Traditionally, finding the best bike saddle has been a challenging task. You really don’t know until you install and actually ride on it, if it’s a good choice for you.
There are many articles online about how to choose the best saddle but here is a method that you may want to try out if it’s available in your region.
I was recently in need of a new saddle, having purchased a used cyclocross bike that came with one that didn’t work for me at all (too hard and not a deep enough centre channel). I bought a replacement one at my regular LBS (“local bike shop”) that I thought might work but after installing it and riding for 5 minutes, I knew it was too wide for me. Thankfully the shop owner allowed me to return it. Lesson >>> only buy your saddle from a vendor who will allow returns. They are not cheap and you don’t want to get stuck with one that doesn’t work for you.
I asked around and discovered that my #2 preferred LBS had the RETUL device that will measure your “sit bones”. In addition to deciding on which style of saddle you want in terms of padding and centre channel, it’s also important to know what width is best for you. The general assumption would be that the width of your hips would determine saddle width, but this isn’t really true. The more important factor is the distance between your “sit bones”.
RETUL has a device that you can sit on, that takes this measurement and translates it into your ideal saddle width. According to the internet, other vendors also have systems, and you can even come up with a method to do this yourself at home. Here is what the RETUL device looks like:
The measurement process has you sit on the device three times, and then an average measurement is calculated. My number is 131mm, which translated into a 155mm saddle. Here’s proof that you can get measured for a bike saddle while wearing a skirt!
My friend A. has significantly slimmer outer hips than I do, but her result was just a bit smaller sit bone measurement and the same size saddle recommendation.
With these numbers, we headed to the saddle display to choose from a variety of 155mm wide saddles, for different types of bikes and styles of riding and I got one that will work for me.
This measurement system is just one step in finding an ideal saddle for you. It may still take several purchases, trials and returns of saddles to find what works. Again, dealing with a vendor that allows returns is very important. A bike saddle is not something that I would consider buying online, given fit and comfort challenges.
Consider searching for a local vendor that has a system similar to the RETUL one when embarking on your next bike saddle purchase, and please, support your local LBSs.