I always say that the most important parts of the bike to get right are the parts that are in contact with you – the saddle and handlebars and the parts that are in contact with the road – the tires.
It’s best not to scrimp on these areas for both comfort and safety reasons. A well-suited triathlon saddle ensures comfort during long rides and allows for an efficient aero position.
In this article we will look at one of these very important areas, the bike saddle. Saddles are very much a personal choice as everyone has a different shape and requirements. We will look at the make up of a saddle, the different types and style for triathlon, provide guidance on selecting the best one for your race plus the best saddles on the market today.
Choosing the Right Saddle for you Triathlon Race
Choosing the right triathlon saddle is crucial for comfort, performance, and overall enjoyment during long-distance triathlon events. Here are some considerations and steps to help you select the right triathlon saddle:
Assess Your Riding Style and Goals
Understand your riding style and goals. Are you focused on short-distance sprint triathlons or longer endurance events? Do you prioritize aerodynamics or comfort? Knowing your priorities will help narrow down the options.
Consider Your Anatomy and Flexibility
Assess your body anatomy, including sit bone width and pelvic shape. This information can help determine the appropriate saddle width and shape that will provide optimal support and reduce pressure points. Your flexibility level also influences the saddle choice, as more flexible riders may prefer a flatter saddle profile.
Try Different Saddles
It’s essential to try different saddles to find the one that works best for you. Many bike shops offer saddle demo programs, allowing you to test various models on your own bike. Take advantage of these opportunities or borrow saddles from friends to evaluate their comfort and performance.
Seek Professional Bike Fitting
Consider getting a professional bike fitting. A bike fitting specialist can assess your riding position, measure your sit bone width, and recommend suitable saddle options based on your individual needs and body geometry. They may use tools like pressure mapping to determine the ideal saddle shape and help you achieve optimal comfort and efficiency.
Consider Cut-out / Relief Channels
Triathlon saddles often feature cut-outs or relief channels to alleviate pressure on sensitive areas. Determine if this feature enhances your comfort during the aero position and long rides. However, keep in mind that cut-outs may not work for everyone, and personal preference plays a role.
Take Into Account Race Distance
Consider the race distance you typically participate in. For shorter races, you may prioritize a more aggressive, aerodynamic saddle. On the other hand, for longer endurance events, comfort becomes paramount, and you may lean towards a saddle with more padding and support.
If you are on a tight budget then it’s worth looking for a saddle you can use on long training rides, on your indoor trainer and one race day. In this article we have found a few that meets these criteria.
Remember, saddle selection is highly individual, and what works for someone else may not work for you. It’s important to find the right balance of comfort, support, and performance based on your unique needs and preferences. Patience and experimentation are key in finding the perfect triathlon saddle that allows you to perform your best and enjoy your triathlon experiences to the fullest.
Best Triathlon Bike Saddles
This saddle certainly looks the part with a stubby split nose design and large cut away it’s been designed with the triathlete in mind.
Like other ISM PN saddles, the PN 3.1 offers thigh and hamstring clearance. This allows for more rider body movement around the seat and is great for diving into fast corners.
The PN 3.1 is nose-less and designed to remove pressure from soft tissue, ensuring maximum blood flow, no genital numbness, and a healthier, more enjoyable ride.
These saddles are designed to be used and installed at a slight angle slopping down toward the front so worth getting a bike fit to ensure you are in the correct and most comfortable rising position.
It comes in at 0.61lbs in weight so about mid-range for a triathlon saddle. This saddle is a unisex saddle plus has a design and features that make it good for both training (inside and outside) and racing.
Weight: 0.61lb / 279g
The Antares Versus Evo R1 Adaptive is a 3D printed bike saddle with a revolutionary padding with carbon reinforced nylon shell and a highly stiff carbon rail (R1).
As you can imagine this is a lightweight saddle plus being carbon will not flex and has minimal padding so may not be for everyone. They claim it is unisex, but it may be worth trying before buying as it does have a high price tag.
Check the rail dimensions to make sure you can fit it to your bike.
Weight: 0.4lb / 180g
BiSaddle say “Everybody is different. Off-the-rack bike seats fit just a handful of people. For the rest of us, we’ve had to compromise. Riding an off-the-rack saddle is like wearing shoes that are too small or pants that are too tight”.
This saddle is an interesting concept and gaining traction in the triathlon world. It has the benefit of fitting both male and female riders. It has a short nose design with cut-away so should give less pressure on your sit bone and hence be more comfortable on those long training sessions and races.
You can adjust the shape of BiSaddle to custom fit your body and riding style. And, if your riding style or body shape change, you can simply re-adjust for ultimate comfort.
It is however the weightiest saddle in our line up so this will be a trade off between comfort and weight.
Weight: 1.78 lbs / 810 g
Front: Adjusts from 45-70 mm
Rear: Adjusts from 100-165 mm
The Selle Italia Diva Gel Superflow saddle has been around for some time but is still a firm favourite with female cyclists and triathletes. I have this on my training bike and so do most female riders I know. I have the leather version which did take a few rides to “break in” but now it’s comfortable and I can ride all day on it.
It has a wide and comfortable seat for long rides and is resistant to wear and bad weather. It has a Shock-Absorber system which is an absorption system between body and frame that eliminates vibrations from the road, ensuring high seating comfort. Its large SuperFlow anatomic hole drastically reduces the pressure on the pelvic area design around the female anatomy.
The TI 316 frame provides greater resistance, keeping the saddle ultralight and adaptable to any type of bike. The cover structure is Fibra-Tek, a technical microfibre that guarantees resistance and lightness to the saddle, even over long distances. It’s in the mid-range when it comes to weight so a great choice for indoor and outdoor training and can also be used for racing.
Weight: 285g / 0.63lbs
If you want to stand out in transition this seat is for you!
Brooks has been making saddles for 150 years in England so understand what it takes to make a comfortable, practical saddles. They are very durable, and some people have the same saddle for many years that they pass from bike to bike.
The Cambium All Weather Saddles are made for years of hard riding, perfect for a forward riding more sporty cycling position. With the same contemporary design of the Brooks Cambium range, the All Weather is a durable and comfortable saddle that is “ready to ride”, thanks to a vulcanized natural rubber top for flexible performance requiring no breaking in period.
From freezing rain to blazing sunshine, the waterproof, weatherproof nylon cover is made to perform flawlessly in all conditions. Additionally, the updated fiberglass reinforced back plate has loops for a saddle bag or other accessory.
This saddle is on the weighty side but not the heaviest in out line up. This is ideal if you like to buy once and have product you can uses for many, many years. Coming in at around $100 this saddle is great value for money.
Weight: 0.99lb/ 450g
Anatomy of a Triathlon Saddle
The main parts of a road bike or triathlon saddle are generally like those of a standard bicycle saddle.
However, there may be some specific design elements to optimize comfort and performance for road biking or triathlon use. Here are the main parts of a road bike or triathlon saddle:
The shell forms the base structure of the saddle, providing its shape and support. Road bike and triathlon saddles often have a streamlined and narrow profile to allow for efficient pedaling and minimize friction.
The padding is the cushioning material added on top of the shell. In road bike and triathlon saddles, the padding is usually minimal to reduce weight and prevent excessive pressure on soft tissues, which can lead to discomfort or numbness during long rides.
The cover is the outermost layer of the saddle, protecting the padding and shell. It is typically made of durable and lightweight materials, such as synthetic fabrics or leather.
The rails are the metal bars or tubes that connect the saddle to the seat post. They provide support and allow for adjustments in saddle position. Road bike and triathlon saddles often use lightweight materials for the rails, such as carbon fiber or titanium, to reduce weight and enhance performance.
The nose of a road bike or triathlon saddle is usually narrower and more streamlined compared to other saddle types. This design allows for more freedom of movement and reduced friction when the rider is in an aerodynamic position.
Cut-out / Relief Channel
Many road bike and triathlon saddles feature a cut-out or relief channel in the center to alleviate pressure on the perineal area and improve blood flow. This design element helps prevent discomfort and numbness, particularly during longer rides or in aggressive riding positions.
Some road bike and triathlon saddles may have specific aerodynamic features, such as a tapered rear section or integrated transition hooks, to minimize wind resistance and improve overall performance during races or time trials.
It’s important to note that saddle selection is highly individual, and what works well for one person may not work for another. Factors such as body anatomy, flexibility, riding style, and personal preference all play a role in determining the most suitable saddle for a road bike or triathlon bike. It’s recommended to try different saddles and consult with a bike fitting professional to find the optimal saddle for your specific needs.
Types of Saddle
When it comes to triathlon saddles, there are a few different types available, each designed to cater to the specific needs and preferences of triathletes. Here are some common types of triathlon saddles:
These saddles are specifically designed for triathlon events, taking into account the unique demands of the sport. They often feature a shorter and wider nose, allowing for a more aggressive riding position on the aerobars while maintaining comfort. Triathlon-specific saddles also tend to have a longer cut-out or relief channel to alleviate pressure on sensitive areas and improve blood flow. These saddles can also have a shape that enables the saddle to hook onto the bar in transition.
Time Trial (TT) Saddle
Time trial saddles are designed specifically for time trial events, where aerodynamics play a crucial role. They typically have a narrow and elongated shape, minimizing wind resistance. TT saddles often feature minimal padding to reduce weight and a nose that is sharply angled downward to provide a stable platform for the rider in an aerodynamic position.
Split-nose saddles, also known as nose-less or nose-cuts, have a distinctive design with a split or open center. These saddles are designed to alleviate pressure on the perineal area and provide comfort for triathletes during long rides. The split design can help improve blood flow and reduce numbness or discomfort, particularly in the aero position.
Some triathlon saddles come with adjustable features that allow for customization of width, angle, and position. These saddles often have modular designs, enabling riders to fine-tune the saddle to their specific comfort and performance needs.
Carbon Fiber Saddle
Carbon fiber saddles are popular among triathletes due to their lightweight and stiffness properties. These saddles provide excellent power transfer and vibration dampening, contributing to improved performance during races.
Standard Road Bike Saddle
The road bike saddle is designed for regular road cycling, including endurance rides, group rides, and road races. It typically features a streamlined shape with a medium width and moderate padding to provide comfort without sacrificing performance. Road bike saddles are often versatile and suitable for a range of riding positions, from slightly upright to more aggressive.
These saddles may or may not have a cut-out or relief channel, depending on the specific design and intended rider preferences. Road bike saddles aim to balance comfort and support while allowing for efficient pedaling and weight distribution on longer rides.
Popular Triathlon Saddle Brands
Known for their split-nose saddle designs, ISM offers a range of models tailored for triathlon. Their saddles prioritize comfort and blood flow, with options suitable for various riding styles and preferences.
Fizik produces a wide range of high-quality saddles, including triathlon-specific models. With a focus on both performance and comfort, Fizik offers various saddle shapes and materials to suit different riders.
Specialized is a well-known brand in the cycling industry, offering triathlon-specific saddles engineered for optimal performance and comfort. Their saddles feature advanced technology, such as Body Geometry design, to provide support and alleviate pressure points.
Selle Itallia specializes in ergonomic saddle designs that prioritize comfort and performance. Their unique saddles often feature a distinctive shape with a long central cut-out, reducing pressure on sensitive areas.
Choosing the perfect triathlon saddle is a critical step towards enhancing your comfort and performance in the demanding world of triathlon. By understanding your riding style, goals, anatomy, and flexibility, you can narrow down the options and find a saddle that suits you best. Whether you opt for a triathlon-specific saddle, a time trial saddle for ultimate aerodynamics, or a split-nose saddle for enhanced comfort, the key is to test different models and seek professional guidance through bike fitting.
Remember, finding the ideal triathlon saddle is a journey of exploration and personalization. It’s worth investing time and effort into the process, as the right saddle can make a world of difference in your triathlon experiences. So, take the time to try different saddles, consult experts, and listen to the experiences of fellow triathletes.
Popular brands like ISM, Fizik, Specialized, and Selle Italia offer a range of options tailored to the specific needs of triathletes. Their dedication to innovation, performance, and comfort ensures that you have reliable choices when selecting your ideal saddle.
Now, armed with knowledge about saddle types and a step-by-step approach to choosing the right one, embark on your journey to find the triathlon saddle that will carry you comfortably and efficiently through the swim, bike, and run. Strive for the perfect balance between comfort and performance, allowing you to conquer your triathlon goals with confidence and enjoyment.
So, saddle up, embrace the challenge, and make every triathlon ride an extraordinary experience!
Triathlon Bike Saddles FAQ
Triathlon-specific saddles are designed with the unique demands of triathlon events in mind. They often have a shorter and wider nose, longer cut-outs or relief channels, and a focus on providing comfort in the aero position. Standard road bike saddles, while suitable for general road cycling, may not offer the same level of comfort and support needed for the aggressive aero position in triathlons.
Split-nose saddles can be a great choice for triathletes seeking enhanced comfort and reduced pressure on sensitive areas. However, saddle preference is highly individual. Some triathletes may find split-nose saddles comfortable, while others may prefer traditional designs. It’s important to try different saddles and consider professional advice to find the one that suits your body and riding style.
The right saddle fit depends on factors such as sit bone width, pelvic shape, and riding position. Consulting a professional bike fitter can help determine the appropriate saddle width and shape for your body. Additionally, discomfort or numbness during rides is a sign that the saddle may not be the right fit for you. Testing different saddle options and seeking expert guidance can lead to finding the perfect saddle fit.
Yes, you can use a time trial saddle for other triathlon races as well. Time trial saddles prioritize aerodynamics, which can benefit triathletes in any race format. However, keep in mind that individual comfort plays a crucial role. Some triathletes may find time trial saddles too aggressive for longer distances or may prefer a saddle with more padding for added comfort.
Bike fit is essential for saddle comfort and overall performance. A professional bike fitting ensures proper alignment, positioning, and optimization of contact points, including the saddle. A well-fitted bike, including the saddle height, angle, and fore-aft position, can significantly enhance comfort, power transfer, and efficiency during triathlon rides.
Regular maintenance is crucial to keep your triathlon saddle in good condition. Clean your saddle with a mild detergent and water, avoiding abrasive cleaners that can damage the cover material. Check for any signs of wear or damage and ensure that the saddle rails and connections are secure. If you notice significant wear or discomfort, consider replacing your saddle to maintain optimal performance and comfort.