Ah, the love-hate relationship we have with our saddles. Especially when starting out, the saddle can be one of the biggest sources of discomfort and is what turns a lot of people off of cycling long distances (or cycling altogether!). For women in particular, the struggle to find a proper saddle fit can be frustrating and tiresome.
Like most other cycling gear and components, the majority of standard saddles were designed to best accommodate the needs of an average male body. This means that women can end up suffering discomfort or even injury when riding with an inappropriate setup. Thankfully, companies have come to realized there is a demand for saddles designed specifically to address the needs of a woman’s anatomy and are helping make a comfortable ride more accessible. Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of women’s bike saddle design and some of the top models on the market.
What’s the difference anyway?
Women’s bike saddles are built to better account for the physiological characteristics of female riders, with hip width and genitalia being the two most prominent concerns. Overall, women’s specific road saddles are designed to support the main pressure points of the sit bones, distributing the pressure over a larger area, while lessening the weight on the soft tissue of the external genitalia.
Naturally, each discipline calls for slightly different design elements in order to achieve the best outcomes for comfort and performance. On road bikes, for instance, the pelvis of the rider tends to be tilted further forward than on mountain bikes or even some hybrid or commuter bikes. This positioning results in a lot of pressure on the soft tissue that is forced to bear the weight, as it is directly below the rider. Many women’s saddle designs feature a central groove or cut-out, which takes pressure off the sensitive area and can help avoid injury over time. The width and position of the groove is intended to suit female anatomy and the padding in women’s saddles is usually placed slightly differently too.
Do I need a women’s saddle?
Many women find that the more anatomically sensitive design helps them ride with a higher level of comfort and does eliminate the pressure which can lead to pain, numbness, and soreness in the vulva area. That being said, no two bodies are created equal and the way you’re built might mean that a different style of saddle suits you just fine. Like many aspects of cycling, finding the perfect women’s bike saddle is likely going to require some trial and error. Manufacturers are getting better at helping you to choose the right saddle though, and almost all have developed a system to assist in narrowing down your choice by assessing things like your range of flexibility and your position on the bike. Some brands also use a fit system that measures the distance between your sit bones in order to pair you with the saddle that best matches your unique body.
Note that an increasing number of manufacturers and shops have started to include fitting services and offer things like demo saddles, trial periods, and money-back or exchange programmes in order to give you some time to determine if you’ve found the right pick. Always be sure to ask at your bike shop about any available offers or services they provide. Here are a few of our top choices for the best women’s saddles on the market.
Terry Butterfly Cromoly Gel
A favourite among women cyclists of all stripes, Terry’s Butterfly is a great pick for serious riders and weekend warriors alike. It has a wide rear, a narrow nose, and a sizable cut-out. Its fairly simple but well-executed design makes it a great choice for many different body types, and the basic version is on the lower end of the budget spectrum too. A go-to for endurance and distance riders, it also has the added comfort of a thin gel layer along the top of the saddle. Striking a nice balance between stiffness/softness, it provides the support needed to make the most of your leg power while covering long distances.
Fizik Luce Carbon
This race-oriented saddle is rather unique in that it features a more angled cut to the wings, and rectangular platform towards the back of the saddle, with a narrow central cut-out. Intended to provide high performance above all else, the product design consists of an innovative three-part construction with a central carbon-reinforced spine. This one is indeed suited for riders who want a more aggressive, race-focused body position and are looking to go fast.
Specialized Women’s Oura Pro
The Oura Pro is Specialized’s top-of-the-line women’s specific endurance saddle and features light padding and a long central groove and large cut-out. It has a curved profile that provides good support, even while transitioning between positions. The firm but supportive foam is just the right amount to feel comfortable on long rides without the downside of too much padding.
Ergon SR Women
Developed alongside one of the top pro women’s cycling teams, Canyon//SRAM, it’s not surprising that this model makes the list. Coming in at an accessible price point, this entry-level model has the same overall form of the pro-level model, but with more generous cushioning and sturdier materials. In terms of shape, it has a slightly truncated nose with a flared rear platform that provides good support in a range of on-bike positions.
A women’s brand through and through, Liv has developed a line of saddles that come in either Forward or Upright varieties. The Forward saddles are designed for a more aggressive road riding position where the pelvis is tilted forward, while the Upright version is designed to support the undercarriage when riding in a more upright position. It’s a nice design approach informed by the goal of providing a seamless connection between rider and bike.