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Bike Saddle Fitting Guide

If you are one of those lucky people who has never had problems with being uncomfortable after a long day in the bike saddle then you probably don’t know what all this fuss is about. But for the rest of us, finding a well fitting bike saddle is akin to the search for the holy grail. A poorly designed or poorly fitting bike saddle can cause numbness and sore spots and is probably one of the single most common reasons for people giving up on cycling, be it on road biking or trail biking. As one of the three contact points between bike and rider, your enjoyment of biking relies upon finding a bike saddle that is right for you.

Here at Outside Sports, we have got the tools and knowledge to help you find that Holy Grail of a bike saddle. We work with a range of Specialized bike saddles, which provide outstanding comfort and support, all while helping increase blood flow for men and relieve soft tissue pressure for women. So come in and talk to one of our qualified Specialized Body Geometry Fit bike staff, get fitted for a bike saddle and try before you buy with one of the trial saddles.

Bike saddle fitting

Firstly, to understand why saddle fit is important it is helpful to be able to visualise pressure distribution.

This diagram shows high pressure on the bike saddle nose under the rider’s pubic bone. It is not painful for many men, but can be very painful for women. It’s unhealthy for both, as it puts pressure on women’s soft tissues, reduces blood to supply to male genitals and can cause nerve damage in both.

Bike saddle pressure on nose


This diagram shows pressure on the left and right Ischia. This is considered a healthy weight distribution.

bike saddle presure on ITs



A Bike saddle needs to be wide enough to support your Ischial tuberosities (otherwise known as sit bones or those bony bits in your bum) but not so wide that it causes inner thigh rubbing or so narrow that it puts pressure on the soft tissues between your sit bones.

This diagram shows a saddle that is too narrow on the left, putting pressure on the soft tissues between the sit bones. On the right the saddle is wide enough to support the sit bones.

saddle too narrow

Everyone’s anatomy is different mind you. It is a generally held belief that women’s sit bones are further apart, so they should ride wider saddles than men. This is true most of the time but there is great individual variation and overlap.

This diagram shows the variation and overlap of ischial tuberosity spacing among the general population.

IT gender spacing

How wide are your sit bones?

This question can be easily answered during your Specialized BG Fit session at Outside Sports with the help of the aptly named Specialized Ass-O-Meter. The Ass-O-Meter actually measures the width of your sit bones so our saddle fitting specialist can recommend the appropriate width bike saddle for you.


Flat vs. Curved

If a bike saddle has too much curve side to side then the centre will be higher than the sides. This will result in more pressure being put on the soft tissues between the pubic bone. As discussed earlier this is uncomfortable for many cyclists and unhealthy for everyone.

This diagram shows an overly curved bike saddle on the left reducing the space under the pubic bone. A flat saddle on the right allows space under the pubic bone.

saddle flat enough

Firm vs. Soft Saddles

Soft bike saddles and excessive padding are often suggested for those starting out in biking. The temptation is that because they are softer they will be more comfortable. This might be true if you are only planning to ride your bike 1km to the shops but for any longer time in the saddle it is incorrect. The padding will just squish up in between the sit bones and put pressure on that sensitive soft tissue.

This diagram shows an over padded bike saddle on the left, squashing up and reducing the space under the pubic bone. The firmer saddle on the right allows space under the pubic bone.

saddle firm enough

Cut Out

A cut out is a hole in the centre of the bike saddle. This can be helpful for people who continue to get soft tissue discomfort despite having a saddle that is wide enough, flat enough and firm enough. If you don’t’ need a cut out there is really no down side to having one. Although, some that have sharper edges can cause pinching of the skin. A depression or channel in the middle of the saddle can achieve a similar thing.

This diagram shows a saddle on the left with a cut out.

a saddle on the left with a cut out


Where the previous four points refer to choosing a specific bike saddle, the most basic bike saddle adjustment is height and that relates to any saddle. Most cyclists have their bike saddles too low. This actually makes biking harder, more tiring and puts strain on the knees. Not to mention, having the saddle too low puts more pressure on your saddle and perhaps worsens discomfort, as you will be taking less weight with your legs. People often have their saddles too low as it feels more secure to be able to get a foot to the ground easily when stopped.

The easiest way to find the correct height is to gradually raise your saddle 1cm at a time. Ride for a few minutes and if it does not feel worse, then raise it again. Keep doing this until the saddle is just too high and then lower it a fraction. You will know the saddle is too high as your hips will have to rock from side to side to allow you to pedal.


The angle of a bike saddle should be close to horizontal. Some men prefer to have the nose slightly up and some women prefer to have the nose slightly down, especially if they are riding a saddle designed from men. However, if the saddle nose is too far up it can put pressure on soft tissues, and if the saddle nose is too far down the biker will tend to slide forwards putting more weight into the hands. This can cause wrist, shoulder and neck problems. In general, if the saddle is fitted correctly then you will be able to ride it comfortably horizontal.

References: Sheldonbrown.

Specialized Body Geometry Fit Session

Enhance performance and comfort on your road or mountain bike by spending a few hours with one of our trained Body Fit Experts in Outside Sports Wanaka or Queenstown for a personal Body Geometry Bike Fit session. Whether you are a beginner or an expert rider, everyone can benefit from a Body Geometry Bike Fit session to help improve your riding and make your bike work for you. The Body Geometry concept and Fit process is the most complete system to help a rider become one with their bike.

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