s a unisex model, by which Specialized mean it’s ACTUALLY unisex – eg not made for men with women simply able to use it too. In fact, the Power was developed alongside the Boels-Dolmans rider Evie Stevens, after it transpired that she’d had endless issues finding the right saddle.
This perch is very much one for an aggressive rider who wants to sit in one position, and stay there. It’s wide and short, with a large pressure relief channel – and minimal padding. Great on a track bike, time trial bike or road bike.
Prologo Kappa Evo DEA T2.0 women’s saddle
If you’re going for your first saddle purchase you won’t go far wrong with the Kappa Evo DEA. The saddle’s semi-round shape is perfect for those unsure what exact style is best for them. It doesn’t feature a cut out, which some female riders prefer – but they do tend to be in the minority.
Specialized Ruby Expert Gel women’s saddle
The Specialized Ruby Expert saddle utilises the company’s body geometry technology coming in three widths with a modest cut-out. Specialized recently updated all of their saddles to feature a luxe looking smooth cover, which adds a touch of high end style to the entire range.
Fizik Arione Donna Women’s saddle
Fizik have taken their vastly popular Arione saddle and adjusted it to suit the needs of the female rider with a wider base to best support the rider.
After extensive research, Fizik launched a new women’s saddle, the Fizik Luce towards the tail end of 2016. It’s a long and flat saddle, with a narrow nose and incredibly flexible wings which provides a great deal of comfort for many riders. It’s worth noting that the Luce has a fairly narrow cut out, and won’t suit all riders.
Pro Griffon Lady women’s saddle
With a rounded profile and a small cut-out, the Pro Griffon Lady offers comfortable padding at the rear. The saddle comes into its own on those less than even road surfaces.
Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow women’s saddle
With a smaller cut out of Selle Italia’s key models, this saddle features plenty of padding at the rear, making it a popular option for those who tend to sit further back on the seat in a more endurance suited position.
Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow women’s saddle
A second option from Selle Italia, the SLR Lady Flow features a much larger relief cut out. Whilst our reviewer found this a little wide, it’s worth remembering that saddle choice is very personal – and this is a hugely popular model among the female cycling community – particularly road racers. It’s not generally suited to a rider who sits in a more upright position.
ISM PN 1.1 Saddle
A second genuinely unisex version, ISM saddles are often popular among women who have tried almost every option on the quest to find a perch that doesn’t rub them up the wrong way. The shape may look odd, but if you sit in an aggressive position and simply cannot get comfortable, ISM is a good call.
We’ve seen this saddle sitting proudly on the bikes of countless female pro track riders, as well as time trial riders and road racers.
The noseless shape allows the rider to sit right on the end of the saddle, relieving all soft tissue pressure – and the PN is a narrow version as many women reported finding the front too wide on standard models.
Fabric Scoop Gel Women’s Saddle
The smooth and simple design of the Fabric saddles make them one of the nicest looking saddles around, it also helps that they provide a good level of support for all kinds of riding.
How to choose a bike saddle
Where possible, always try before you buy. Many manufacturers create specific tools that are designed to be used to fit their saddles to bums – such as those that measure sit bone width, and flexibility. When used by a trained retailer, these can really help to narrow down your search.
Cut down the chance of feeling like you’ve wasted your money on an improper perch by checking out the returns policy. Some companies let you try before you buy, occasionally using a test saddle, whilst others offer a 30 day money back guarantee.
Remember: a new saddle may result in you inadvertently causing a change your saddle height. If you get a new saddle, it is worth reassessing your saddle height.
If you’re still struggling with discomfort, make sure that your shorts aren’t the cause. Good cycling shorts should feature a seamless chamois of an adequate width – and they need to fit to be effective.