Cycling is an amazing sport, but it’s not the cheapest hobby by all means, and equipment over time does wear out. Most cyclists understand that a chain will last about 1500 miles before it should be changed and that tires you will typically get around 3000 miles for a half decent set. Very few people ask how long it will be before your saddle wears out.
What are Bike Saddles made of?
Before we go on to tell you about the longevity of your bike saddle, it’s important to understand what a bike saddle is made of. A typical saddle will have a rigid seat made of a nylon based plastic. This will be covered in a treated latex foam with a blowing agent to help release air.
Then all this will be covered with a heavy canvas fabric such as nylon, leather, rubber, and even vinyl. This will be treated with a waterproof sealant to protect it from the outside weather.
Not all Saddles are made the same
It’s important to understand that not all saddles are made the same. Some are specially crafted from carbon fiber to be extremely lightweight, and others are made from specialist rubber to help absorb impact. In this article, we’ll be speaking about a general saddle currently on 99% of bikes.
What affects how long will my Saddle lasts?
How long your saddle lasts comes down to a few different factors. In this next part, we’re going to run through all the things that affect it and then speak about how long you can expect it to last under different conditions.
The first thing to mention is storage. This makes a huge difference in how long your bike saddle is going to last. If you keep your saddle in the right place, then it is going to last a lot longer.
A good example is if you leave your bike outside in the rain and cold all year round, this will drastically shorten the lifespan of your saddle. Although your saddle is designed to be outdoors, it only has a certain amount of resistance before the cold, or even frost gets in.
The moisture and cold conditions not only make the protective layer brittle and more prone to breaking, but you will also find the foam becomes less responsive over time, making the saddle very uncomfortable. As soon as the leather or steel starts cracking, it’s time to replace it.
If you keep your bike in a warm garage all year round, you can expect it to last much longer as it’s a much better environment for the materials.
How often do you use your saddle?
As with most things on your bike, the more you use it, the less time it will last, and the same goes for saddles. If you go out for two hours daily, you can expect your saddle to wear down quicker.
It could be the friction between your shorts and the outer shell, or it could be the impact on the rails.
Although most materials are very solid when it comes to your saddle, they all have a point of stress that, when hit too much, will eventually break them. The more use, the lower this point becomes.
You also have to consider the foam inside. Over time it will lose its elasticity, and the saddle will feel firmer. Typically this takes so long to happen that your body does slowly adapt, but it becomes very noticeable when you get to use a brand new saddle that is the same model and brand, and it feels completely different.
The Riding Style
Another consideration to make is the style of riding you plan to do. If you’re spending a lot of time on a road bike, you are typically not being thrown on and off the saddle as much as on a gravel bike. The less pressure that gets put on the saddle, the longer you can expect it to last over time.
Although you might think the worst thing for a saddle might be mountain biking, you would be wrong, because of the aid of the suspension, large tires, and dropper post, your saddle typically doesn’t take too many big hits.
So how long will a Saddle last?
The large manufacturers actually quote very interesting figures when it comes to how long a saddle will last. Obviously, it is in their best interests for you to replace it often. They currently say rough figures, but here’s what they recommend.
Amauter Riders: 15,000km to 20,000km
This is obviously a very surprising amount and a much shorter time than most riders expect. We do agree that it would be beneficial to be changed that often. Most day to day riders will use their saddles for a few years at least before changing them, which could be about right.
Do I need to change my Saddle if I crash?
If you have an accident, then it’s vital you check your bike or have someone check over your bike to make sure it’s safe to ride. I personally would recommend to my clients to check the saddle and to look for;
- If there’s any break in the protective cloth, then change it
- If the plastic structure under has any cracks
- If the saddle makes an odd sound when being ridden
- If the rails are bent or don’t fit in the clamp well
We do believe that on the market, there are exceptions to this article. Saddles like Brooks or 3D Printed custom saddles can be made to last a lifetime, and as technology advances, we expect saddles to go on for much longer.
Saddles are not something you typically would think of changing very often. When you get a saddle that works for you, it’s easy to forget about it for years. They have a shelf life though and need attention every so often.
It’s a good habit every few years you change your saddle, even if it’s to something exactly the same.
Robbie Ferri has spent years working in a bike shop, has worked with industry leading brands on product creation, has been a semi pro athlete, and is a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach. He has broken World Records, bikepacked all over the World and raced ultra distance at a top-level.