Take an informal poll of any family you might run into, and they'll likely tell you that they've owned an exercise bike in their household at some point in their life.
It's easily one of the most popular home equipment pieces in the fitness world, and far more common than things like treadmills, Nordic machines, and elliptical trainers.
If you're looking to purchase an exercise bike, one of the biggest mistakes you can make during this process is overlooking the importance of exercise bike seats.
Importance Of Good Seats
That's because stationary bicycles represent a fantastic way to exercise for seniors, pregnant women, individuals coming off an orthopedic surgery or procedure, or someone who simply cannot take the pounding of steady-state running on their joints.
With that out of the way, we’ll let you in on a little secret: the seat on most standard exercise bike seats that come as default with the equipment lack the padding that most riders need.
Exercise bike seats are often referred to as the saddle of the bike.
Just like the saddle of a horse is the seating well that allows you to best mount it, the saddle of an exercise bike is what you sit on when using the device. A bad saddle is going to result in the pressure and the shock of the movements being felt in your lower back area, which we know can lead to a significant amount of discomfort.
Conversely, the right padding on your seat will absorb that shock. Lots of good indoor bicycle seats are designed in a way that molds easily to your bottom, thus giving your posterior the support it needs without causing any unnecessary pressure on your lower back and bottom area, which can be painful.
You also want to look for a saddle cushion that easily fits onto most standard saddles, without having to use a lot of tools to install them on.
Types of Exercise Bike Seats
In general, there are three main categories of Exercise Bike Seats:
Upright bicycle seats are the ones you'd find on your standard exercise bike in the gym. Because you're likely to be stationary for a lengthy period of time, these seats usually have an ergonomic design, and a healthy layer of foam or gel padding to ensure maximum comfort for the riders. These are also the most comfortable types of bicycle seats you’ll find, more often than not.
However, the different width of these types of seats is important to take note of, as you don't want to be sitting on a seat which rubs against your thighs every time your legs move. That can alleviate at some capacity by adjusting the height of your seat, but you still want to be able to move your legs up and down with as minimal discomfort possible.
Indoor cycling bikes are the ones you're going to find in the spin class studio at your local gym. Because those types of classes -- and bikes -- are meant to mimic a bunch of different simulated bicycling situations, these seats are going to be the ones most similar to "real world" bicycles, in terms of their size, shape, and positioning.
If you're using one of these types of bikes, you want to make sure that you're not setting your seat too low, which can lead to pressure on your knees and on your lower back.
You also don't want to position your seat too close to the handlebars, as this is going to make you feel like you're crumpled up into a ball. You want your seat to be in a position where the peddling feels natural and the handlebars of the indoor bike fell natural to lean on.
Finally, there's the recumbent bike. This is the one that looks like an exercise bike and a paddleboat had a baby. These bikes offer the most support to users, because there's actually a full-blown seat (of sorts), with a back rest that allows them to recline, and ergonomically designed bucket seats that allow the user to sit comfortably while peddling.
It would follow, then, that these machines -- and these seats -- are great for individuals who may suffer from back problems, especially because it keeps their back upright and doesn't force them to lean forward onto handlebars.
That being said, you still want to be cognizant of a few things when positioning yourself on this machine. Vertically, you want your legs to be on the same plane as your hips. Horizontally, you want to make sure that your knees are always slightly bent throughout the course of your peddling motion.
Exercise Bike Seats Materials
Your standard bicycle saddle really has four different components.
You have your hard plastic seat mold, the initial padding that goes on top of the seat mold, another layer of material -- which could be anything from vinyl, leather, fabric, Kevlar, rubber, nylon, or heavy fabric such as canvas -- on top of those two, and then one final layer of neoprene or urethane-based spray adhesives to keep it all together.
More modern exercise bicycles have also adopted additional features like decorative prints on the fabric, or special treatments to the fabric that allows for moisture to be wicked away.
Regardless, one of the more important yet overlooked components of exercise bike seats is the actual material that's used on the outside to finish the seat.
Many riders find that the most annoying part of using an exercise bike is when you're wearing athletic shorts or pants, and because of the slick material on those shorts or pants (which could be even slicker because of perspiration), you find yourself sliding off the seat and forcing yourself to adjust your position every few minutes. Thus extra padded bike shorts helps to give comfort and grip while riding.
At the end of the day, you want a seat that's going to maximize your comfort for extended periods of time, thereby facilitating how long you're able to use the bike to exercise.
While there are a whole host of distinctive features that you can sort through with exercise bikes, none of them will mean a whole lot if your bicycle is too uncomfortable to use.
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