Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
An intriguing statistic of the 2012 London Olympics was that GB topped the medals table for “sitting” sports: rowing, canoeing, equestrian and cycling. Whilst the legs do most of the hard work in cycling, a comfortable seat is essential. The saddle is the main point of contact with the bike and takes most of the rider’s weight. A good functioning saddle is critical to all cycling, especially as the mileage increases; working well it’ll get little attention when being used but as related ailments develop during a ride or tour, the saddle will become the most important piece of equipment on the bike.
Apart from set-up such as height, fore & aft position and angle, qualities such as shape, size, material and cushioning will mainly determine comfort. Not all derrières are the same, apart from size, anatomical differences between men and women often require quite different saddle design for comfort.
Modern racing saddles are very narrow and mostly made of a combination of composites, modern fabrics and specialist alloys. Day-to-day saddles may be made of similar materials but will probably be wider and more robust in nature. Underneath the saddle rails can also play an important role in both set-up and comfort.
My preferred saddle is a Brooks. Made in England since 1866 and often considered the Rolls Royce of saddles, I inherited my first Brooks saddle from my father in the 1960’s and have continued to use them ever since. Apart from their shape and craftsmanship, the Brooks saddle is almost always made of leather which is both comfortable and ‘breathes’. Notoriously they require some wearing-in when new but after a few thousand miles they take the shape of the body and provide the ultimate in cycling comfort.
Most famous of the Brooks is the B17 model – I currently use a black, Champion Narrow version – the classical Brooks saddle favoured amongst many cycling aficionados the world over, especially when touring.