We have our new bikes, and we are beginning to make them our own. This means adding a few things, like lights front and rear for night riding, and a back rack for my daughter's bike (mine will get one, too, but I need to find the right one), and adjusting whatever is adjustable—the front stem, the height of the seat post, and . . . the saddles.
- "If you ride your bike every day and never, ever, even so much as think about your bicycle's seat—then you have the right seat. Congratulations."
He also points out, as many people do, the difficulties of finding the right seat, with this observation:
- "Just one ride is not enough to really tell if a seat is going to give you trouble. Sometimes seats can be devious little things that wait to turn on you when you least expect it. Ride the bike every day for a week, and if you're still happy with the seat, then you've got the right seat. If not, back it goes!"
Okay. We have the goal. Now how to accomplish it?
The seats on our new bikes are good quality and look just fine. We didn't know much about bike components when we started this process of finding what's turning out to be our new primary mode of transportation. We've learned a lot in acquiring our bikes. We do have frames of the right size, and bikes of the right style for us. Moving along to seats. . . . Here's what came with the bikes:
They are WTB Comfort V seats. I'd link to information on the seat, but bike saddles seem to be infinitely morphing. When I search for information on the seat—even with a full set of model descriptors from the bike catalog—I get things that look similar but not identical. Anyway. My daughter and I find that they are not comfortable for very long. We keep feeling like we're sliding forward off the front of the seat (regardless of the angle it's set at or how far forward or back it's resting on its rails) and that we're trying to sit off the back end to compensate. Essentially, the first sit-down is fine, but after a half-mile (1km) or so, we'd rather ride without putting any weight on the seat, which isn't the goal.
The seats on the bikes with the too-small frames were great. We never noticed them.
The seat was an Avenir Cross Comfort and it came with the bike. Raleigh USA distributes Avenir saddles (these were [Raleigh OOPS] Diamondback Maravista hybrid bikes [Raleigh owns Diamondback, thus my choice of the wrong word], and as I've mentioned the only problem we had with the bikes was that we were sold too-small frames, which over time resulted in much inconvenience and some discomfort, because we could never get the seats in the right position and our knees hurt).
The seat on my old Motobecane was horrendous, but I didn't know I could replace it. I rode the bike a lot anyway, but I would have ridden it even more if I'd been more bike-savvy and known what to do about the seat. The two bikes I had before that were in the dark ages; I was also ignorant about having any choice, but their saddles worked just fine.
The good news is that most manufacturers of bike saddles appear to have 30- or 90-day "comfort guarantees"—they don't guarantee the saddle will be comfortable, but they do give the purchaser the option of returning a saddle during a speciic time period if it isn't. You still have to figure out which saddles to try; lay out the money at least temporarily; spend a lot of time with allen wrenches putting seats on and off your bike (and adjusting the position of each seat, fore and aft, up and down); and remember to return what doesn't work. But the system does help.
We have discovered that there are "men's" and "women's" saddles, just as there are "men's" and "women's" frame styles, although who rides what happily (in frames and seats) may correlate to gender and may not. We were interested to note that my bike frame (17", women's styling) and my daughter's frame (19", men's styling . . . they don't make a 19" women's frame, or she would have preferred one, for ease of mounting and dismounting) came with the same (men's style) seats.
Here's a comparison between the (men's) seats that came on the bikes (left) and a women's style seat (right), which is slightly wider at the back and shorter at the nose:
The correct seat for a given bike depends on the rider, the type of bike, and the style of riding, so we can't just try to locate seats like the ones on our old bikes. We are both riding in more "aggressive" positions than we used to, now that we have frames of the right sizes and can get the seat heights set correctly. That means we're sitting differently on the bikes and what worked then probably won't be right now.
So the quest for comfortable seats has begun.
We started by trying the Serfas Women’s RX (RX-922L), 16 oz., 454 g., 10 x 7 in., 25 x 18 cm, lycra covered, which my daughter likes better than I do, although I like it better than the original-issue WTB seat:
We also got a similar model, the Serfas Women’s Dual Density (DDL-200), 16 oz., 454 g., 10 x 7 in, 25 x 18 cm, fabric cover, which I like a little better than the RX, although it's still not comfortable enough to forget about (it just got installed on my daughter's bike last night, so we don't know what she thinks about it so far):
It was the demo seat in the photo of the men's/women's differences. After reading a bunch of online reviews, I'm trying out the Bontrager InForm R, which comes in three sizes, set to match different people's posteriors:
It's obviously less cushy-looking than the other seats. In fact, it has enough less padding that I have to extend my seat post an extra few centimeters to get the correct seat-to-pedal length. Yet so far, it's the best saddle for me of the group we've tried, but I haven't quite forgotten it's there. It's also true that this is a new design and I've read that it's optimized for road bikes, so the design might not be correct for my riding style (closer to mountain-bike positioning).
The quest continues, although I'm not sure where to take it next. I'd really just like to ride my bike and not have to think about whether the seat is working or not (mostly not, although the Bontrager's gotten me to "okay").
Maybe I'll install the bell today.
We are riding a lot more than we did on our old bikes: I missed a ride yesterday (my daughter did 15 miles (28km)), but I'm usually getting at least 7 miles (13km) and usually 10 miles (18km) or more. And that's just getting to and from places I need to be.