After the first 10 miles on bike’s pre-existing (and probably original) saddle my sit bones were incredibly sore. It was clear that a new saddle needed to be my first bike update.
At the time, I didn’t know anything about saddles, so I did lots of online research. My sources mostly indicated two things:
1) Whatever you buy, make sure it’s women’s specific if you’re female.
2) Saddles fit people differently. Women’s bodies are different from men’s for sure, but they are also different from each other, and a variety of bike and riding styles can also affect saddle fit.
Since it seemed I wouldn’t really know if it would work for me until I put the miles in, I went for something not too spendy – a Selle Royal Respiro Athletic Women’s Saddle. It happened to be on sale at REI when I was in the market last spring.
A year later, I’m happy to report that it is SO much better than the old saddle. I have never once heard my sit bones complain about the Selle Royal. As for the part of my body that REI refers to as “the sides where delicate and sensitive tissue supports part of the weight,” I do start to feel a small bit of rubbing after 20 contiguous miles. I accept that I choose to bike in street clothes and that this is part of the territory. If I were to start touring, I’d get a different saddle (and different clothes)!
In the summer I average 8-10 miles per day (more like 3 in the winter) of commuting and errand-running on city streets and bike paths. Many of the streets I ride are not in good shape, which means a bumpy ride on smallish tires. I really appreciate the shock absorption in the saddle for this. Yes, you can and should just stand up when the road gets really bad, but when the bike lane has big cracks every few feet, this is impractical (Park Avenue, I’m talking about you).
This model has a cutout that is pretty standard in women’s saddles, designed to relieve pressure and prevent the dreaded numbness that some women report in badly fitting saddles. It does its job well.
The Respiro also has another feature that I haven’t seen in other saddles: a ventilation system that channels air through the front of the saddle up to my rear end. Yes, air enters the saddle through that circular mesh area in front and then proceeds through it to cool the rider’s tush.
It works. I don’t notice it in the spring and fall, but in the summer, it really does make my butt less sweaty. However, I feel the ventilation most in the winter when I really don’t want cold air there. I never got around to duct taping that front vent hole this mild winter, but next year it’s going to be part of my fall tune-up. I also occasionally feel precipitation as well as cool air making it’s way through the vent in inclement weather :-(.
The other, non-seasonal drawback to the ventilation system is that it makes the saddle kind of bulky looking. Tiny racing saddles look so sleek and fast and I think my bike would look cooler with something like that. That or the classic Brooks tweed ride style. The Respiro line does include a “sport” model that is slimmer and more expensive than the “athletic” version I purchased. However, my current saddle is doing everything I need it to do and isn’t going to get replaced anytime soon.
Bottom line: Good economical women’s saddle. Best for seasonal commuters who ride less than 20 miles per day.