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Do Bike Seats Wear Out? How and When to Replace a Bike Seat

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Briana is an avid cyclist who believes in getting the most out of her gear.

Figure out when to replace your bike seat to prevent damaging your body and bicycle!

Figure out when to replace your bike seat to prevent damaging your body and bicycle!

Do Bike Saddles Really Wear Out?

Bike saddles wear out. The first factor to consider when assessing damage is whether you ride a leather or plastic saddle. With leather saddles, there's always a chance that the inside of the seat is damaged from prolonged use even if you don't notice any visible change or exterior damage. On the other hand, if you ride with a plastic-based saddle, your seat will not wear down in the same way. In either case, regularly check your seat for damage, and replace it accordingly.

Below, you'll find some valuable information about bicycle seat wear and tear. Hopefully, this article will answer your questions on the following topics:

  • How long bike seats usually last
  • Major causes of bike seat wear and damage
  • How to tell if your seat needs to be replaced
  • Reasons to replace worn-out bike seats
  • How to install a new bike seat

How Long Bike Seats Typically Last

On average, bike seats last about three seasons (or 2–3 years), depending on use.

  • Mileage: If you're going by mileage, replace your seat every 9,000–12,500 miles.
  • Ride-Time: If you're using ride-time, the 600-hour mark is when you'd want to consider replacing your seat.

All of the suggested timeframes are for seats without obvious damage. Visible external damage to the seat is a solid indicator that the seat should be replaced immediately. I recommend replacing it (or having a professional fix it) as soon as damage is evident because it’s likely causing damage to your body and/or the bicycle, even if you haven't noticed it yet.

Factors to Consider

The rules of wear and tear are not hard and fast. Take into account that each recommendation can vary slightly depending on several factors:

  • The amount of time you ride
  • Your riding style
  • Previous accidents
  • Whether or not the seat has been susceptible to damage
Exposure to the elements, especially moisture, will cause your bike seat to wear out more quickly.

Exposure to the elements, especially moisture, will cause your bike seat to wear out more quickly.

4 Main Causes of Bike Seat Wear and Damage

  1. Exposure to the Elements: Prolonged exposure can cause cracking to the seat. Once the crack forms, the integrity of the foam/interior is affected. This means the absorption of any bumps or dips may be hindered—you'll definitely feel the difference as your rides become more uncomfortable.
  2. Extreme Riding Conditions Without Proper Maintenance: Most manufacturers will vary in their recommendations for when to change your seat, but it's always best to follow their instructions if you're unsure. Keep your parts updated. Your bicycle is a machine of sorts, and all the pieces work better if they’re taken care of. A neglected part in one location will add stress to the bicycle overall, making it work a little harder and possibly break down.
  3. Improper Seat Placement: Seat placement is imperative to comfortable riding and how long the seat will last. If the seat is too far back or forward, your weight will be shifted to the wrong part of the seat. This will speed up the wear-and-tear process significantly.
  4. Moisture: Sweat and water will damage your seat. It may even begin to mold or mildew. For example, a buddy of mine said he knew his seat was shot when he couldn’t stand to be in the room with it any longer. He rode his bike more often that season, and sweat found its way into the foam through a tiny crack. It started to mildew. He had no idea the stench was coming from inside the seat, at least not until he removed the saddle to investigate.

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This bike seat is visibly worn and in need of an upgrade.

This bike seat is visibly worn and in need of an upgrade.

How to Tell If Your Bike Seat Needs to Be Replaced

There are two, radically different trains of thought on replacing saddles (bike seats).

  1. The first one is if you have to ask, replace it.
  2. The second is if you need to ask, it's still good.

Despite this contradictory message, I think it is better to err on the side of caution. To make it short and sweet, use the information I mentioned earlier:

  • If the seat is warped or has any divots, it needs to be replaced.
  • If the seat cover is torn, or the rails are bent, the bicycle seat should be changed.

More Tips for Determining When to Replace Your Bike Saddle

  • Consider the Type of Bike: If you ride a mountain bike, your seat will likely need to be changed more often. This is because the terrain is rough, and the saddle will absorb more shock on average.
  • Consider Riding History: If you’ve had an accident on the bicycle, it's a good idea to inspect your seat carefully. Small tears can let bacteria and moisture in, leading to stinky seats (or worse).
  • Listen for Potential Damage: Another way to tell is to listen to it. If your seat makes any odd noises or creaking sounds when you get on or off, your seat is worn out.

Reasons to Replace Worn Bike Seats

Remember, there are technical and personal preferences that should be accounted for, as well as the type of bicycle seat you have (material-wise), and where you ride the most.

  • It's important to replace worn-out seats, as it can impact your health and ruin your bike. Over time, our muscles acclimate to the stress they're subjected to, even if it's an incorrect position. Worn-out seats can place unnecessary pressure on our muscles, and cyclists who suffer from riding sores will tell you it's not a fun experience.
  • If you are feeling your bones, any discomfort, or pressure on your body as you sit, you should replace the seat as soon as possible.
  • Never ride a bicycle without confirming the saddle is safe for your body. For instance, if you're a man, riding for long periods of time on a seat that's built for a woman's body will not help you. It will eventually cause painful sores or aching muscles. (The same concept is true in reverse as well.)
  • If you purchase a bike used or have one laying around, check the saddle to verify if it's the correct seat for your body and in good working condition. If not, yes, you need to replace it.
  • Avid bikers change their saddles every two years or so before normal aging takes effect. They are on their bicycles a majority of the season, so comfort is a priority. Without being proactive, they'd have more difficulty enjoying the ride.
  • Worn-out seats are thin seats, and thin seats will not absorb shock efficiently. This shock will instead be absorbed by you—well, your backside anyway. After a short while, you will feel it. It will only hurt until you replace it—so replace your seats accordingly, and bike your heart out!

How to Install a New Bike Saddle Yourself

So you've determined your bike seat needs to be replaced. Now what? Check out the video below with step-by-step instructions for installing (and adjusting) a saddle on three main types of seat posts.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Bri Smith

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