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The Best Road Bike Saddles

author image Max Roman Dilthey
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.
The Best Road Bike Saddles
Professional cyclists need to keep the weight of the bicycle at a minimum for performance. Photo Credit Gabriele Maltinti/iStock/Getty Images

One of the most important parts of a bicycle is the contact point. Your saddle is all that protects you from the jarring and vibration of a speeding bicycle, so getting the best seat should be a priority to get the most out of your cycling workout. The best road bike seats share many characteristics including light weight, comfort, and protection for the soft tissue between your legs. The best seat for you is also going to be sized correctly for your proportions, so understanding seat measurements is key to getting the most comfortable saddle.

Finding Your Size

The best saddle will fit your body proportions like a glove, so measuring your contact point is the first step to shopping around. The two areas you should be contacting your saddle are your "sit bones," located underneath the flesh of your buttocks. To find your sit bones, you can sit on a table or flat surface and see where the firmest points of your bottom are. A professional bike fitter can help you measure the distance between your sit bones so that your saddle distributes your weight in the right place. Putting weight between your sit bones can damage the delicate tissues between your legs, which are susceptible to pressure and vibration. If you're a woman, a wider women's-specific saddle designed for your wider hips is essential.

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Cutting Weight

A lower bicycle weight means it's easier to accelerate and climb hills, since you'll be working less hard to move the weight of the bicycle. This makes weight a key characteristic for the best seats for road bicycles. Carbon fiber seatposts and rails are a substantial weight reduction over alloys, since carbon fiber retains stiffness and strength at a fraction of the weight of materials like steel and aluminum. It's the best material for the rigid parts of your seat if you want the best possible performance.

Less Really Is More

When it comes to cushioning and support, the best road bike seats appear downright masochistic. The saddles used by professional cyclists look thin and hardly comfortable. However, with a properly sized seat, extra padding and protection is unnecessary. A thin layer of high-density foam underneath your sit bones is enough for all-day riding comfort, and the best well-designed seats don't weigh down your road bike with unnecessary padding. A channel down the center of the seat can further reduce pressure on sensitive tissue while simultaneously reducing weight. For almost all cyclists, a pair of cycling shorts with a padded chamois is essential for comfort when paired with a lightweight saddle.

Living In A Material World

Some cyclists prefer other bicycle saddle materials than the traditional high-density foam. A leather hammock-style saddle has long been a standby for century riders and long-distance bicycle tourists, since the cradling effect of a tightly stretched piece of leather provides a custom fit after the saddle has been broken in. These saddles can be very expensive and are heavier than a foam saddle, but provide the best level of comfort. With cycling shorts, some short-distance riders eschew padding or cradling altogether and use a carbon fiber seat. These riders are in the minority, but when it comes to optimal performance, nothing compares to the weight reduction of a full carbon saddle.

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