Women's saddles are a different shape to men's and are generally softer, because a woman's hips, crotch and genitalia need different support and comfort. Saddle choice is a still personal matter though, and there’s no one-size-suits-all option when it comes to ladies’ saddles.
The key purpose of a saddle is to be sat on though, and if it’s going to be sat on, then the most important thing is that it needs to be comfortable.
The width of the saddle should match the width of your sit bones and there shouldn’t be a feeling of pressure on your soft tissue. Women’s saddles often come with a cut-out section or grooved central channel to reduce the amount of weight placed on sensitive areas, but the depth of the groove or size of the cutout will vary.
Getting the right saddle for you might take experimentation and perseverance; some bike stores now offer saddle demo programs, allowing you to try before you buy. There's still some trial and error even when you have the chance to test the saddle – getting used to a new perch can takes a good few rides and plenty of miles.
What to look for in a women’s saddle
The most obvious differences between men and women’s saddles will be their shape and the placement of their padding. And for better or worse, you’ll also find a greater range of pink and other pastel shades to choose from. Some saddles are unisex; you may find these work better for you than women-specific saddles. We also know riders who swear by the comfort of some men's saddles – it really is the most personal component choice you'll make.
The Fizik Vitesse HP is designed specifically for female cyclists
Saddle needs will vary from rider to rider too. For example, if you tend to do shorter, faster road rides then you’ll be sitting for less time than if you’re a mountain biker who enjoys all-day backcountry epics, and in the case of the former, you might want to sacrifice a bit of padding in the interest of low weight.
Essentially though, the fundamentals of choosing a women’s bike saddle are the same as they are for men. Here are the things you should consider…
Most modern saddles use synthetic materials, although you'll still find real leather on more expensive ones. The key thing is to make sure any seams, sticky bits or reinforcing panels don't chafe. Mountain bike saddles are likely to suffer crashes, so a hard-wearing cover is essential.
The base of the saddle controls the basic shape and how springy it is. Several manufacturers produce different width or shaped shells for different physiques.
Grooves or cutouts
Some saddle shells have a groove in the centre or a hole cut to reduce pressure around sensitive areas.
The Selle Italia SL Flow – the cutout is there to relieve pressure
Padding distributes pressure from your behind across the surface of the saddle. The padding in a women’s saddle will be placed slightly differently a men’s saddle.
The rails are the bars that the seatpost clamps onto under the saddle. Cheaper saddles use steel alloys, while titanium or carbon rails make for a lighter saddle. Single rail saddle and post systems are gaining ground in road cycling for their light weight and adjustability, but double check compatibility before buying.
You'll find all sorts of other touches on saddles, from Kevlar-reinforced corners or plastic bumpers, to built-in mounts for tail lights or saddle packs. These can offer extra features, but always keep comfort as the first priority.