Saddle discomfort is one of the main reasons women stop cycling, but it does not have to be. Modern ladies' bike saddles come in a wide range of shapes and sizes to support the female anatomy correctly. Women looking for a comfortable bike saddle should consider the width, padding, design, and cover materials.
Ladies' Bike Saddle Width
High-quality bike seats are often available in three widths. The correct width depends on the distance between the sit-bones, which is usually—but not always—greater for women than for men. Moreover, it does not always correspond to body frame size, so a small-framed woman may need a wide bike saddle or vice versa. Some bike shops have ways to measure the distance between the sit-bones, such as via memory foam, and this is an excellent option for a woman who wants the best possible fit.
Padding on ladies' saddles ranges from thick gel bike saddles to thin hard racing bike saddles. More padding is not always better in terms of comfort. For one, padding in the wrong places can chafe or create pressure points. Secondly, low quality padding breaks down fairly quickly, leaving the rider with a saddle that may or may not have the ideal shell shape under the padding. Despite these caveats, strategically placed padding is helpful because it distributes the weight of the rider over an area rather than on a single point. Look for a seat that is firm, but not hard. Gel saddle covers are one way to add padding just for long trips.
Bike saddles designed for the female anatomy often feature grooves or cut-outs in the middle of the saddle. This prevents excessive pressure on the softer tissues in this area, which take the brunt of the rider's weight in a forward riding position. Other design elements like the curve of the seat also play a big role in rider comfort, but preferences are highly individual. The angle at which the saddle attaches to the bike is a major factor as well, so a saddle with a curved nose may be uncomfortable when set flat on a bike, but perfect when tilted slightly downward. Unfortunately, trial-and-error is often the only way to get a feel for what works with the rider's body. When testing a saddle, remember that the sit-bones are the best points to support the rider's weight.
Bike Saddle Cover Material
Bike saddle cover material determines, in large part, the durability of the saddle. Waterproof covers are important for commuters who need to be able to dismount without a wet patch on their trousers. However, breathability is a higher priority than waterproofing for racing saddles. Off-road riders benefit from reinforced corners on the saddle for those times when the bicycle may fall.