Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Keeping Your Bicycle Saddle Dry

Basil Saddle Cover
After the previous post, I’ve had some inquiries about the polka dot saddle cover pictured on my bike. It is from Basil and yes, it is waterproof. But let me backtrack and use this opportunity to discuss saddle covers more generally.

If your bike is equipped with a leather saddle and you tend to leave it outdoors, a saddle cover is essential. Without it, the leather will sag prematurely after getting wet – especially if you ride the bike without letting it dry first. But even many synthetic saddles, if left in the rain long enough, can get soggy – resulting in a wet butt on the ride home. Saddle covers are generally inexpensive and easy to carry around, taking up little room at the bottom of a pannier and saddlebag. If you are wondering which to get, here are some factors to consider.

Waterproofness
This may seem like an obvious one. However saddle covers are not always waterproof. Some are designed to protect the saddle from fading in the sun, or to provide a bit of extra cushioning, but have no water repellant qualities. Others are water resistant, but are not intended for all-day or overnight use. Read the product description to determine whether the level of waterproofness is what you need, and ask the manufacturer if this information is missing.

Shape and size
Bicycle saddles come in different shapes and sizes, as do saddle covers. A cover designed for a narrow road bike saddle may not fit over a wide city bike saddle, and vise versa. Some covers are designed with more stretch than others and are more versatile, but overall it's a good idea to check dimensions.

Coverage
Some covers are designed to stretch over the top of the saddle only, whereas others are designed to also cover the underside. The latter style is useful when you are riding the bike on wet roads, especially if your bike does not have fenders.

Surface Texture 
If a saddle cover has a slick surface texture, it can feel slippery to sit on. If you want a saddle cover that you can keep on when you ride the bike, look for a matte or textured surface.

Brooks Saddle Cover
Sources for Saddle Covers
If you purchase a Brooks leather saddle, a cover is usually included (not sure whether it is the same cover they sell individually - possibly). However, these covers are not fully waterproof and will not fit all saddle shapes. 

On my roadbike, I use an excellent cover that Rivendell used to sell, but no longer does. They've now replaced it with this Aardvark cover, which they describe as equally waterproof and designed to fit a similar range of saddle shapes. I have not tried it, but hear that others are satisfied. They also sell the fancier Randi Jo cover that offers extra coverage and is available in road and city sizes.

On my city bikes I recently started using the Basil Katharina saddle cover (the polka dotted one in the pictures), which the US Basil rep sent me to demo. I know that a number of US bike shops sell these covers in person (try Clevercycles in Portland, Houndstooth Road in Atlanta, Dutch Bike in Seattle and Rolling Orange in NYC) but online they are not always easy to locate. If you do manage to find one (either the Katherina or the Elements series), they are inexpensive, completely waterproof, and available in a variety of patterns. The shape is just right for wide, thick city bike saddles, including those with heavy springs. 

I am sure there are other quality sources, and your suggestions are welcome.

Gazelle Lock-Up
Alternatives to Saddle Covers
In a pinch, a decent plastic bag makes for a fine saddle cover. I do this all the time when I forget my real cover at home or am riding a borrowed bike. The trick is to wrap and tie the bag securely, so that the wind does not blow it away. Granted, sitting on a bag-wrapped saddle is sub-optimal (slippery), but it is better than nothing. 

A more elegant method for those who do not want to buy a cover, is to use a shower cap. Usually they hold in place, but some choose to attach velcro straps for extra security. And of course, if you are the crafty type, you can also make your own cover from scratch using waterproof fabric and elastic. 

Well, I think that pretty much covers it. Lots of options for keeping your saddle dry, for happy riding in wet weather. 

45 comments:

  1. I wrap a plastic bag over a lightweight shower cap. Free and simple and effective.

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  2. bag guy here. simple, cheap, waterproof, and easy. my favorite bags are from the second hand clothing store :)

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  3. Happy dry saddles! You covered this last year or the year before, but the basil cover is nice. My brooks saddles never came with covers. I find plastic bags to be fine, and conceal the brookness of the saddle. I was surprised to see so many brooks saddles in Vancouver last week without a cover to hide them since they were getting stolen left and right for awhile.

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  4. Addendum: to protect your pants from over-oiled Brooks Pro which simply would not break in despite 2k of dry weather. Brown ass? I got it.

    Only you would be able to fab frames yet your the bag handle across the seat - saddle sore anyones?

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  5. I find that when riding, I don't need a saddle cover. In fact, I once tried using one, and it came off and was lost on the first ride. I have a few Brooks saddles that are going through their 10th winter in Seattle now, with lots of rainy miles, no harm done.

    When parked, I do cover my saddle, but a nice heavy-duty plastic bag does a fine job. (The heavier bags don't tend to get blown away as easily.)

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  6. I use a plastic bag on my road saddles. I've got one of the Brooks covers that came with one of my saddles, but have never used it! But a little over a year ago I made a saddle cover from an old rain coat. I wrote up a quick little DIY for anyone who wants to make their own. :)

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  7. Fancy Bikes and Plastic Bags...

    (how is this not yet a tumblr blog?)

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    1. I don't think that's specific enough. Maybe "Cats Next to Fancy Boles and Plastic Bags."

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    2. My cat Pig likes to sit on my bike and try to eat plastic bags (that are stored in a cloth bag hanging on the wall near the bike...)

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  8. I had a Brooks cover, but after a while it wore out. Now I use a plastic bag I got from the library. Works great. I can just tie it closed under the seat and it stays on.

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  9. I've bought three Brooks saddles over the last year and not one of them came with a saddle cover.

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    1. 2 of the 3 Brooks saddles I purchased had the cover. Unsure if it’s saddle flavor specific to receive them?
      The B17 Champ Special and Team Pro Polo came w/ the covers. The standard B17 did not.

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  10. I have used a one-gallon zip-lock bag for a cover. After covering the saddle "zip" it shut and you have built resistance to it blowing off. Best bet thought is the Aardvark since it is easy to sit on while riding.

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  11. Now I use the narrow Brooks cover for my B66 Champion. It is waterproof. But when the bike is outside over night in the rain, sometimes the saddle gets wet from underneath, because the cover is really tight. Maybe I will buy the bigger cover.
    In the past I used platic bags. They work fine with the B66 Champion, if you stuff the bag between the springs.

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  12. The 'old' Brooks saddle covers with the logo aren't waterproof, but they now have better ones. Without logo. That do resists water.

    Also, only the fancier Brooks saddles come with a cover, the more basic ones don't.

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    1. Interesting. The covers I have are all from 1+ yrs back and have the logo. And they were included with regular, non-fancy saddles.

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    2. It may depend on where you buy your Brooks. I believe some provide a cover with the saddle as a nice gesture.

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  13. Plastic bags in a landslide! Another blow struck against pervasive bike consumerism!

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  14. I made a pattern, mailed to my mother and she made one out of raincoat fabric. I'm probably the only person with a gore-tex saddle cover, but it works!

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  15. Plastic grocery bags here. Tie the handles around the seat post to hold it on. I used a couple of them to keep my Brooks saddle dry on the back of my car on a rainy road trip from New Hampshire to Chicago and through 2 weeks of touring.

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  16. Plastic bags are also convenient to store! I just stuff one under the rails of my Flyer, hidden, and it's always there when I need it.

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  17. I have an old brooks one, but don't love it- it doesn't fit my wide B66S very well, and isn't completely waterproof (as mentioned above). I do like the velcro ties that allow me to securely store it under the seat, tied to the rails.

    I got a couple of nice ones of the "shower cap shaped to fit a bike seat variety" from various Bike-week events in Cambridge last spring, and may try to get a couple of more this spring. They seem very waterproof, and fit with an elastic edge.

    In Europe these are common "giveaways" as advertising- a company will print up a message on the cover, and attach them to hundreds or thousands of parked bikes.

    I know more than one person who always covers their saddle with a plastic bag as a saddle theft deterrent.

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    1. In Vienna lots of companies do the logo covers, but most of them - as I found out the hard way! - are not fully waterproof.

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  18. I've tried a number of different covers over the years, and it's the Aardvark for me. Fits a Brooks saddle perfectly and handles both sudden downpours and sustained drenching perfectly well.

    Finian

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  19. Makes me like the stock black non leather Selle saddle on my Gazelle Basic even more!

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  20. I use dollar store shower caps on all 3 of my B67s. They even stay on transporting at highway speed.

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  21. Living in a soggy coastal town, my bike has a seat cover on any time I'm not actually riding it. Otherwise I get to show up at work looking like I peed myself.

    I use those plastic produce/bulk bags from the grocery store. They're completely waterproof, just the right size to slip over a medium-width saddle and snug enough to not blow off... plus they're free! And fit in my pocket!

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  22. I got a B17 Standard in 2010 and it did not come with a cover. I bought one from Wheelworks and it's worked well for me--easy enough to store by using the velcro to attach to the rails.

    Related inquiry: Thoughts on the actual water-resistance/resilience of the Selle Anatomica watershed leather? I got one for Christmas and am waiting until Spring to install it.

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  23. I see ppl ride with their saddle covers on. Are they supposed to come off when you ride or can you ride with them on (eg the pretty ones from New Looxs or Basil)?

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    1. As I've explained in the post, I often ride with them on if the rain is heavy, because they have a way of getting wet even with my butt on the saddle. The Basil cover pictures is pretty good to ride on; it is not slippery and does not come off.

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  24. I used to like the older Brooks saddle covers until I found that the integrated rubber strap that keeps the cover tight to the saddle ages and deteriotes quite quickly, rendering the thing nearly useless because there is no easy way to replace the rubber strap.
    The Brooks covers of late (I am refering to some samples that came with narrow 'racey' saddles)are more durable, but also harder to apply and remove to the saddle.
    For that reason I took to VAUDE saddle raincovers: http://www.vaude.com/en-GB/en/Products/Bike/Accessories/Raincover-for-saddles.html - they are inexpensive (at least here in Germany ...) and well made. As they don't come with a velcro strap (something which I generally consider a useful item), I use small saddle bags that were quite common here in Germany in the past and can still be bought new at a low price (8 Euros/would be 11 US Dollar) - this is the smallest type: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48688786@N04/8473719973/in/photostream ; there is a larger type with two buckles, beautifully nickel plated :-) for 11 Euros/ca. 15 US Dollar: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48688786@N04/6066729911/in/set-72157627487230016 .
    When my commute already starts in heavy rain, I usually wrap a plastic bag tightly around my saddle because this is more convenient to ride on than a shifty saddle cover (and I think those covers are not really made to be ridden upon).

    Matthias

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  25. I favor the Aardvark covers. I end up driving with my bike on top of the car in bad weather a fair amount, and the Aarvark stays on tight and keeps the saddle dry. Plastic bags flap around too much. I never ride with the Aardvark. I find it really takes a huge soaking to get the saddle wet when I'm top of it. Generally, I try to avoid that kind of situation!

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  26. I like the Brooks cover that came with my last saddle. It fits nicely and I haven't had any water seepage problems with it so far.

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  27. Another vote for the plastic bag. I have one that's barely big enough for my Brooks 67S so it stays on fine, and when I'm riding it gets stuffed in the springs. So far it's lasted over a year without blowing off (but then again, it was a *Dutch* plastic bag). The added advantage is that it doesn't advertise the fact that you've got a fancy saddle underneath - I'd avoid a Brooks cover for just that reason.

    We've just started to see saddle covers cropping up as advertising in the UK - you can buy cheap printed ones en masse and put them over parked bikes to sell your product. Very popular in the NL

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  28. I have a saddle cover from www.bikecap.nl that fits the saddles on both of my bikes. Since I store my bikes in my garage, I only need it when I'm actually out in the rain, so it works to have just one. I stuff it in my pannier when I'm enroute, then put it on when I park the bike outside. I like how it hides my Brooks saddle.

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    1. I have a BikeCap on The Raleigh, and I can report that it's fabulous. It has a little loop that can be attached to the springs under the saddle, and so I never fully remove it. When I'm riding, I tuck it under the saddle, and when I'm transporting the bike, I pull it out and fit it back on. They come in many colors and patterns. I have driven over an hour in a rainstorm with The Raleigh BikeCapped on the back of my car, and the Brooks was dry when we arrived. A very fun accessory, and practical too! The Raleigh has a nice British-y plaid one, and when I had The Viva, it had a pretty sunflower one. When I finally put a decent saddle on The Gazelle, it will get one too. I got mine at Dutch Bike, in Seattle, as V stated.

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  29. A friend of mine who commuted by bike always stored her bike outside. One winter, every time I'd see her, she'd complain that her butt got REALLY COLD from riding in the winter and ask me what to do about it. She tends to be cold a lot anyway, so I was pretty stumped beyond the obvious suggestion of wearing layers of long underwear, which she was already doing. Finally she went to the bike shop and asked them, and someone noticed that her saddle, which was one of the spongy-foamy ones, had at some point absorbed water and the frozen and remained that way.
    She had been basically riding around on a solid block of ice, wearing enough long underwear that her body heat didn't melt it much.
    She got a new saddle with a vinyl cover and the problem was solved. :)

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    1. Yup. This happened to the spongy synthetic saddle I had on my city bike in Vienna, which I used to store outdoors. It's not only leather saddles than can benefit from covers.

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  30. I have a "dry ride" brand saddle cover. I like it as it is very waterproof. It also fits over my wide b19 brooks, which came with a brooks cover that did not fit it. I've never ridden with it on the saddle. It doesn't really rain hard enough in Seattle for that to really be a problem. I hate using a plastic bag to cover. They always get holes or try to blow away.

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  31. When I commute, I usually pack an extra plastic bag or two so I can cover my saddle when I park the bike.

    I have also used shower caps.

    Ideale used to make a very good vinyl saddle cover that fit and held up well. I've never understood why Brooks doesn't make its saddle covers waterproof.

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  32. I use a free saddle cover I got from the local council/government travel people (Transport for Greater Manchester), but my bike is usually parked under cover during a work day, or only briefly in the rain at any other time. If I've been wearing a hi-viz vest for that journey I'll cover the cover and saddle with it, and then wrap the remainder of the vest around the seat post and tie it off to keep everything in place.

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  33. I just read the Lorax and it says that thneeds can be used for bicycle seat covers. I understand that trufala trees are pretty rare so you might have to look on ebay and in consignment shops to find one.

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  34. I use a Jandd waterproof saddle cover for my Brooks B-17. (http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FSCW) Durable, inexpensive, and looks good.

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  35. Got plastic saddle covers in Asia recently. Not very durable, but they serve two purposes: protect the saddle from rain when parked and protect my a$$ from stains. Over the years I've ruined so many pants seats on a black Brooks B-67 (they say bicyclists wear black shots for a reason) that I've finally decided any time I'm wearing anything decent and there's a chance I'll sweat, out comes the cover. Can't imagine anyone doing a Seersucker Ride (apparently the Southern version of the Tweed Ride) without one. Since I'm not going to give up the comfort of a Brooks leather saddle, I have to think more about slipcovers, otherwise riding in grunge (or soon-to-be grunge).

    As for the plastic bag, be cautious. I was using a white one and the lot attendant told me the seagulls (downtown Boston, near Quincy Market) thought it would have food waste in it and tugged away at it.

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  36. I meant to post this back when this was a new post, but after I typed it up on my phone, I ran in to technical difficulties and lost it.

    As far as I read before buying my Brooks, covers were shipped with saddles for a while as a test by Brooks to see if people liked them.
    People complained about them not being very waterproof and hated the massive Brooks logo on the top.

    Version 2 has to be purchased seperately but is completely black, completely waterproof (I haven't had any water get through during heavily rainy days after leaving it parked outside.) and fits over the saddle easily. The velcro works great to wrap around the metal bar of the saddle to keep it in place.

    I've never tried riding with it on though, so I don't know how well that works.

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