The Saddle/Handlebar Connection

I’m stating the obvious here, but finding the right saddle is very important for rider comfort. Every person is different, so it can take some experimentation to find a good fit. You know you have a good fit when your weight is supported by your ischial tuberosities, or what are called “sit bones”, and little to no pressure is placed on the soft tissues between the bones. We’re naturally accustomed to supporting our weight on our sit bones, so it only makes sense to do so when we’re on our bicycles.

The goal is to identify the saddle that works best for your physique, on a particular bike, with a particular build.

Handlebar height in relation to saddle height affects saddle fit. As a general rule, the higher the handlebars in relation to the saddle, the wider the saddle needs to be. High bars place the rider in an upright position, rolling back the hips and placing more weight on the wider portion of the sit bones. Low bars place the rider in a forward leaning position, moving the pressure points to the narrower, front portion of the sit bones. A wide saddle combined with low handlebars is likely to cause chafing between the thighs, while a narrow saddle combined with high bars is likely to place too much pressure on the soft tissues between the sit bones.

I wish I could say there’s a simple method for finding the perfect saddle. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that a fair amount of expensive trial-and-error is required. Even among the bikes I ride on a regular basis, each requires a different saddle. For example, the Brooks B67 that works so well on my Surly set-up with North Road bars doesn’t work well at all on my Civia with its lower flat bar, and conversely, the Selle An-Atomica that is so plush on my Civia is too narrow (for me) on my Surly.

The goal is to identify the saddle that works best for your physique, on a particular bike, with a particular build. Taking into consideration the relationship between saddle height and handlebar height will get you there quicker and greatly simplify the search, saving you time, money, and maybe even some discomfort in the process.

8 Responses to “The Saddle/Handlebar Connection”

  • Ows says:

    OR… solve all your problems with one of these:

  • Mohjho says:

    Hey Ows, if that seat comes with ti rails and carbon base, count me in!

  • John Gear says:

    I was going to say something quite similar — it’s certainly not hard to find a comfortable seat for recumbent bikes.

  • John says:

    I have had this Problem myself as well and had to find out the Hard way on a couple of Occasions. I have several Bikes all Different and unique,one my Dutch Azor Kruisframe /Crossframe with B 67 Wide Brooks Leather Saddle which is Grand no problems at all. The Brompton Folding Bike,I originally got this Bike with a Foam Saddle which Disintegrated after awhile . So I got a Nice Special Brooksl Brompton Leather Saddle with Copper Rivets which is the same as a B17 ,this is Great no Problems now it is Hard Wearing.

    On my other Bikes I had Problems with very Hard Saddles The Long Distance Bikes for Touring,The Hybrid it had a Terrible Narrow Saddle. I have since got a Raleigh PioneerLX which had a Selle Avenir Italia Plastic Style Saddle which is Terrible very Hard on the Undercarraige. I would be very Sore after going 80 K or 50 Miles and it just would not get any Softer with use.I got another Saddle which I had some problems with in Plastic as well. So I got a B17 Champion Standard Brooks Leather Saddle in Black, even when New it was more comfortable and less Sore after covering a lot of Miles than the Avenir. Now after Breaking it in by doing over 400 Miles and Coatings of Brooks Proofide Polish every 50 -100 Miles it is getting even more comfortable. So Wide Leather Saddles Brooks B67 and B33 is Great for High Transport Wrap around Handlebars on Town Bikes and Narrow B17 Brooks is Great for Lower Handlebars or Racers or Road Bikes. If in future when I have to get a New Bike I will keep my B17 and Put it on the New Bike and stick the Selle Italia on the one I am Part Exchanging.

  • Jeff says:

    “If in future when I have to get a New Bike I will keep my B17 and Put it on the New Bike and stick the Selle Italia on the one I am Part Exchanging.”
    @ John’
    Preachin’ to the choir Brother!

  • John says:

    Thank You Jeff. The Leather is Natural and lets your Skin Breathe unlike those synthetic Saddles in Plastic. I noticed one Person once Admiring the Leather Saddle on the Brompton and they said it was Beautiful But you would not Catch them with one because it was like an Old Geezers Saddle and Old Fashioned. I said they were the Best ,more Comfortable than those Synthetic Yokes and they let the Skin Breathe but try and not let them get Wet because they will Warp if not looked after. If you do get a Leather one get the Brooks Polish to Help break it in and then only give it a Polish once in a while after Hundreds of Miles to keep it Supple.
    Dublin Ireland 11.15 pm.

  • Rachel says:

    I’m in the market for a ladies’ Brooks saddle – if anyone has feedback about particular models (I’m thinking about the flyer-S) or how to break them in quickly, I’d love to hear it! Someone told me to get it wet at first and ride it, then keep it dry and polish it on occasion.

  • Alan says:


    My wife really likes the Brooks B66S on her Pashley Princess Sovereign. I wouldn’t suggest any special measures to break it in. Definitely do not get the saddle wet. It’s OK to put a little Proofide on it once or twice a year (at most). Other than that, keep the rain off of it and just ride it. Probably the biggest mistake people make in regards to Brooks saddles is over-treating the leather which causes it to stretch and break down prematurely.


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