Before we even start a conversation about saddle type/choice, make sure you have spent time dialling in your saddle position. That would be saddle height, fore/aft position, and saddle tilt/angle. If the saddle is not in the correct position, it’s never going to be comfortable, no matter the saddle! Don’t bin that saddle just yet; check your position first!

It’s crucial, though, that you insist on finding the best saddle for you because this is the foundation of your bike setup. If your saddle (saddle position) is wrong, then everything else can be wrong by default. If your wattage cottage (the place where your power comes from, the Gluteus muscle group) is not supported correctly, you are missing out on precious watts, but more concerning, you will always be uncomfortable and sore.

A variety of factors come into play when choosing a saddle. Width, shape, length, padding level, cutouts or channels are some factors at play. The basic shape of the saddle has mostly stayed the same since the beginning of cycling.


Nowadays, there is a lot of crossover of equipment. For instance, Specialized no longer makes gender-specific saddles and discipline-specific saddles. Many different styles of saddles are now seen across many different bikes. This is largely down to many saddles that are very accommodating and versatile. Discipline is still relevant, though! A TT saddle allows for a super aggressive time trial or track position where your hips are rotated right forward, and you are sat on the nose of the saddle. It’s not appropriate for road or MTB!


Saddles come in a variety of widths because sit bone widths vary between individuals, and therefore, saddle manufacturers produce models in a range of widths. Statistically speaking, women have wider hips than men, so they, on average, have wider sit bones and require wider saddles. Our Retül data consistently shows that the average width saddle for ladies is 155mm wide and for men, it is 143mm wide.

The complete size curve for Specialized saddles is 130mm, 143mm, 155mm and 168mm wide.

Understanding what width saddle you require starts with measuring your Ischial Tuberosity (sit bones). There are a number of ways to do this, but in my fit studio, I use a DSD device (digital sit bone device) to get a measurement. Disclaimer. This is a guide!

Most riders don’t sit directly on their sit bones, as you rotate your pelvis forward onto your

perineal area for men and the pubic arch for women. It’s essential to support the soft tissue that lives between your sit bones, but not apply pressure here! These areas can hold a small amount of weight, but too much pressure causes numbness and pain.

So, although you might not be sitting precisely on your sit bones (the exact measurement), the saddle has been designed and shaped in proportion to the average sit bone width measurement.

Your sit bones are structural! Regardless of how much weight you put on or how much weight you lose, your sit bone width is not ever going to change! Once you understand your saddle width, that is your width! What will change is as you get fitter and increase your ROM, you will rotate forward into a more aggressive position. So, you may have started your cycling journey on a wider saddle but can feel just as comfortable on a slightly narrower saddle. This is why the overall shape and style of the saddle matter, too!

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.

You’re not actually sitting on your sit bones, but your pubic rami. The gap between the pubic rami gets narrower the further forward you lean, so the saddle width you need changes depending on how aggressive your position is.


Saddle width is not the only thing to consider when choosing a saddle. Nowadays, it’s very common to see short-nosed saddles on bikes. A longer, more traditional style saddle tends to be narrower and rounder in shape. Specialized Power saddle is, on average, 25-30mm shorter than a traditional style saddle. The disadvantage of this shorter saddle is that you really only have one position to sit on it. You can’t move forward and sit on the nose of the saddle because it has no nose! The advantage is if you get your position right on a short saddle, you can’t help but sit in the right place by default. They are often fairly wide because they are flatter and, depending on the rider, can provide a more stable platform. The downside is that because of its much wider and flatter shape, the wings of the saddle often chafe/rub on the inside of one’s thigh.

In mountain biking, I prefer a traditional (longer) saddle over a short-nosed saddle as you should be moving forwards, backwards and side to side on your mountain bike saddle, less so on a road bike.


Cutouts and pressure relief channels were developed to prevent penile numbness caused by compressing the soft tissue and penile nerve. They are very common to see and are found on most saddles today. They WORK. Period. There is usually no downside to a cutout for men.

It’s not uncommon to find them on woman-specific saddles, as the cutout can relieve pressure on the soft tissue area, too. Sometimes, cutouts can be marketed as female-specific but are, in reality, just modified male designs. This can be worse for some women, as the design of the cutout will alleviate pressure on the inner labia but can transfer pressure to the outer labia. Check your saddle position!

Filling in the cutout with very soft memory foam near the nose of the saddle provides support without adding pressure.


Yes, eBike saddles are a thing now. Don’t believe the marketing nonsense, but I digress.

There are still brands out there that make discipline—and gender-specific saddles. The type of riding you do requires different pelvis positions. A time trial position differs greatly from a road, mountain bike, or commuting position, so an appropriate saddle is required. TT saddles are found on TT bikes for good reason. Round, semi-round, and flat saddles all allow for different riding positions.

With that said some saddles can be extremely accommodating and versatile. Modern saddles can work in road, mountain bike, and gravel positions. If the saddle works for you regardless of its marketing discipline, stick with that saddle for all of your bikes; at the very least, stick with that shape, style and width of the saddle. If the saddle provides comfort, relieves soft tissue pressure and allows for blood flow, then it’s going to work regardless of your riding style.


This is an age-old debate that will never go away. Men’s and women’s pelvis are fundamentally different, so it stands to reason that there are men’s saddles and woman-specific saddles. For example, the cutouts and channels in saddles were initially developed for male cyclists to address penile numbness. The Specialized Power saddle was originally designed for women to reduce saddle pressure and discomfort on the labia. A short nose saddle is wider at the rear to provide sit bone support but not interfere with thigh movement.

Research, data, and feedback have shown, though, that some men benefited from and preferred these saddles, and some women preferred and benefited from a men’s saddle with a cutout.

Specialized’s research (Retül Data) found that one of the biggest variables between male and female cyclists was the width and positioning of the saddle, discovering that this part of the bike can make the biggest difference to each person’s comfort on the bike, rather than fully gender-specific geometry.

In the same report, Specialized also analysed sit bone measurements and found that, on average, the majority of women require 155mm width saddles, while men require 143mm.

Ultimately, each rider (man or woman) will have different saddle requirements, and there is no saddle that fits all, but don’t be surprised if your next saddle is/was marketed to a specific gender. Both genders can and will benefit from either saddle as long saddle position (height, fore/aft and tilt) is optimal.


Saddles are ranked in a hierarchy, with the cheapest and heaviest at the bottom and the most expensive and lightest at the top. The top saddles usually have minimal padding, carbon rails, and a carbon shell to make them lighter.

Another way to think about this hierarchy is on a scale of comfort and performance. Your heavy/cheapest saddle is generally all comfort and very little performance. The more expensive/lighter saddles are more performance and less comfort.

If you’re considering splashing out on a saddle with carbon rails, make sure your seatpost can accommodate it first! Unlike round alloy, carbon rails are oval, and not all seatpost clamps can fit them or are suitable. You might need adaptors or, worse, a new seat post. So be aware of that before you make that online purchase.


The basic shape of saddles has remained the same since the advent of cycling. Variations in saddle shape and design are pretty limited by the role they have to play, our anatomy and how the saddle is attached to the bike. So, it’s not surprising that all those saddle choices can be confusing. They all do the same thing but yet can be such a pain in the butt (excuse the pun) to get right!

Trends come in and out of fashion with minor changes to shape, length, flare and material.

The latest trend, though, is a game-changer, in my opinion. Up until recently, most, if not all, saddles were designed with different-density foams. Advances in technology have allowed brand manufacturers to innovate with different materials. 3D-printed saddles are made from a liquid polymer printed in a three-dimensional lattice of hexagon-shaped polymers. The process allows the printer to vary the thickness and shapes of each layer. The result is a deeper and softer padding than any traditional EPA foam or gel.

The 3D-printed material allows for an increase in comfort that’s just not possible with foam saddles. It distributes and absorbs pressure way more evenly from your sit bones and soft tissue (there is no hard contact on your pelvis), almost reflecting your anatomy. Better posture, more weight balance, and superior comfort all lead to less fatigue.

Like most things new, this tech comes at a premium, so be prepared to part with some hard-earned cash. The technology has already trickled down to the cheaper models, carbon vs alloy rail, for instance, but we are already seeing saddles that have the 3D printed material inserted in place of the old traditional foam around the sit bones. It’s covered by “regular” material and looks like any traditional foam padded saddle. Like this one

All the benefits of an expensive 3D-printed saddle but without the price tag.

You will still need to make sure that the saddle’s shape, width, and length are correct for you! If the shape and width do not work, simply going with a 3D version will be a costly mistake, but don’t be surprised if your next saddle is a 3D-printed saddle of some sort.

New Power saddle below with 3D inserts.


With so many factors determining different saddle types, you would be lucky to make the right choice just from just looking at a saddle or phoning a friend.

The right saddle should cause no discomfort at all—no numbness, pain, discomfort, chafing, or pinching.

The benefit of having a bike fit is that you can get measured (you don’t have to have a bike fit to do this), have your position assessed, and try different saddles while seeing real-time data. This can help you make better saddle choice decisions.

One final thought to remember with saddles is that a saddle will never be a couch. So, whilst you shouldn’t settle for obvious discomfort, don’t expect La-Z-Boy levels of support and cushiness; it’s not going to happen. And just like that first visit back to the gym or run, after a while, you might need to build up some “saddle fitness” to be comfortable.

There is a saddle out there for you.

Article credit: Gresh, Founder of Rachet.Bike