A cycling saddle is the seat of the bicycle. It is mounted to a seat post, which is a metal or carbon rod that slides into the bicycle's main frame. Many different designs of cycling saddle exist: some are designed for extreme light weight, while others are designed primarily for comfort. Others are designed to find a middle ground between comfort and light weight. Some modern cycling saddle designs feature a cut out in the center of the saddle to relieve pressure on sensitive parts of the body while cycling. The right saddle will depend on the rider's preferences and body shape.
The basic structure of a cycling saddle does not vary too much from seat to seat: the upper part of the saddle, on which the rider will sit, can be made from synthetic materials or leather, and is mounted to metal rails that attach to the seat post. The upper material covers padding, which provides support and comfort during a riding session. Traditional-style saddles were made of leather that was often quite hard until the rider used the saddle for several hundred miles. The saddle needed to be treated with conditioner or saddle soap to soften the leather and preserve it. Today's saddles can still be made of leather, but performance models are more often made from synthetic materials.
Road cyclists often choose extremely lightweight, narrow cycling saddle models for weight savings and performance rather than comfort. Mountain bikers tend to choose saddles that are slightly wider and more padded for comfort over bumps and uneven terrain. A cycling saddle designed for recreational use can be very soft and padded, and much wider than performance models that cut down on padding and width. Most recreational cyclists choose wider saddles with a significant amount of padding to provide a larger, more comfortable sitting surface.
Cyclists who use performance saddles that lack a significant amount of padding compensate for the hard saddle by wearing specially designed bicycling shorts that feature a chamois pad in the seat. This pad provides some comfort while sitting on the hard, narrow saddle. Many people mistakenly believe that a narrow saddle is bound to be extremely uncomfortable, but they can actually be as comfortable, if not more comfortable, than some wider ones. The less surface area there is on the saddle, the less contact with the skin exists, avoiding chafing and rubbing.