Squishy saddle or squishy pants?


Active Member
Evening all,
I’ve a few years in the saddle and have always worn the traditional padded cycling short (not been a fan of the bibs) for anything over an hour ride. Having discovered the delights of a single speed, with a fairly well padded saddle, I’m not finding it particularly necessary to ‘short up’. Admittedly I’m no tourer, and I'm rarely in the saddle for anything over a couple of hours, but it got me thinking; what’s the actual difference between a padded saddle and padded shorts? I get that the saddle will, over time, put pressure on parts you don’t want pressure on, but isn’t this the case for shorts as well?
Are the mechanics/design/biology different with a different position of the padding? I’m guessing so as it wouldn’t be the norm, but I’m not finding it to be the case.
Not brave enough to go ’shortless’ on the gravel bike!! (yet).


I can quite happily go out for a long ride (50+ miles) in jeans on a saddle with minimal padding, you don't need the padded shorts or saddle, it's just a case of what you get used to. I find that if I ride a lot in "regular" clothing then when I come to do a much longer ride and wear the expected attire then I can go pretty much all day with no discomfort.
Can't comment on the difference.

Not everyone wears "special" clothing. I happily tour in "normal" clothes.
My experience with "squishy" saddles is that they are only comfortable in the short term (typically an hour or less).
My most comfortable saddle was a Brooks B17, now I have a C17, not as comfortable, but functional.
(Not advocating either).

A decent saddle, some time to adjust and you should be fine, but of course, everyone's different.


Macho Business Donkey Wrestler
Padded shorts stay where they are, generally, with the cushioning positioned at the right parts, usually that should be at the sit bones. We've all tried different makes and models of shorts and discarded / eschewed some as being not the right shape or fit, until we've found a good pair. Once they're in place the support / padding will stay put pretty well.

Saddles are hard to choose also, but those that are squishy tend to be quite poor generic designs which don't have the padding only where you need it for your anatomy, you're therefore more likely to get pressure where it's not wanted. Okay for an hour maybe, but not too much longer. Also you'll tend to move about on a saddle a little bit at least, which doesn't help.

A firmish leather saddle is the best choice if you're shortless, in my view anyway.


Legendary Member
I bought a Brooks saddle quite early in my cycling career and it must have been another 20 years before I got cycling trousers, and to be honest, that's as much about convenience of not having to tuck your trousers in your socks or getting oilmon them. OK cycling shorts are better, but a good saddle is what matters
For shortish rides or pootles, which may be a few hours round town with the nice cchat bods etc I wear no padding - just some snythetic underpant things I got from Aldi - I have a stack - easy to wash and dry.

For day rides/rides in the country I use proper padding. Even then I may have to rise out of the saddle for brief bits to relieve pressure.

Vital of course to get a saddle with the correct gap between sit-bone supports - not that difficult really and you don't have to spend a lot on a saddle. Most of my saddles cost £20 or less.

Vital in my opinion to shower before any ride other than a quick nip to the shop.

I get that the saddle will, over time, put pressure on parts you don’t want pressure on, but isn’t this the case for shorts as well?
Depends what you mean.You want no pressure on the perinium at all at any stage of a ride of whatever length. A bit of bum ache is minor compared to the potential damage there.

Oh - you missed out one variable - squishy arse - though I don't recommend trying to grow one.


Senior Member
This is the start of year 3 for me not wearing padded shorts. Breathable seamless underwear is all I need and it’s a lot less bulky.
The revelation moment for me was embracing the fact we don’t, I certainly don’t, sit on our sit bones. We sit on our Ischiopubic Ramus. ( Steve Hogg) A saddle that allows you to do it ( cut away) without taking your breath away and is also shaped to cup them (SMP) then your only enemy would be excess sweat which might warrant a padded short. I’m like Prince Andrew I don’t sweat :laugh:
The pad should move with your skin - the outer layer of the shorts can move separately.
This reduces friction with your skin, because there is less movement there.

I think the pad being thick/absorbent/padded(!) is a different issue, and will have evolved as materials changed over the years (it was chamois leather in the early days I believe?)


Kilometre nibbler
As ever on this subject there are no rules. Just find what works for you. I used to ride a hard leather saddle but found it was limiting the distances I could ride as I'd get to the point where my legs were still OK but my arse was screaming for mercy. So I shopped around and tried a number of things and now I have a squishy saddle that I can ride until my legs fall off.

I still use padded shorts because ... er ... because I do, and that's what I own. I might give unpadded shorts a go sometime maybe. But as I don't have a problem with my current way of doing things I'm in no hurry to change it.

Interestingly I saw a video featuring ultra endurance rider Lael Wilcox ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lael_Wilcox ) and the first thing she does with a new pair of shorts is get a pair of scissors to carefully snip the stitching of the pad and remove it.
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