Your bike seat is a vital part of your riding experience. A worn, uncomfortable, or poorly positioned bike seat can make riding your bike less fun. Here's a rundown of everything you need to know about replacing your bike seat, including when you should replace your seat, how to put in the replacement, and how to properly adjust your new seat for the best possible riding experience.
The Importance of Your Bike Seat While Riding
Riding your bike is a tiring physical activity. The action of pushing down on the pedals takes a good amount of energy, especially when you do it over and over again in high gear. In order to help minimize this energy expenditure, cyclists try to leverage the mechanics of their body and their bicycle as best they can.
The seat on your bike might not seem like a critical component, but it's absolutely vital in the mechanics of riding. Standing up on the pedals gives you lots of power, fast, but it's much more tiring and much less efficient than sitting on your seat. By utilizing your seat, not only do you carry the weight of your body on your sit bones instead of your legs, but you also keep your pelvis and torso in a consistent position. A correctly adjusted seat will ensure you have a smooth, powerful pedal stroke with ideal leg extension. It'll also help you keep your balance and keep your weight on your sit bones and off of your hands.
If you're a casual rider, this might not seem like a big deal. If you're a serious rider, however, you've probably heard your friends talk about how big of a difference fine-tuning their seat position or finding a more comfortable saddle can make. Dialing in your seat and getting a saddle and position that work for you will make rides easier, more comfortable, and less taxing. You'll be able to ride faster for longer while avoiding many of the leg, neck, and arm strains that can lead to injuries for dedicated cyclists.
Reasons to Replace Your Bike Seat
There are a lot of reasons to replace your bike seat. The first (and one of the more common) reasons is because you've got a new seat you want to try. Bike seats aren't all made the same way - some have deep channels for your anatomy to sit in, some are very narrow, and some have different curves and protrusions that fit people with differently spaced sit bones. This means that if you've been hanging out with cyclists or talking to cycling professionals, it's likely that someone will eventually suggest you try out a different style of seat. This can be a really good idea. Even if you decide that you're not a fan of the new seat, you'll gain a deeper insight into what features you prefer in bike seats, enabling you to find a seat that perfectly fits your body and riding style.
If you don't already have a new seat, however, how do you know when it's time to switch? There are a few things to consider here. First, is your seat old and worn? If you're having issues with your bike seat due to wear and tear, it's an older style of seat that hasn't caught up with modern biomechanical knowledge, or your seat just looks bad on your bike, replacing it is probably a good idea. New seats are quite inexpensive when you consider how much value they'll add to your ride. Plus, you can always just pop the seat off of your old bike and onto your new bike when it's time to upgrade.
Second, can you adjust your seat so that it's comfortable and efficient to ride your bike? If the act of sitting on your bike isn't fun, it's probably time to switch your seat. There are lots of styles of saddle out there, enabling riders of all shapes, sizes, and sexes to comfortably sit on a bike for long periods of time. If you find that you're pinching or crushing bits of your body, you're sliding around on your saddle, or your butt is getting sore, it's definitely worth investigating other styles of seats and trying out something else on your bike. If you can, try to demo out some seats at a local bike store or ask friends if you can ride on their saddles for a few minutes to test things out.
How to Install the New Bike Seat
Adjusting your bike seat is usually best done with the seat post still on the frame. If you're switching out a bike seat, however, it might be easier to fully remove your seat post from your frame to give yourself a better angle to access various components. To do this, simply loosen your seat post as if you were adjusting it (most bikes these days have a quick release lever; pull this out and unscrew it slightly until the post is loose), then pull it out of the top of your frame.
Bike seats have two metal rails beneath the cushion that allow them to attach to the bike. Most modern bike seat posts have a design that involves a clamp that sits above and below these rails. In order to remove your old seat post, you'll have to loosen this clamp enough to free the rails and then wriggle the seat clear of the clamping mechanism. You'll need an alan key (or alan wrench) of the correct size in order to accomplish this task.
There are three main styles of seat clamps. One style usually utilizes a single 6mm alan bolt directly below the seat, facing up. This style can be identified by a toothed connection below the bottom clamp that enables you to change the angle of the seat. Loosening the bottom bolt will loosen the top clamp. Once this clamp is loose, twist it 90 degrees so that it sits between the rails and lift your old seat out vertically. Put your new seat in place, twist the clamp so it seats on top of the rails, and tighten it enough that it's somewhat snug. You'll want to put your seat post back in, make fine adjustments, and then tighten it down properly before you ride your bike.
The second style tends to use a 5mm alan bolt below the seat, this time placed horizontally. Loosening this bolt will enable the seat to slide back and forth and pitch up and down. Loosen this bolt enough so that you can pull the seat out of the clamps (you may need to remove the bolt on some bikes), put your new seat in place, and put the clamp and bolt back together so that they capture the rails on your new seat. Again, tighten it down so that it's snug, make fine adjustments, then tighten it down all the way.
The third and final style uses two bolts, one in front of the seat post and one behind. These bolts are usually 4mm alan bolts that are mostly vertical, pointing upward. To remove your seat, loosen these bolts significantly and try to wiggle your seat's rails out of the clamps. If this doesn't work, you'll need to remove one or both screws completely. Next, put your new seat in position (you may need to remove the bolts for this if you didn't previously), reassemble any bolts or clamps you removed, and tighten the bolts so they're snug. Finally, adjust your seat to your preferred riding position and tighten the bolts down all the way.
No matter what style you have, be sure that your seat is firmly tightened before you go for a ride. Don't go too far here -- you can absolutely strip the bolts on your seat. You usually want something like 8 newton-meters of torque, which is a modest bit of effort, but not you straining as hard as you can.
How to adjust the bike seat angle
Adjusting the angle of your bike seat will vary based on the style of clamp your bike uses to attach the seat.
For the first style with the toothed connector, you'll need to loosen the bottom bolt enough that you can disengage the teeth on the connector. Lift the connector slightly, pivot it to the desired angle, then move it back down and tighten the bolt. While the bolt is loose, be sure to check the position of your saddle as well. When you're all set, tighten the bolt down and enjoy your adjusted seat.
For the second style with the single bolt on the side, simply loosen the bolt and adjust your seat by pitching it or sliding it back and forth. When you're done, tighten the bolt.
Finally, for the third style, for front and back adjustments, loosen both bolts, move the seat, then tighten both bolts. You'll want to do these before you adjust the angle. To adjust the angle of your seat, loosen one bolt and tighten the other a corresponding amount. The seat will pitch towards the bolt you tighten. In other words, to move the nose down, tighten the bolt in front of the seat post. Be sure to check the overall tightness and make sure that your seat is firmly in place at the end of your adjustment.
Getting the correct position for your seat is a complex operation that many experienced cyclists get wrong. In general, if you're sliding off the nose of the saddle you probably want to pitch your saddle upward. Try to move your saddle to a position where you can comfortably reach the handlebars while you're sitting the way you want to sit while you're riding. If you find that you don't maintain this ideal pelvis position as you actually ride, either adjust your seat to the position where your pelvis actually winds up or adjust your handlebars, seat height, and other variables to make it easier to ride with your seat where you want it.
A Better Seat For A Better Future
While the seat might not be the most glamourous component of your electric bike, it's one of the most important parts. A comfortable, well-adjusted bike seat can make a world of difference on your rides. Not only will your butt be less sore after a long ride, but you'll be able to maintain a more efficient riding position, allowing you to be less tired and helping you to go faster. You'll also be able to maintain good riding posture, protecting yourself from stress and injuries to your arms, neck, legs, and other body parts. If you're serious about cycling, be sure to try out multiple styles of seats to find the one that best suits your body and riding style. By taking your seat seriously, you'll ensure that your cycling journeys stay fun, fast, and efficient.