Bike seats definitely aren’t the most comfortable at first. I didn’t start getting used to my seat until 400 miles in. Now I totally understand why bike seats are shapes the way they are. However, if you want to upgrade your saddle for a smoother ride, two options are gel vs memory foam bike seats. But how do you choose? Well, we got your back, or in this case, your bottom.
Gel seats are plusher and feel the most comfortable initially. However, the gel will get displaced over longer rides and feel less comfortable. Memory foam bike seats provide more support, are better for longer rides, and last longer. Gel covers are an option but tend to move around on the seat, also causing discomfort.
Should You Get a Gel or Memory Foam Bike Seat?
When deciding on which type of bike set you should get, the best thing is to try out a few. While some seats have good reviews, you really need to find a seat that fits your body type.
It’s not uncommon for people to try out multiple seats at once to find out which one they like best. Popular companies often have good return policies, including Amazon. So if you don’t like the seat, you can always return it. Keep in mind that most bike seats are universal and can be interchanged easily.
That being said, there are some big differences between gel and memory foam bike seats.
Here’s a quick summary before we get into more details:
|Gel Seats||Foam Seats|
|Pros||* Good for casual riders|
* Good initial comfort
|* Better for longer distances|
* Last longer than gel
|Cons||* Not ideal for longer rides|
* Doesn’t last as long as foam
|* Not as comfortable at first|
* Will take time getting used to
Gel Bike Seats (Pros and Cons)
Gel seats are known to look and feel a lot comfier than memory foam seats. These seats are more plushy and feel more “squishy”. These seats tend to mold better and are a good fit for casual riders who aren’t used to hard saddles.
The downside to gel seats is that they aren’t the best for longer rides or more serious riders. If you ride a lot, the gel will get displaced over time and tend to wear down more quickly. Overall, they won’t last as long and might not be good for longer rides. The gel will condense and you’ll start to feel it in places where you shouldn’t.
However, these types of saddles can make a huge difference in initial comfort and could be a really good choice for those who like to ride just for fun or have short commutes. Some people view gel bike seats are “introductory saddles”.
One brand for being the most comfortable is Cloud 9. These are not only gel seats, but they have built-in suspension for a smoother ride.
Memory Foam Bike Seats (Pros and Cons)
Foam bike seats are more firm compared to gel bike seats. They provide more support and feel less “squishy”. As such, they are a great choice for road cyclists who like to go on longer rides and want better support.
Foam seats can also work well for heavier riders over 200lbs (see bicycle weight limits) as it provides more support and won’t compact as easily.
These seats can take some time to get used to. If you are a new rider, make sure your set is properly adjusted and fitted, and try to give it a shot. After your seat is adjusted, make sure it doesn’t come loose and start tilting as mine did.
What About Non Cushioned Bike Seats?
Yep, some bike seats don’t have any cushioning at all. While these may seem like a painful option, some people actually find them to be the most comfortable.
As one rider says:
People see my super-thin minimal seat and think how much it must really hurt. In fact, it’s the most comfortable seat I have ever ridden on.
These saddles are often just the bike seat with leather stretched around them. Brooks saddles are a popular example of this and they do have a following.
Riders like these types of saddles because the leather will mold to your body over time, giving a “custom fit”, making them feel more comfortable with time.
Another advantage to bike seats without cushion is that because there is less material and doesn’t hold heat, they stay cooler.
They also have a retro old school look and feel which some cyclist can appreciate.
What About Gel Coves or Shorts?
Gel covers and shorts are options, but depending on how much you ride, you might not need or want them.
Gel covers are just that, gel covers that fit over your bike seat. Lots of riders don’t really like them because they tend to move around, get warm in the sun, and change the height and shape of the saddle. They kinda do more harm than good.
Here’s what a few riders had to say:
I’ve never used a gel seat cover (or a seat cover of any kind) but from people I’ve heard, they all have problems staying put and tend to slip.
That being said, for short rides, they can be an okay fix and might be worth experimenting with. Some people really love them.
I got a cheap Bell gel cover at Walmart for my Rover seat. I have close to 1000 miles on it, with no complaints!
If you do want to try out a pair, the Zacro Gel Bike Seat Cover has a lot of positive reviews
Another option are gel shorts. These are shorts with gel padding. The advantage here is that, unlike gel covers, the gel won’t move around. This means you’ll have the right amount of padding wherever you sit on the saddle.
Buying gel shorts can be a good idea, but you might not need them unless you’re doing longer rides, say a2 hours or more.
Wrapping it up
Overall, it’s best to choose a saddle that you are most comfortable with. Many people will rave about how comfortable their bike seat is, but everyone is different. It’s best to find which seat works for you. Keep in mind, as you get more experienced and your sit bones get used to riding, your seat preference might change.
If you are wanting to go for long rides, It might be best to start with a foam saddle and get used to it. However, if you want more comfort in the beginning or you don’t plan on riding much, a gel saddle may work great.