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A bike seat may appear like a small part in a whole bicycle, but the design, style, cut, and material used have far-reaching effects. It plays an important role in determining how comfortable you are during your ride.
So, what is the purpose of the hole in a bike seat? Some people think the channel or groove in the center of the seat has no purpose at all. However, ardent cyclists believe they are mainly there for three important reasons related to safety, comfort, and ease of riding.
- It reduces the pressure on the delicate tissues in the crotch area. The standard bike saddles are often associated with prostate problems. Both male and female cyclists find the cutout seats more comfortable.
- The canal cut out oblong or hole also facilitates good ventilation when you are seated on a bike. It makes you sweat less and feel more comfortable when you are on long rides.
Ease of riding
- Unlike saddles with depression that collect rain water, the seat with a hole will collect less rain if you leave the bike parked outside under rain. It becomes easier to wipe the rain with hands or a tissue paper, so that your pants don’t get too wet.
To understand this seemingly flawed seat design better, it is essential to review the characteristics of a good bike seat. There are five contact points between the rider and the bicycle:
- The left pedal
- The right pedal
- The left handle on the bar
- The right handle on the bar
- The seat
The bicycle seat, most often called the saddle in the world of cycling, consists of five major components:
The shell or outer frame is the preeminent part of the structure and is what gives the saddle its shape. Most shells are made of a hard material such as plastic, nylon, or carbon fiber. The shells may vary for different types of bikes such as road bikes, mountain bikes, and racing bikes.
Some form of padding material such as foam or gel covers the saddle, followed by another layer of spandex, vinyl, or leather. These are to add more comfort to seating especially for the longer rides or mountain biking where you ride over rocks and stones.
The rails of a saddle not only connect it the rest of the bike but provide fore and aft adjustments. There are five materials to choose from:
- Carbon fiber
The best saddles currently on the market offer integration of the rails into a carbon fiber shell for decreased weight.
4. Saddle clamp
There has to be a way to mount your saddle on to your bike, right? Simply put, the saddle clamp allows for that.
Some saddles come with suspension devices such as springs and elastomers to help cushion the ride. Of course, this adds to the saddle’s overall weight. They are usually only found on bikes where weight is not as much of a factor for overall performance.
So, what is the purpose of that funny looking canal running through the middle of the saddle? To answer this question, you have to get to the root of why it is there. To do that, you have to answer this:
Why Are Bike Saddles So Small And Hard In The First Place?
Saddles for bikes are designed for riding, not reclining. A dining room chair typically supports all your gluteal muscles, which does not work well for bicycle saddles, however
Because you are pedaling instead of relaxing, the leg muscles have to have enough clearance to allow the knee to flex and extend fully without flaring out. You want just enough support for your “sit bones” and no more. A small, narrow seat allows for this.
As far as the cushion is concerned, it is best to have as little as possible. More padding in the seat means more contact with the inner parts of the leg and thus more friction.
Herein lies the real problem
Having such a small, hard saddle to sit on while riding comes with a whole host of problems for the typical cyclist. Riding a bicycle for prolonged periods can lead to severe medical conditions for both men and women due to reduced blood flow in the crotch area.
Compression on the vulnerable scrotal area creates undue pressure and interrupts blood flow to these sensitive male parts. The result is often numbness and bruising in and around the genitals, which could ultimately lead to chronic pelvic pain, impotence, and sterility.
For the female cyclist, pressure on the external genitalia while riding for extended periods may result in painful injuries. Also, some women have reported difficulties urinating or sustaining sexual intercourse after long rides.
A perfect solution
This is where the canal going through the middle of the saddle comes into play. Saddle manufacturers now offer a cut-out design to reduce discomfort in the perineal (crotch) area.
There is a wide range of cut-out and relief channel designs, which come in different sizes. The most efficient way to find the one that is right for you is to try it out. Most bike shops now let you borrow a saddle before you purchase it.
Things To Consider Before Getting A New Bike Seat
After analyzing the importance of a good bike seat, we hope that you know by now how important a good saddle is for your ride. It not only ensures your safety and comfort, but also has an indirect impact on your overall performance. Here are a few things you can do to make shopping for a saddle a bit easier
1. Decide if you really need those “ultra-light” rails
In general terms, the lighter the rails, the more expensive the saddle. If you are buying a saddle for road racing, paying the extra money for carbon may be the way to go. For example, the Astute Starlite VT features carbon rails as well as a carbon shell.
On the other hand, heavier steel or magnesium rails may work if you are in your training phase or just using your bike for your daily commute to work.
2. Decide how much padding you may need
Having too much padding on longer rides could cause the shape of the seat to become deformed, leading to pinching of the skin. However, not enough padding could be inadequate. If you are a leisure cyclist, it is better to be more comfortable than efficient.
In this case, we suggest the Serfas RX-921L Road/MTB Comfort saddle, which may be the better choice.
3. Determine the right shape saddle for your body type
There are so many shapes of saddles to choose from, and it may seem a bit overwhelming. In general, you will need a broader, more cushioned saddle the more upright you will be while riding.
For example, for leisure riding, where your hands are mostly on the hoods and the tops of the bar, you may want to opt for a seat that is wider and has a bit more padding for the backside.
On the other hand, if you are riding a high-tech road racer, and you want to get every speed advantage you can out of it, you may wish to choose a less padded, flat, narrow saddle. This is because you are riding in a more forward, aggressive position.
4. Determine the saddle size by measuring your “sit bone” width
Sit bone width is important when choosing an optimal saddle size so that it is neither too narrow nor too wide. So, before choosing a new bile model, you should look into these details and do a quick measurement to ensure your sitting comfort.
Lay a 1′ X 1′ piece of cardboard on a hard chair or bench. Sit on the cardboard using an upright body position. There should be two indentations where the sit bones make an imprint. Measure the space between each indentation to determine the saddle width.
How would you know if you need a cut-out saddle?
If your saddle currently causes you discomfort, you may want to try a cut-out saddle. By taking pressure off the perineal area, you have a better chance of getting through longer rides without numbness or pain.
The Brooks England Cambium All-Weather Bike Seat is an excellent place to start your search. This waterproof nylon saddle is made from vulcanized natural rubber and is designed to flow with the rider’s natural movements.
If money is no object, the Selle Italia SLR TM Superflow Bicycle Saddle is a more advanced choice. Its wide cut-out channel relieves pressure in the perineal while riding. The Sellia Italia also offers slightly more padding than the Brooks England saddle, allowing for better comfort, at least at the start of a long ride.
Mountain bike saddles
By far, the most alluring saddle on the market for mountain bikes has to be the Ergon – SM Pro Ergonomic Comfort Bicycle Saddle. They are specifically designed to meet the features of men’s and women’s anatomy. The outstanding features include:
- Useful for all off-road cycling
- Men’s specific design
- Flatter overall profile reduces pressure peaks
- Orthopedic air cell padding
- Comes with your choice of three snazzy colors
What are saddle sores?
These types of sores may vary from individual to individual, and they are caused by irritation in the part of skin that comes in contact with saddle. They may look like a sore pot caused by infected hair follicle.
How to prevent saddle sores?
We suggest that you inspect both the saddle and shorts that you are wearing. Get a more comfortable saddle (probably a bike seat with hole) to reduce pressure and feel comfortable in long rides. You must also wear more fitting short pants to avoid irritation.
Why do women prefer bike seat with a cut out?
The saddles with a cut out are usually narrower to allow easy and free movement of thighs. It also supports a forward rotated pelvic position to ride comfortably without any additional pressure on the soft genital tissues.
Related Article: Clipless Pedals: Why Are They Called Clipless?