You have three contact points when you ride a bicycle: the pedals, handlebars, and seat. While all three are essential, the seating area is arguably the most important aspect of riding. The type of seating you have can assist with endurance, speed, and even comfort. The choice is up to you. Here's what you need to know about bike seats, from noseless bike saddles to banana seats and everything in between.

Seat or Saddle 

To the weekend rider, the area you sit on is a bicycle seat. The dedicated bicycle enthusiast, however, knows to refer to the seat as a saddle. Technically, they are both right. Your bicycle seat is often called a saddle because it is modeled after the traditional horse riding saddle. However, research shows that the terms "bicycle saddle" and "bicycle seat" are interchangeable. 

Performance or Cushioning

Whether you choose to call it a seat or a saddle, there are two main types of bicycle saddles:

  • Performance. Performance saddles are the long and narrow seats you commonly see on bicycles for adults. Their shape allows riders to move forward and back while pedaling without losing power. This type of saddle is generally not as comfortable as a cushioning saddle, but they are often lighter and provide maximum power transfer for the rider.
  • Cushioning. Cushioning saddles are wider than performance saddles and have more padding. They are designed for comfort, and as a result, they are often heavier than performance saddles. These seats are a good choice for recreational riders who want a softer ride or who will be spending a long time on their bike.

Banana, X-wing, or noseless

Within the cushioning category of saddles, there is quite a bit of variation, depending on the rider's needs. Cushioning saddles include:

  • Banana. This is the bicycle saddle of your youth that you may long for nostalgically after a long day on the road. Banana saddles are long, curved, and relatively wide, making them ideal for comfort.
  • X-wing. The x-wing is similar to a performance saddle in appearance with a pronounced nose but is much wider to offer the rider more support. The sides of an x-wing saddle extend out to offer a larger seating area and, in turn, increased comfort. Additionally, x-wing saddles may come with large springs to ease the rider through bumps on the road, similar to how shocks cushion a car ride.
  • Noseless. Noseless bike seats are a relatively new invention but are becoming increasingly popular. They are designed to take the pressure off the perineum, prostate, and tailbone by removing the "nose" commonly seen in performance saddle design. This can help to prevent saddle sores, numbness, and other problems.

No matter the saddle you choose, it is important to ensure that it fits your needs. A good way to test a saddle for comfort is to sit on it in the store for a few minutes. Many bike shops will even allow you to take a saddle for a test ride. Chances are, with a little trial and error, you'll find the perfect saddle for you and be on your way to enjoying hours (or miles) of comfortable cycling.

Contact a local bike shop to learn more about noseless bike seats