Are you sitting comfortably?

My recent test drive of the Brompton brought home to me the effect of, and the need for, a good perch. The streets of London are not, surprisingly, paved with gold and having a comfortable saddle, fit for purpose is an essential, often overlooked piece of kit. 

The state of London’s roads make a good saddle essential.  Those pot-holes and bumps in most of the so-called cycle lanes are a joke!  Actually, not a joke…a bone-jarring reality for most of us.

Swayed towards a Brooks saddle

Until a couple of years ago I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about changing the saddle on any bike I bought. Indeed, I’ve ridden my old Trek hybrid with the saddle that came with it for about 18 years. 

Only when I bought a commuter bike did I get round to changing the saddle. Mostly because I wanted to try a Brooks saddle and the bike shop persuaded me that it would be a good idea.  The original bike had a Specialized BG Sonoma saddle which whilst not uncomfortable was not really in keeping with the style of the bike.

I bought it on the Bike-to-work scheme so the extra cost of putting mudguards on and a new saddle was partly borne by the company I work for.

I bought the Flyer S model and away I went.  I had heard lots of horror stories about Brooks, the need to break them in and so forth, but I followed the instructions about proofing and I’ve never looked back.  It took me about a week of daily riding to get comfortable and now I find the suspended leather saddle the only way to travel.

When I bought the Wilier, the saddle that came with it was a Selle Italia XR, which, for me, was like sitting on a razor blade.  I paid for this one myself and the extra cost of a new saddle was, at the time, a little more than I could bear. 

Rather rather than buy a Brooks or other leather saddle, I put the Specialized Sonoma  from my commuter bike on there which seems to do the job.


The more padding the more pain

It’s only when I ride another saddle that I realise how uncomfortable the normal padded ones are, like the one on the Brompton.  It seems that the more padding there is, the more jarring the ride.  The Flyer S is the women’s shortened version of the standard model but I really didn’t notice the difference so when I bought the B17, I went for the men’s version, the Standard.  On a more forward leaning position I think that I should have gone for the ‘S’.

Without what Bike Snob calls his ‘pants yabbies’ to support, the longer version does seem a little long for me but nevertheless it is much more comfortable than anything else.  Suspended leather saddles just seem to absorb those bumps and lumps in the road in a way that extra padding just doesn’t.

Many more years ago than I care to remember, I did the London-Brighton bike ride on my Trek and I remember a stage where, rising out of the saddle on a hill almost made me sick with the pain.  A combination perhaps of lack of miles in the saddle and a lack of fitness but, even with a gel cover it was hellish.  I’ve since ridden that far in a day and felt no ill effects on a leather saddle. 

I may be more used to it now but a few weeks back I had a big ride in Antwerp on the Trek and the feeling on my nether regions was the same.  Pain.  Maybe saddle technology has come a long way because I don’t get that pain from the Specialized on the Wilier but for daily riding, I find the leather saddle the only way to go.

Which saddle style do you find most comfortable?

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17 Responses to Are you sitting comfortably?

  1. Will 28/06/2011 at 11:28 am #

    I am yet to be convinced by brooks, I have a B17 and whilst comfortable found it very slippy when on longer rides, that might be more down to bike set up.

    I have swapped it for charge spoons on both my road and mtb bike and they obviously suit my errr shape! really comfortable and no slippage.

    I think it really does comedown to shape rather than cushioning, I should probably splash out on a swallow brooks as I seem to get on better with thinner saddles, which is surprising as I’m what you might call a wide load!

    • idavid 28/06/2011 at 8:34 pm #

      I bought a Brooks Swallow for my (gorgeous!) Specialized Sirrus Pro. It took about 200 miles to admit my mistake, thank God for eBay. As Will says, they’re slippy, also I found the rails restrict fore/aft adjustment. So I was seriously contemplating throwing £120 at a seat pin with “layback”, when I thought – hey – I’ve had a San Marco Rolls for years on my commuter bike, why not go again?

      So I bought the model with Ti rails and it was just like coming home. The fore/aft issue was fixed, the leather is a happy medium between smooth and grippy, and it’s about half the weight of the Brooks. Again, agree with Wills it’s about shape, not cushioning.

      I know several folk who swear by Brooks, but they’re not for me. Sorry, your question was about saddle “style” – well I’ve never had a sprung saddle, my dad had one during the Second World War, though.

  2. Katie 28/06/2011 at 11:42 am #

    I have a women’s B17 on my touring bike, and the plain unmarked saddle that came on my folding bike (a Raleigh Boardwalk Lite). The tandem I ride on the back of occasionally has a Brooks Flyer S. I far prefer riding on Brooks 🙂

  3. Jim 28/06/2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Has anyone out there used a ‘no-nose’ saddle? I’m seriously considering one after reading this painfully detailed story in the NY Times about them:

    • Will 29/06/2011 at 10:27 am #

      If they weren’t so pricey I’d think about it, but for that money, you can buy a lot of viagra. The ISM saddles look like they could perform a rather painful castration though if lycra wasn’t being used…OUCH!

      • Rita Simmonds 13/05/2016 at 12:34 am #

        After almost giving up cycling altogether because of saddle sores, crushed genitals, chafing and bruising I was finally steered towards an ISM saddle.

        At first I thought, “hmm not sure I like that as it looks odd and too hard to give me the necessary support I need” as my old saddle was a highly padded woman’s gel saddle and I honestly felt if that one made me so sore it could bring me to tears nothing was going to solve the problem. However I had reached the point where I was desperate and felt it couldn’t get any worse so I gave it a try.

        I am so glad I did as my private parts don’t get crushed any more, the pain has gone and I am actually enjoying cycling again – as the saying goes you really cannot tell a book by its cover so please don’t knock it until you have had the chance to give one a fair try.

        My little ISM racing saddle has to be the must comfortable saddle I have ever used.

  4. Urbanspaceman 28/06/2011 at 4:56 pm #

    I fitted a Brooks B73, the model with three coil springs, two at the back and one at the front, for my Brompton. It was a quite easy swap; there is not even any need even to alter the extension position of the seat tube.

    The effect has been to significantly improve ride quality – the springs seem to damp out road shocks that the Brompton’s small wheels transmit. Overall a much more comfortable ride.

  5. John 28/06/2011 at 6:26 pm #

    On the whole I have used the saddle supplied with the bike and have managed OK.
    The only time I have changed saddles is when they have started to wear out on me.
    The Brooks saddles have always interested me, but there have been so many stories of them losing their shape if they got wet etc balanced by they are the only saddle to have.
    The average price seems to be about £70 mark for them and that is quite a large investment on a saddle if it is not the right one as they do make quite a range.

    Perhaps I will set you a challenge now Nicole and ask you to come up with a recommended list of Brooks saddles for various types of bikes / styles of riding and for which sex.

  6. Pete 29/06/2011 at 5:46 am #

    I recently purchased myself Brooks saddle to put on my commuter and after only 2 rides it is far more comfortable than the overpriced Selle I have on my other bike. I have always been a fan of the harder saddle so it probably helped the break-in period but it is seriously comfortable and now going to be replacing the Selle for a Brooks. I still don’t know why I didnt go for the Brooks in the first place.

    Regarding the comments about losing their shape when wet, there is a tension bolt you can use to tighten it back up (once dried out), my saddle also came with a rain cover if you have to leave it out in the elements for any length of time.

    • John 29/06/2011 at 8:08 am #

      Hi Pete,

      Interesting comments of yours, which one did you buy as like yourself I have used Selle saddles and prefer the harder saddle.


      • Peter 29/06/2011 at 8:22 am #

        I may have been a bit harsh on the overpriced bit, I had the SLR Gel Flow Saddle,

        I think my issue is that it was too grippy which meant I couldnt move around easily and I think it just didnt suit me. Definitely looked cool on the bike though 🙂

        I got it 6 months before I did my JOGLE but I could never get comfortable during rides over 3-4 hours (I was doing 6-7 hours on the JOGLE).

        With the Brooks I went for the Team Pro saddle on my commuter and it is as hard as a rock which I find rather comfortable. I assume it will get roughed up a bit but I actually like the smoothness because it lets me easily adjust my riding position.

        Saddles can be a very personal thing, once you find a comfy one stick with it 🙂

  7. Woody 29/06/2011 at 11:59 am #

    I’ve never liked Selle saddles – tried a couple of them, both high end, one gel, one Ti railed. Both are seriously uncomfortable.
    My Trek came with a Bontrager saddle that was actually pretty good for an included saddle; but I’m a huge fan of Fizik saddles, both the Arione and the Aliante. They’re not big sofas like the Brooks, but they are perfectly padded and shaped for me, and the carbon weave platform on the Aliante is extraordinarily comfortable.

  8. John 02/07/2011 at 2:51 pm #

    Hi All,
    Well I took on board all that everyone had to say about Brooks saddles and bought a B17 a few days ago.
    I have given it all the treatments suggested and this is what happened –

    a/ First fitting and trial ride, slipped off it as soon as I got on it! – adjustments needed.
    b/ Second trial – Stayed on it but very slippery and most uncomfortable.
    c/ Third ride – to say it was a painful few hours that evening after riding would be an understatement.
    d/ Spoke to one off my friends about my buying a Brooks saddle – Marvellous saddles but like riding with a bone up your a**e till you break it in! – perfect description.
    e/ long ride today and the journey out not to bad and the journey home even better except for by left hand side pressing on the saddle too much.
    On arriving home I noticed the leather is starting to rough up and stop the slipping around so much.
    So, in conclusion I think my butt and this Brooks saddle are both toughening up and starting to soften up. I have all good hopes for the saddle and believe we will become a perfect match so to say!

  9. Alis 02/07/2011 at 4:05 pm #

    I have a R2 Rido saddle. It’s extremely comfortable, but saddles are very personal and feel different for everyone. I get no numbness with this and my sitting bones are fine.

    If it wasn’t for the Rido, I wouldn’t have survived the 60 mile London to Brighton bike ride last month!

    Highly recommended.

  10. Gerry 03/07/2011 at 12:18 pm #

    I have the Rido R2 as well. It is the only saddle I have ever liked. Never get any numbness and I cycle 20 miles a day commuting.

  11. Tim 06/07/2011 at 4:39 pm #

    I have been riding the streets of London for 35 years now during that time I have had two B17 standard brooks saddles only replacing the original about two years ago. I love my Brooks and would never be without one. Check out the new luggage too. Expensive but quality and well designed.

  12. seamus king 15/11/2014 at 6:34 pm #


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