The saddle is probably the most personal part of your bike. What is comfortable for you might be a pain in the butt for someone else. To each his own. There are countless types of saddles based on shape, size, length, weight, curve, material, padding… Among the seemingly infinite number of possibilities are there some features that you should be looking for when buying a bike commuting saddle? It is legit to ask: What is the best commuter bike saddle?
I have used 6 different saddles for commuting and know from experience that there are features that you should be looking for if you don’t want to end up with a sore bottom at the end of your ride. The longer your commute the more it makes sense to select a good saddle.
A good commuter bike saddle is wide enough to support your body and narrow enough to allow you to move freely. Its shape allows you to ride in a moderately upright position, to be able scan the traffic around you and to maneuver. It is comfortable during and after the ride, causing no pain or chafing once you get to work or home. Its padding is firm enough to support the sit bones without creating pinch points in your soft tissue.
To make choosing a good saddle easy, let’s narrow it down to three saddles that stand out as particularly good for commutes. They come in at different price-points with somewhat different features. When deciding which one to get, take into account your body construction, your riding style, the type of bike you ride and your personal preferences. Each of them is a solid and popular choice among commuters:
- Brooks Cambium (check price on Amazon). Premium quality, traditional yet modern saddle.
- Fabric Scoop (check price on Amazon) Classic and sporty commuter saddle
- Bikeroo Dual Spring Saddle (check price on Amazon) High comfort saddle for flat, short and relaxed commutes
There are loads of other saddles out there, but these three cover all the needs a bike commuter can have. So let’s see first in general what saddle features are best for bike commuting?
What’s the proper commuter bike saddle size?
The most important feature of the saddle that you must get right is the width. To get that right measure your sit bone distance. How do you do that?
You sit on a piece of corrugated cardboard in the same position that you usually sit when riding. So if you sit on your saddle in an aggressive forward leaning position you lean forward, if you usually sit in an upright position you sit in an upright position. Place your feet on something imitating the upper position of your pedal stroke so your knee is in a less than 90 degree angle. Your sit bones will leave two small, but distinct dents on the cardboard.
Take a long piece of chalk and draw over the dents with the chalk’s side. This will reveal them with more clarity. Measure the distance between the center of the dents.
Add another 10-30 millimeters to the measured distance.
- 10 millimeters if you ride in an aggressive position (road bike, gravel bike)
- 20 millimeters if you ride in a forward leaning but not overly aggressive position (hybrid, trekking bike)
- 30 millimeters if you ride in an upright position (city bike).
Here is a visual explanation of how to do the measuring:
Best saddle based on body construction
A too narrow saddle doesn’t support your sit bones sufficiently and it might lead to excessive pressure in the perineum. A too wide saddle can lead to chafing or pinch points in the soft tissue. However if you are not completely sure of the exact size, it is better to choose a slightly wider one.
Unlike the tail, if the nose of the saddle is too wide it can be bothersome or even painful, especially for someone with bulky thighs. The edges of the saddle will rub against the thighs which can lead to chafing.
The length of the nose is also important. A shorter nose offers more room for pedaling and decreases the probability of chafing.
Best saddle based on riding style
Wider and rounder saddles are for more upright riding positions. They provide better support for your body. Whereas narrower and flater saddles are for more aggressive and forward leaning positions. Generally speaking a rounder saddle is more useful for those who tend to keep the same riding position in a somewhat upright position.
Saddles with a dip between the tail and the nose might be more comfortable for those riders who tend to stay more or less in the same, somewhat upright position. The dip adds a bit more stability.
If you often change hand positions, lean forward, sit up, push back, in short: wiggle a lot on the saddle, as it is the case in urban commuting due to maneuvering, a flat saddle without a dip will be more comfortable.
Best Premium Saddle: Brooks Cambium
Brooks established in 1866 has a long history and tradition of saddle making. Its one and a half a half century history in itself is a guarantee of quality.
The look and feel
The Cambium is a relatively new model, its design is innovatively traditional (you can find them on Amazon). The aluminum “Brooks” backplate on the tail of the saddle makes it look pretty stylish and gives a traditional touch. However the lack of padding and the pretty slim nylon covered vulcanized rubber base gives it a modern look.
The vulcanized rubber shell is covered with a waterproof nylon cover. These saddles are durable and don’t require breaking in or maintenance. Countless commuters keep it in high esteem because of its practicality, durability and style.
Difference between the main models
There are a few types of Cambium model: C13, C15, C17 and C19. The main difference is in the width, which ranges from 132mm (C13) to 184mm (C19). There is a small difference in their length too.
Their shape is pretty much similar, although in some minor aspects they may differ, e.g. some have a cutout (carved) or a narrower nose and in general the narrower the saddle the more flat the side to side shape is.
The features of the Cambium C13 saddles are specifically for racing or long distance touring. Because of the use of light materials they are more expensive than the other Cambium models.
What kind of body construction is the Brooks Cambium best for?
A 150-160 millimeter saddle width is average. You can find wider and narrower Cambium saddles. The C15 is of 150 millimeter width, its older brother the C17 is 160 millimeter wide, or if you need something even wider the C19 with its 184 millimeter width can be a good choice.
So basically you can find a Cambium model for every body type.
What riding style is the Brooks Cambium best for?
The Brooks Cambium saddle is designed for a wide range of riding styles that includes bike commuting. Every commuter finds a Cambium model that is perfect for bike commuting.
The Cambium strikes the right balance between size, shape and functionality for bike commuters. It’s wide enough to sit in a moderately upright position and at the same time enables the rider to maintain a slightly forward leaning aero position. If you’re an urban bike commuter, you need to see the traffic around you, and if your commute is longer than 5 miles it is also important to be able to keep a good pace.
The Cambium suits a moderate riding style that’s neither too aggressive nor too relaxed. So if your commute takes from 1 to 2 hours a day and you maintain an average speed of 12-20 mph, the Cambium is perfect for supporting your body in a slightly upright position, allowing you to lean forward and keep and moderate aero position.
As a general rule the more aggressive your riding style the narrower Cambium model you need, and the more relaxed your riding style is the wider saddle you should use.
The Cambium model’s length and flat design from tail to nose gives enough space to freely move on its flat (tail-to-nose) surface while maneuvering or just move around on longer rides, while its side-to-side shape is rounded enough to provide enough support to keep the same riding position.
What type of commute is the Cambium best for?
The Cambium saddles are good relaxed and short commutes as well as longer and sportier commutes.
For shorter and relaxed urban commutes when you sit in a completely upright position the Cambium C19 is a good choice.
The C15 with its fairly narrow width can be a good choice for sportier commutes. If you look for a particularly sporty saddle check the model C13. It is light and very narrow (132 millimeter width) can serve you well.
What kind of bikes does the Cambium fit the best?
As far as functionality goes Cambium saddles cover a wide range. They fit a wide range of bikes: from cyclocross bikes to urban cruisers. It can be mounted almost on any type of bike. The C19 fits perfect for urban cruisers or Dutch-style bikes and the C15 and C17 could fit mountain and road bikes, hybrid or fitness bikes or gravel bikes.
Be sure to pick the right saddle for the right bike. So for example for a very relaxed geometry cruiser bike a C13 saddle will defeat the purpose and the saddle will soon become uncomfortable and even painful. But the same saddle for a road bike with an aggressive geometry will make perfect sense.
Best Value Saddle: Fabric Scoop
A more budget friendly choice and more “regular” in its design is the Fabric Scoop saddle (also available on Amazon). The Fabric brand was established in 2014. Its products are excellent quality, even pro cyclists use their saddles and other products. Some of the saddles are budget friendly and high quality.
The look and feel
The Scoop models have a pretty sporty design. They are available in three different widths: 132, 142 and 155 millimeter. The 155 millimeter width saddle comes in three different shapes:
The Flat is flattest and has the least amount of padding, the Shallow one is rounder and squishier and the Radius is the roundest and squishiest.
Looking at the saddle sideways what really catches the eye is the elegant way the padding (with 3 gel inserts) is bonded on the flexible nylon shell instead of the traditional compressed and stretch covered padding. The slightly heavier and noticeably cheaper saddles with steel rails are perfect for bike commuting.
What kind of body construction is the Fabric Scoop best for?
The Fabric Scoop saddles cover the average body constructions, the small, mid and big sit bone distances. However if you are above average having an exceptionally robust body construction this saddle might not be wide enough for you.
For most bike commuters the Radius and the Shallow would be the best fitting because they are round enough to support you to maintain a moderately forward leaning riding position.
Generally speaking the wider models come with shorter noses. So if you have bulkier thighs this might be a good option for you as there is more room for your thighs and thus prevent chafing.
What riding style is the Fabric Scoop best for?
The Fabric Scoop is sportier than the Cambium. Therefore it is perfectly fit for commuting where you are in a riding position that is between aero and upright.
Although Fabric’s website suggests that the 155 millimeter width saddles can support an upright riding position I would avoid it if you ride your bike in a completely upright position.
Other 142 millimeter wide Scoop Radius and Shallow saddles can support you in a pretty aggressive riding position. If you are looking for something even more aggressive check the 134 millimeter wide Shallow or Flat models.
The Scoop Radius saddles because of their rounded shape and squishier padding offer ideal support to maintain the same riding position. The Radius has a slightly deeper dip than the Shallow model does. The dip helps the rider to maintain a somewhat upright position.
Because Fabric Scoop is shorter and has a dip it can be uncomfortable if you tend to move a lot on the saddle.
What kind of commute is the Fabric Scoop best for?
Generally speaking the Fabric Scoop is best for mid and long range urban commutes. They can serve you just as well in the city as on longer rides.
It is definitely not a good choice for very relaxed short range urban commutes due to their fairly narrow sizing.
What kind of bike does the Fabric Scoop fit the best?
You can mount them on a wide range of bikes such as mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, road bikes, etc. I wouldn’t recommend it for bikes that require the rider to sit in a completely upright position, like a dutch style bike or an urban cruiser.
Best Comfort Saddle: Bikeroo Dual Spring Saddle
What if you only ride a couple of miles on a city bike in the city and want something very squishy and really wide?
Choosing a high comfort saddle can be very tempting if you have already tried a few saddles and none of them matched your needs. The frustration, annoyance and the pain might get you to choose a high comfort saddle. It can be a good option if you have a short commute or a particular body construction.
For a chill out urban commute that is shorter than 5 miles on flat terrain with a relaxed geometry bike like a dutch style or an urban cruiser a very squishy and really wide Bikeroo comfort saddle (check availability on Amazon) can be a good option.
The saddle’s padding is thick and squishy and it’s supported by the extra strong elastomer spring suspensions. It is a pretty efficient shock absorbent and a high resistant big bike saddle. The springs are made of synthetic elasticated rubber which absorb vibration.
The springs are reduced in height size and the saddle comes with a universal saddle adapter that will allow you to easily mount the saddle on any bike.
A waterproof cover is also included in the package, so you don’t have to sit on a wet saddle after an exhausting work day. In addition you get mounting tools and instructions with the saddle too.
The Bikeroo saddle is a good solution if you have a very robust body construction and you need something massive and comfortable to support your body.
Bonus tip: Before you would change
Before you rush to change your saddle for a more comfortable one, it’s worth checking if it’s set properly in the first place. Saddle height, and especially saddle angle, affect your riding comfort a great deal. Even an otherwise comfortable saddle can cause a lot of pain if not angled properly.
There is a huge difference between this:
A saddle tilting too much up will push against your perineum, whereas a saddle tilting too much down will cause you to slip off the saddle and hold your weight with your hands.
The right way to angle your saddle is to have it parallel to the ground.
Saddles are indeed very personal. If it is the proper one you might not even notice until you haven’t sat on a bad one. If it is not fit for you it becomes a real pain in the ass. This is when you realize how precious a good saddle is. I hope that this guide will help you find the best one for you.