Saddle Up: The 5 Best Women's Bike Saddles

Published on 06/17/2023 · 9 min readDue to bone structure differences, women's butts and sitting parts aren't exactly the same as men's. Learn how to find the best women's bike seats in this guide!
Jacob Cummings, Cycling Expert
By Cycling Expert Jacob Cummings

Photo by Coen Can De Brok

How to Choose a Women’s Bike Saddle

The bike saddle that came with our bike oftentimes isn't what our individual bodies need to feel the most healthy and comfortable during our rides. We might experience pain and discomfort on our sit bones, on the soft tissue of our private areas, and in some of the worst cases a restriction of blood flow that can cause a painful and dangerous numbing sensation.

Finding the bike seat that works best for you is a practice of knowing what to look for and then trying your options; waiting to see how the saddle impacts you after a few rides. It’s very common to find a saddle that seems comfortable at first, but after ten rides or so, is just rubbing the wrong way or numbness develops. The advice we have when searching for the perfect bike saddle is to try a bunch of them and see which one feels the most balanced among the various pressure points you might experience.

If you’re currently experiencing numbness or tingling when you ride your bike, it’s a good sign that you need to adjust your riding position on the bike. It’s also possible you just need a different bike seat. One of the greatest purchases we can make for our health and enjoyment while riding our bikes is investing in a quality saddle that is most closely designed to mirror our anatomy.

Through the sections below we will identify the key elements to finding your perfect saddle and how to get measurements for finding the saddle that will best fit you. Lastly, we’ll have some advice on how to adjust your bike seat properly to align with the angle of your pelvis and your natural riding position.

Unisex vs. Women’s-Specific Saddles

Before, you could find a lot of saddle options that were listed as “for women.” Over years of research and testing, bicycle companies found that the same designs for women are also great for other anatomies and have since been changed to “unisex.” The main design feature that makes a saddle both “unisex” and “for women” is the cutout that gives you relief for your soft tissue areas. The unisex saddle is great because this opens up more options for everyone.

Consider the Needs of Your Personal Anatomy

Specialized Mimic Saddle. Photo by Jacob Cummings

The size and shape of your private parts might give you an idea of what you need in a saddle. You want your saddle to mirror the width of your hips and other anatomical parts. Having a cut-out that accurately mirrors the depth and width of your soft tissue is a nuanced consideration worth taking.

Measure Your Sit Bones

There’s a great tool available for measuring the width of your sit bones and it involves sitting on a couple of pieces of corrugated cardboard, then measuring the width of the indents that you leave behind.

Can a Bike Saddle Be Too Wide?

Yes, absolutely. When a bike saddle is wider than a rider needs it to be, the rider will experience the extra padding and foam knocking into the back of their legs with every stroke of the pedal. Additionally, a saddle that is too wide can become a problem for the inner thighs. During long rides, this will become tiresome and could even be the cause of an abrasive rash. Most bikes with a cruiser saddle will run this risk with the wider perch.

Consider Your Riding Position and Style

Saddle with a Cutout. Photo by Jacob Cummings

Depending on your riding position and riding style, there are a few saddle designs that you will want to consider. For example, a rider with an upright position will most likely need a saddle that has a wider platform with thick cushioning and suspension springs to hold their rear. With an upright position, it’s possible you won’t need a cut-out. A rider on a road bike who leans forward on the saddle will almost certainly need a narrower saddle fit to their sit bones but also a wider cut-out to relieve pressure on soft tissue.

Try a Couple of Saddles

Remember to be patient with yourself during this time, because what might seem comfortable at first can over the course of some rides grow to become uncomfortable. If you find your saddle becoming painful, then please get your seat adjusted by a professional. If the pain persists, consider trying a different saddle that can more closely meet your needs.

Best Road Bike Seat For Women

Road bike saddles have more streamlined cushioning like the Specialized Power Expert Mimic. High-density silicone gel pads reduce vibrations and larger cut-outs displace pressure and increase ventilation. Manufacturers design these saddles with lightweight components including carbon and titanium. Carbon road saddles offer no cushioning and riders will need to supplement the cushioning in their bike shorts instead.

Women’s Bike Seats for Touring and Comfort

Platt Carbon Saddle. Photo by Jacob Cummings

A long-distance saddle will use heavier and more durable materials like steel instead of carbon, to handle the variety of terrain one might encounter on a longer ride. They will often look similar to road saddles. One of the key features you might find are hooks at the back of the saddle for mounting a saddle bag like the Brooks C19 Carved. Comfort saddles on the other hand might have springs on them and feature thick gel cushioning. Because of the upright riding position for many cruiser bikes, it’s common that a cutout might not be necessary for some women.

Women’s Bike Seats for Mountain Biking

Brooks C19 Carved. Photos by Jacob Cummings

Adequate padding is important to prevent pelvic or tailbone injuries caused by unexpectedly impacting the saddle when going through bumpy and varied terrain. Mountain bike saddles most often feature thicker gel padding than a road saddle and have a shorter nose so the bike seat doesn’t get in the way of climbing difficult terrain like the Fizik Gravita Alpaca X5. However, many saddles that are designed for road biking can work just fine for mountain biking.

How Can I Make My Bike Saddle Less Painful?

Unfortunately, even after all this work of learning how to find the right bike seat, your new bike seat is still almost certainly going to cause you some discomfort. That’s just the nature of cycling, unfortunately, but here are a couple more things you can do to minimize your discomfort.

Invest in Cycling shorts

Cycling shorts like the Rapha Core Bib Shorts are one of the best investments you can make next to your new saddle. Whether you have a wide rear or narrow hips, the built-in chamois of cycling shorts are designed to add form-fitting cushion to your sit bones and thighs for the purpose of reducing friction and pressure on your soft tissues. Along with cycling shorts, the addition of chamois cream will eliminate nearly all friction you might be experiencing.

Get a Professional Bike Fitting

One of the most important things any cyclist can do is to take their bike to a professional bike studio to get the fine-tuning adjustments to their saddle height. If your saddle is not the right height, you can hurt your knees in a number of ways and cause a variety of joint and nerve pains. It can be a bit of an investment upfront, but the payoff is well worth the avoided injuries and the added comfort and fun you will experience as a result.

Here’s a short list of my top choices for saddles based on comfort, durability, and overall performance. These are saddles that I have either used myself or have researched and recommended to people in my life. All of these saddles have received positive feedback and I know a number of people who swear by them. Each of these saddles checks most—if not all—of the boxes that were outlined above.

1. Specialized S-Works Power Mimic

Perhaps my favorite recommendation for both road and mountain biking is this saddle because it’s based on a design that has received years of revision. Available in multiple widths, the Power Mimic has a large cutout that still offers flexible support for soft tissue. If you can swing the price tag, I highly recommend treating yourself to this saddle.

2. Fizik Tempo Argo R5

The Tempo Argo R5 is a budget option saddle, with a large cutout that is both long and wide. The saddle platform remains flat and is available in two widths. This saddle isn’t the most comfortable on this list, but it’s pretty dang good for the price and it should last quite a while with the durable top fabric. The short nose design makes this not only a great road saddle but an option for cross-country mountain biking as well.

3. Specialized Power Expert

The Power Expert has a generous cutout that has been designed and tested to ensure maximum blood flow. Available in three widths in a short-nose design, this saddle is great for both road and mountain biking. This saddle is a bit pricey compared to the similar Argo R5 but the upgrade is having more widths to choose from to get an exact fit.

4. Selle Italia Model X

The Selle Italia Model X is the most affordable saddle on this list, and yet it is also one of the more comfortable options. It has a gel insert that covers the entire saddle, making this a great option for anyone putting in long days on the bike. The design is best for road biking, but the short nose could still lend it to cross-country mountain biking. This saddle is only available in one size, but it’s listed as a “wide” saddle that adapts well to a number of pelvic shapes.

5. Terry Butterfly Century

The Terry Butterfly Century is the most padded saddle in this list. It’s a great option for any road rider who’s needing an all-day comfort saddle. With several layers of multi-density padding, the Butterfly Century is equipped to take heonavy impacts and reduce vibrations from jarring road conditions. While this saddle could be used for mountain biking, it might not be the best option because of the long-nose design.

Final Verdict

Please be patient with yourself. Finding the perfect saddle for you is not an easy task and you will almost certainly endure some unnecessary pain along the way. To explore more Cycling articles as you pursue your journey in the sport, check out the Expert Journal here on Curated.

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