It seems counterintuitive, but a good saddle is a hard saddle. Down at the base of your buttocks you have two sit bones, which were evolutionarily developed to support the weight of the upper half of your body while sitting comfortably for long periods of time.
Because soft saddles intuitively seem like they should be more comfortable, novice cyclists tend to desire them. When you sit on a suitably stiff saddle that fits you correctly, your sit bones rest on firm surfaces that lift the rest of your body up off the seat.
If your saddle has too much padding, your sit bones sink into the saddle, and the padding actually puts pressure on the area surrounding your sit bones, including the soft tissue in between your sit bones. This leads to numbness and tingling and other uncomfortable situations. Look for a saddle with width that is wide enough to comfortably support your sit bones. If your saddle is too narrow for your sit bones, get a wider saddle. When saddle shopping, don't be afraid to sit on the saddle in the middle of the shop; you'll be able to feel right where your sit bones sit and get a sense of its comfort.
Once you find a saddle that is right for you, next you'll want to make sure you have the seat height and seat angle adjusted properly to ensure efficiency and comfort during those long rides.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as perfect seat height, and you do not need a professional to set it for you. You just need to tune it to your body. Depending on how flexible your legs are feeling, how thick your pants or shoe soles are, and what kind of riding you are going to be doing, your seat height might change day to day. Here are general instructions for adjusting your seat for a comfortable ride.
Stand your bicycle upright. Secure it by placing the rear wheel between your legs and holding the seat to approximately where you would have your belt buckle. (just below your belly button.
The ideal position is where your leg is almost fully extended, but not quite, at the bottom part of your stroke. If your leg is all the way extended, but not quite, at the bottom part of your stroke, lower your saddle just a bit. If your leg is not coming close to extending all the way, raise your saddle.
To lower or raise your saddle, loosen the quick release lever or allen bolt at the base of your seat post and gently raise or lower the seat post to where your leg is in its ideal position at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
Everyone body is different, and many find saddles that are tilted slightly, either nose up or nose down, more comfortable. To set the angle of your seat, go for a ride, and test it out each way. You'll quickly realize what is more comfortable for you, a forward tip or a rearward tip. Many cyclists find a slight amount of nose-up on the saddle most comfortable, since it rests their body back on their sit bones.
Hard leather saddles are gaining popularity with cyclists for their longevity and aesthetics. I've been riding mine for a solid decade and it still looks almost new. It is perfectly comfortable and broken in to match my body. Hard leather saddles do require a break0in period to accommodate to your specific body shape, but once they are broken in they serve you well.
Many saddles feature and anatomical cutout in the middle to prevent any pressure or friction from being exerted on the soft tissue between your sit bones. While this might not be necessary with a properly fitted saddle, you may prefer a little padding for your sit bones.
Just a quick note that traditionally, women's saddles are wider across the back, to accommodate their more widely spaced sit bones. Here's a tip: wrap electrical or cloth tape around your bike's seatpost to mark your ideal seat height, in case you have to remove the saddle.
I hope this article helps you better understand saddles, and proper height and angle adjustment. With this new knowledge you'll be better able to understand how to get the most comfortable and efficient ride. Don't forget to shop our selection, and let us know if you have any questions!