How to choose the right bike saddle for you

If you want to be comfortable on your bike, one of the most important decisions to consider is choosing the right bike saddle for you. The saddle your bike came with might be adequate for a short ride here and there, but when you start to ride more regularly you’ll start to notice just how important tailoring the right bike saddle for you is.

Saddle selection can affect your health and enjoyment levels on the bike, so it’s important to make an active and well-informed choice.  Why? Because a saddle with a poor ergonomic design that doesn’t suit your anatomy or your intended use (eg. mountain bike vs commute vs road race) can cause loads of problems.  These include:

  • Perineal pain (saddle sores)
  • Impotence / genital pain / numbness
  • Poor spinal posture leading to back and neck pain
  • Even knee pain can result from a poor saddle choice!

A well designed ergonomic saddle will permit a far better position on the bike leading to comfort and performance gains. Just as there are different types of bikes, there are different types of saddles.  At the extremes, the saddle you choose for a town bike is completely different to a time trial bike because your sitting posture is vastly different between bikes, resulting in very different parts of your bony pelvis being in contact with the saddle.

Comfort Saddle
Source: www.bikeexchange.com.au
Ergonomic saddle. Source: www.amazon.com

How do you choose a saddle?  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Saddle width: it needs to be wide enough to support your pelvic bones.  Wider for upright postures and narrow for racing / low postures (where the pelvic bones also narrow).
  • Padding: more for upright bikes, less for race bikes.
  • Shape: a modern ergonomic design with central relief channel and lateral groove to unload sensitive soft tissue areas (see images below).

And most importantly, you will need some test rides to decide if the saddle will work for you or not.

Left (black saddle) is almost completely flat with no ergonomic shape at all and caused the rider perineal pain. On the right (yellow saddle) notice the curved ergonomic shape which alleviates saddle pressures and pains.

Left (black saddle): Notice the direct contact between the front of the pelvis and saddle nose – ouch! Right (yellow saddle): The arrow shows the space available to keep pressure off your soft tissues – comfort!

How to pack all the essentials for a bike ride

Imagine, you’re on the road 10 kilometres from home and you get a flat tyre.

You scramble for a spare tyre, only to realise you didn’t pack one. Avoid this situation by packing all the essentials for a bike ride. Packing the right tools and educating yourself on how to use them will make the job easier and get you back on the bike quicker.

Essentials for a bike ride

  • Small pump or Co2 canisters: Fixed to the frame or in a saddlebag. Co2 canisters are costly and less environmentally friendly but are quick and fuss-free.
  • Puncture repair kit and tyre levers: New versions have glue-less patches that act like a band-aid.
  • Spare tube(s): Rolled up and in the saddlebag or spare bidon (tool carrier)
  • A multi-tool: Fits in your saddlebag and has almost everything for the quick fix mechanical problems
  • Water (bottle or camelback)
  • Nutrition (Snacks): None perishable items are the best and treats for extra motivation work well with the young ones.
  • Cash and phone for emergencies
  • Sun protection
  • Medications
  • Emergency details (ID)

Carry these essentials in your jersey pockets or a small backpack.

If you’re commuting to work, going for a much longer ride, or you just don’t like the feeling of heavy backpacks and/or pockets, you may like to carry your belongings on the bike as opposed to on the person.

On the bike‘ refers to devices that put the weight of your items on the bike, which means that your body is free to move without being weighed down.

Pannier bags stay on your bike in a fixed position whilst frame bags (also called bento bags) are fixed to the frame.

Other handy items

  • Lightweight spray jacket: Packs neatly
  • Bike lights: White on the front, red on the back
  • Spare socks
  • Wet wipes: After you change a flat, put the chain back on or stop for a lunch date.
  • Bike lock

You’ll need to work out what type of riding you will be doing and cater the needs of your pack to that type or riding. Experiment with different methods and talk with other cyclists to get your packing skills just right.

How to wear cycling gear in cold weather

Cold weather is a surprising reason why so many people don’t get on their bikes in winter.

Despite the cold, winter is the prime season for sports like football, Rugby League or AFL. To combat the cold they wear gear like tracksuits or skins before they get their body temperature up during gameplay. The cold weather is no issue for them, and cycling is no different!

In fact, winter is a great time to get out on the bike. If you wear the right gear and keep track of temperature changes throughout the seasons, you’ll be able to cycle in comfort all year round! Keep reading to learn some helpful ways to wear cycling gear in cold weather.

The Basics

An essential trick to keeping yourself warm is layering.  More often than not (especially in QLD), temperatures can quickly change depending on where you are. This is where layering comes in handy. Layering to create warmth gives you the flexibility to peel an outer layer off mid-ride if you get too hot. 

There are examples below of how to layer up for warmth using cycle -specific clothing, as well as how to do it with clothes you already have in your wardrobe (which can be really handy to save some $$ if your kids decide to get into cycling this winter).  The keys are matching the warmth of your gear to how cold the temperature and wind chill actually are.

Start with your base layer

To stay warm, start with a base layer; an undershirt that goes beneath your jersey. In Queensland a short sleeve or singlet is usually adequate. Choose a breathable fabric to wick away sweat. Merino base layers are good for when the temperature drops below 10°C, otherwise a standard polypro works well. If you want to use something already in your wardrobe, grab a singlet or old tight fitting t-shirt.

Add another layer

As it gets cooler, adding a gillet (wind stopper vest) over your jersey adds another layer of warmth for your core and blocks the wind. Still cold? Cover your arms using arm warmers – these are fleece lined lycra tubes you pull up over your base layer that can be pulled off later and stored in your jersey pocket if you get too hot.  For kids a skivvy or long sleeve t-shirt under their jersey works fine, or a sloppy joe over the top.  Once the temperature gets to 16°C or cooler you might want leg or arm warmers.

Protect your toes and fingers

Frozen toes and fingers are definitely something to avoid. Start with toe covers (3mm neoprene covers for the end of your cycle shoes) which will keep your feet toasty warm and only set you back about $15. Dave from Cycle Physio was offered $100 for them at a café on a cold winters morning before! Long finger gloves (fleece lined) are great in Queensland’s winter – there’s nothing worse than having your fingers so frozen that you can’t change gears. 

Cyclist and child demonstrating layering cycling gear for cold weather
Cyclist and child demonstrating layering cycling gear for cold weather

Don’t forget your head!

Since you lose about 1/3 of your body heat through your head, keeping your head warm makes a massive difference. A skull cap or cycle cap works perfectly here. On the cap the tiny brim will also block the rain and not obstruct your vision when riding. If you don’t want to buy one, you can use a thin beanie or bandana on under your helmet. A “buff” (a fabric tube available on our store here) is excellent and can be worn like a scarf to keep your neck warm. It can even be pulled up over the ears, mouth, nose and head (under your helmet) to stay really warm.

Complete your look

Lastly, a winter jacket or rain cape (thin waterproof packable jacket) can be worn as an outer layer for cold early mornings below 10°C, especially if a cold winter westerly is blowing. Once you’re all layered up, you might find that you’re actually sweating a little on your ride whilst your less well-dressed mates are freezing!

Want more cycling resources and education? Start by watching our Bike Basics series here!