Having recently bought a road bike for my commute, I was horrified to realise the seating was far less comfortable than I remembered my old 'Raleigh Budgy' to be when I was little. After an arduous 4 mile trek getting the bike home and a further two days hobbling around I realised I had to get a gel seat before riding the bike again.
I bought the ETC Saddle Cover for £10.99 on Amazon having read reviews that suggested it would fit all bikes and that it did provide immediate relief for riders who were looking for comfort on their bike ride.
After 3 days my saddle arrived it was roughly 36cm by 14cm by 3 cm, it fit my bike perfectly and was simple to fit, with nothing more than a requirement to fit it over the seat and tie it on. I've had this item for over a month now and initially I did still feel a bit uncomfortable when riding it, but this has settled down and the gel seat has proven its worth on numerous occasions and makes the commute much less of a chore than it would have been.
£10 seems a reasonable price for improving the comfort of riding a bike, the gel is well padded, the seat is plain black apart from the ETC logo and seat name at the back of the padding. I am impressed with this product and expect this to last as long as my bicycle. The stitching seems well done, the design is good and the product looks the part. I would definitely recommend this and view it with fondness when recalling how painful the bicycle was before it arrived.
I was fortunate a couple of years ago when I was thinking of buying a new bike to win one in a competition. It was a good bike (although if I'm honest the frame is a bit big for me and I have numerous anxious moments when I put my foot down and can't find the ground) but it's a man's bike and therefore has a man's saddle which is not very comfortable for me, especially when cycling for longer periods of time.
I looked at buying a new saddle, one designed for women, but the prices were much higher than I'd expected and there was always the possibility that I might try to sell the bike in order to buy something better suited to my height. The other option was to buy a padded cover for the saddle which I could use while I had the bike and which could simply be removed and retained should I decide to sell.
After a little research I bought the ETC extra gel filled saddle cover through Amazon; there were plenty to choose from but many of them had attracted negative reviews, this one was one of the few positive ones.
The cover is black with a small logo; until you get close up you can't tell that there's a cover on the saddle. It feels very much like one of those gel filled wrist pads for typists and is a similar weight - that is, heavier than it looks so if you are thinking of taking it off the saddle if you leave the bike locked somewhere, you should bear that in mind. At first I would remove the cover when I left the bike unattended because my UK bike doesn't have a quick release saddle - if it did I'd take the whole thing with me when I leave the bike unattended in town. However, after a while I got fed up with removing and replacing and retightening the cover, and these days I just leave it in place.
Fitting the cover is simple; it is simply placed over the saddle - there's only one way it will go - and tightened underneath with a kind of drawstring mechanism to stop it from slipping. The fabric is Lycra and looks as good today as when the cover was new. Even when the bike has been left in the rain, the cover has repelled light showers and the water wipes off easily.
This cover is quite thick and adds some bulk to the saddle; it also adds a little height so it may be necessary to make an adjustment after fitting the cover to take the extra height into consideration. It takes a little getting used to but it is very soft and adds a degree of extra comfort immediately. The real test, of course, is how much extra comfort it provides over prolonged periods of cycling: for an hour or two it does give increased comfort but anything over that is limited. Over in Slovenia I have another bike, a ladies mountain bike, which has a saddle designed specifically for female riders and only after exceptionally long rides do I feel any real discomfort, but when I ride my bike in the UK I still experience some discomfort in spite of the cover after a full days cycling.
Of course, it may just be that a man's saddle is always going to be the wrong shape for lady cyclists; after all, the cover just provides a padded layer and the basic shape of the saddle stays the same. This saddle cover would only be of any use for a man's saddle as it wouldn't fit a woman's saddle which is much wider at the back. What would be really useful is a way of covering a man's saddle with a cover that would create the shape of a woman's saddle, this eliminating the need to buy a new saddle, which is a more costly option.
One complaint I do have is that the outer material, being Lycra, is rather slippy and if I am wearing cycling shorts I find myself gradually moving forwards in the saddle because the two fabrics are so similar. Fortunately this is not a problem I have every time I ride because - due to the somewhat visually 'unusual' appearance of myself in Lycra cycling shorts, I tend to wear three quarter lengths over the top (much better if you want to stop en route for a drink or need to pop into a shop while out).
My ETC saddle cover cost just £8.95 (free post and packaging) through Amazon though some cycle specialists do stock this brand (which I believe is made by a larger company called Velo). I bought it in 2009 and it is still as good as new. Some reviewers of this product have suggested that sitting on a saddle with this cover is like sitting on an air filled cushion - it's nowhere near that good, but it is much better than sitting on a hard saddle. It's easy to put on and, once adjusted, doesn't slip or become loose. It won't make a man's saddle so much more comfortable for a woman, but it does help to a degree. In terms of ease of use, added comfort and longevity, I'd say that £8.95 is a fair price.