How to Choose an Ebike Saddle
August 6, 2021
The saddle is the most important part of your riding experience. Period. If you’re not comfortable in the saddle, not only does it ruin that particular riding experience, but it makes it less likely that you’ll get back in the saddle again; potentially bringing your ebiking career to a premature end.
There are many saddles out there with many variations on design, meaning that, thankfully, there is a saddle out there for everyone! Our electric bikes ship with saddles tailored to purpose as the ebikes they’re installed on, for instance: the Pace 500, which we deem to be our cruiser model, comes with a wide, cushioned seat designed for comfort, whilst the Level, our commuter ebike, comes with a saddle -unique to Aventon and designed by Velo- that is only slightly padded and quite low profile, designed to provide comfort over all terrain for yet provide excellent support for the commuter who may spend an hour or more in the saddle everyday. But even these saddles aren’t perfect for everyone who purchases one of these ebikes.
Choosing an ebike saddle is not a difficult task, but it will require patience in order for you to find the perfect saddle for you. Here we’re going to give you all the information you need to make a better-informed saddle decision.
A Note on Gender-Specific Saddles
Saddles are often sold as either being male or female. Saddles that fall into either of these categories have their design based around the average sit bone width of the specified gender; women, by nature's design, have larger sit bones. But we all know that “average” is something that most of us aren’t, and saddle choice is all about comfort and not someone's gender. So don’t think that the saddle you picked won’t fit just because the packaging is pink or blue.
On that note: there is no “one saddle fits all” solution for ebike saddles. A saddle that fits your friend who is the same size, weight, and build as you could be the opposite of comfortable for you. Everybody’s body is different and the region that is in contact with the saddle can vary in so many ways there’s almost an infinite amount of possibilities for the shape and size of ebike saddles.
Signs That You’re In The Wrong Saddle
Cycling is a great, low-impact form of exercise that is rarely painful for the participant. There are such things, however, as saddle pains, and these are not signs that cycling isn’t for you, but signs that your saddle isn’t for you. These pains include:
- Chafing, of the thighs or perineum (the region between your sit bones and your genitals)
- Numbness of the legs
- General pains
On extremely rare occasions these problems can persist and necessitate surgery if they’re not taken care of before they become serious. If you’re experiencing prolonged pain after you get out of the saddle then you may want to consult your GP before you get back on your ebike.
With the public service announcements complete let’s get on with how to choose an ebike seat!
Gauging Your Personal Size
Before we begin you first need to know your personal size and this means that you need to measure your sit bones. Many ebike shops have a tool for this and can also help you with ebike saddle fitting. Some ebike stores even offer saddle pressure mapping which can show you your ebike saddle fit and your pressure points on a saddle, showing you if you favor one side or if a saddle is too small or too large for your behind. The store’s experts should then be able to offer you insights into saddle fitting and which ebike saddle may be best for you.
To measure your sit bones yourself, take a sheet of aluminum foil and place it on top of a soft surface with a hard base beneath it; like a cushioned table chair or a carpeted stair. Sit down on the foil and assume your riding position for a few seconds. Stand up. You should now have a fragile foil cast of your rear-end and in it will be two indentations. These are the marks of your sit bones. Measure the distance between the center points of these two indentations and you have the width of your sit bones!
Note: Be sure to convert the measurement to millimeters (mm) as this is how sit bone widths are measured in the electric bicycle world. You’re going to want an ebike seat that is 10-20mm larger than your sit bone width as many ebike saddles slope off at the edge.
Riding Position and Terrain
The first factor that is going to determine which saddle is the best fit for you is how you ride your ebike. There are two different riding positions, aggressive and upright, and there is a lot of hybrids, grey area between them.
Aggressive Riders: Aggressive riders are those that lean into their handlebars, much like riders do in the road racing world. If this is how you ride you’re probably going to want a T Shaped saddle with a cutout or relief channel in it.
Upright Riders: Upright riders are those that ride sitting in an upright position. Upright riders probably want a Pear Shaped saddle with quite a bit of gel or padding to cushion their sit bones.
The next factor to take into account is the terrain you ride your ebike on. If you regularly ride over rough terrain and ride in an aggressive position you’re probably going to want more padding than an aggressive rider who only rides on smoothly paved bike paths. Conversely, if you’re an upright rider and only ever ride smooth, paved paths you may want to ensure that you don’t have too much padding in your saddle, we’ll find out why in a bit.
The Elements of an Ebike Saddle
There are many factors that can affect the comfortability and fit of an ebike saddle. Now you have determined which style of rider you are and what width of saddle you need, we can delve into the other variables of ebike saddles and you can help to refine and define the perfect ebike saddle for you.
Shape - Saddles can be either “T” or “Pear” shaped; although there are some other very intriguing shapes out there on the market. T-shaped saddles have long, slender noses and flare sharply toward the back. Pear saddles flow smoothly between the nose and rear and have a much larger surface area and suit upright riders best. This larger surface area gives the rider more room to change position but can also give the rider a lot of thigh rub if the saddle is too large for them. “T” shaped saddles best suit aggressive riders, especially those focused on performance.
Topography - This is across the length of the saddle and can be either flat or wave-like. Wave saddles are better for more aggressive riders or those that like to stay in one position, but can make pear-shaped saddles über comfy for upright riders. If you are an upright rider and like to move around in your seat then a flatter saddle is better for you.
Padding - More padding doesn’t necessarily mean a better saddle and you can have too much padding which can cause chafing and discomfort on long rides. Saddle padding can be either foam or gel. Gel is touted in marketing material as being the comfiest, but in the end, it is down to personal preference. If you’re riding an ebike with no rear suspension and you ride on rougher terrain then you may want a little extra saddle padding to cushion your rear end.
Cutouts and Relief Channels - These are located from the midpoint of the saddle up the nose and do two things 1. protect the area between your sit bones where important arteries and nerves flow, stopping you from experiencing any numbing and 2. They can relieve pressure on the genitals, especially for females. As said before, everyone’s body is shaped differently and what shape and size cutout or relief channel works for one person might not work for another.
Seat Suspension - Great for increasing comfort on ebikes that have no rear suspension, and can increase comfort without adding large amounts of padding.
Non-Slip Saddles - Help to hold you in place in wet conditions or on rough terrain. If neither of these terms are in your riding vocabulary then you need not bother with a non-slip saddle.
Waterproof Materials - Waterproof materials are smart but not always necessary. If you’re a fair-weather e-cyclist then you won’t need to worry about your seat material being waterproof. If, however, you’re a commuter who is riding whatever the weather then a waterproof saddle is going to be a must for you.
Cover Material - There are three options here: the first is the most popular and that is a synthetic cover material. It doesn’t require breaking in and is molded to fit the saddle beneath. The second most popular is cotton. Cotton covers are designed to stretch and move a little whilst you’re riding, providing you with greater comfort and control. They do need a little breaking in. The final option is leather. This requires a lengthy, ~200 mile, break-in period but once it is molded to your weight and shape they can fit better than saddles covered with either of the other materials. Leather saddles need to be treated to protect them from water and UV rays, but you should always check the manufacturer's guidelines before purchasing or using a conditioning product on a leather saddle.
Testing Ebike Saddles
Even armed with the above knowledge you’re not going to be able to just walk into an ebike store and pick out the perfect saddle, unfortunately, it is going to be a process of elimination to find what works and what doesn’t work for you. Many ebike shops will allow you to test out saddles, but never feel pressured into buying one there and then.
When you’re testing ebike saddles wear the clothes you would normally wear whilst cycling. Pressure points will show up in just a few minutes of sitting on a saddle so pay attention to those. When you’re testing the saddle, vary your position, ride quickly, ride slowly, and rollover some bumps so you can really get a feel for the saddle underneath you.
A Final Word
Settling on a particular ebike saddle is no easy task and it may take some time for you to find the right one. You may have to visit multiple ebike shops and maybe even try over two dozen saddles before you find the right one, but once you find it you’re never going to want to get off your ebike. Perseverance is key when selecting an ebike saddle, and now you’re clued into all the different elements of a saddle and know how to narrow down the infinite array of ebike saddle you can head out with confidence to find you the best saddle for you!