It’s a well-documented fact that riding your bike for 30 minutes – be that in a spin class or zipping around the local lanes – can burn anywhere between 200 and 700 calories, meaning it’s a great form of cardio.
Perhaps that’s one reason why many of us have invested in a good-quality exercise bike to keep fit during lockdown. But even if you’re a seasoned cyclist or spinner, there’s always been something about riding a bike that has never sat right with us (pun intended).
We’re of course referring to the bruised bums, inner thighs and crotches that come as a direct result of a poorly sized saddle. In our opinion, there’s nothing worse than hitting a spin session hard, only to be left as walking wounded in the days that follow. So, we wanted to see if there was a way to make our bike riding more comfortable and enjoyable.
The best answer to soreness is a saddle that is wide enough for your sit bones – measuring them is something that can be done at home or in a bike shop. But often saddles that are comfortable are also expensive, and, if you are a serial spinner, the idea of turning up to a class with your own seat and allen key may not appeal.
That’s where cushioned bike covers come in. Available at a variety of price points, widths and in a range of materials, we wanted a cushion that was as comfortable to sit on from the start of our ride to the end.
We tested everything from gel and memory-foam cushions to sheepskin covers and made note of how well they worked in comparison to an uncovered saddle. We even tested a pair of padded bike shorts, just to see how well these could work as an alternative.
Extra points were awarded to the covers that fitted both our indoor bike and our mountain bike, and we made note of any extra details – for example, reflective strips and adjustable toggles – that made the saddle not only more comfortable, but practical and safe too.
In the end, choosing the right cover will come down to personal preference. Other factors like the size of your saddle, and whether you’re a seasoned pro or not, will come into play, so you may have to try out a few before you find the right model for you. Whatever you decide though, we can attest that any one of these covers will make for a far more pleasant ride – minus the bruises.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Lushforest bike seat cushion
There’s a lot to love about this bike cover. Firstly, it’s padded with not just a thick silica gel, but also with memory foam. Individually, the two materials are great ways to make riding your bike more comfortable, but together they amount to a game changer. Riding with this cover was like sitting on a cloud, and it immediately made our cycle all the more enjoyable. Plus, the whole surface is covered in a lycra fabric, so you know it’s going to handle sweat well too.
Due to its slightly wider size, we did have a few hiccups when trying to use it on our mountain bike – narrower saddles mean there will be more overhang – but if you can get it to stay firmly in place it should still have a positive effect. We preferred using it on our exercise bike for at-home spin classes, however, and loved how it handled the switching between sitting and standing, with the foam springing back into place each time.
This cover also gets massive bonus points for coming with a couple of handy extras. For the safety-conscious riders among you, at the back of the seat there is a reflective strip so you can be seen even as the sun begins to set. There’s also an adjustable toggle and two extra straps to keep your cover firmly in place and tied to whichever bike you’re using. But our favourite bonus was the added waterproof cover. It was the only seat pad we tested that came with this extra as standard, and though they probably don’t cost a lot, it’s a nice addition. Now you can keep your bike seat dry, dust-free and enjoy your ride come rain or shine.
KTS KT-Sports gel bike seat cover
In comparison to our best buy, KT-Sports’s offering was much narrower and fit our mountain bike perfectly. We took a few laps without any cover at all before sliding this one on, and the difference was instantly noticeable. Where our bum had already begun to ache just minutes into our ride, this seat stopped those pains in their tracks. The thick, silicone gel padding was a godsend, protecting both our bum and our thighs (as the padding extends slightly down the sides). For our male testers, the real positive was the extra padding toward the front of the saddle.
In terms of fit, it can be tightened with a drawstring to ensure it doesn’t budge during your cycle. And though we only tested this on our mountain bike, we feel confident in saying it will easily fit more narrow seated exercise bikes, like the Peloton. Just be sure to check the measurements of your bike seat before investing.
It’s also worth noting that KT-Sports advertise this as being “built to last” but, should anything happen to your seat, or if it just doesn’t end up fitting, they offer a 100 per cent money-back guarantee. A risk-free purchase and pain-free ride – what’s not to love?
Halfords urban saddle cover
Another narrower option, this cover will see you through even the toughest terrains. Made with a memory foam filling, the seat seems to adapt to your shape as you ride, which for us was a definite bonus. It would also spring back into shape every time we hopped off, making it feel as good as new when we returned.
If you’re not sure how often you’re going to use your bike – perhaps you frequent the odd spin class or prefer an occasional ride with the family – this could be a great budget option if you aren’t sure you want to splash the cash. But we promise that once you start using covers like this, you’ll never look back.
Celtic & Co. bike seat cover
This is definitely a cover with more personality than most. It comes in two colours – hurricane grey or ivory white – and gave us major country-living vibes. But, fair warning, it’s more expensive than most on this list, and doesn’t offer as much padding.
We definitely advise measuring your saddle before purchasing as despite its “one size” selling point it will not fit every bike – even we had to wriggle it a bit to get it to fit our mountain bike. That said, once it was on it stayed firmly in place for our entire ride and was still very comfortable. Made from 100 per cent sheepskin, we were pleasantly surprised with the softness of the seat – something we really appreciated when our thighs began to bump, especially as we bruise like a peach! It was a great buffer and made it feel like we were sitting on a warm, fluffy cushion.
Daway comfortable exercise bike seat cover
We so nearly put this seat as our best buy – it was only its size that pushed it from pole position. The Daway bike seat is approximately 27cm wide – by far the widest seat we tested – which meant there was no chance it was fitting on our narrow mountain bike seat, so it lost points for versatility. However, for our home exercise bike and spin sessions, it was ideal.
Like Lushforest’s model (£16.99, Amazon.co.uk), it is made with an eco-friendly gel and also includes a foam of equal thickness (approx 5cm) that was perfect for high-intensity rides. It’s also covered in a lycra fabric that stood up against even the sweatiest sessions and the air diversion slot helped keep us cool and dry throughout. In terms of fit, there were no extra straps or waterproof covers included – but it was probably the quickest to install. It came with instructions, which we know sounds daft (after all, slotting a bike cover in place doesn’t exactly sound like rocket science), but we found it really helped us get the best fit from the off. There’s also an elastic sleeve hidden underneath so you can be sure that your saddle isn’t going anywhere, even during the bumpiest ride.
For purely superficial reasons, we also loved that this came in a variety of colours. We opted for pink, and, strangely, it made hopping on our bike feel more exciting. Plus, it was the only seat to come with a one-year warranty, so should anything happen to your cover, you’ll get your money back or a replacement.
Muddyfox cycling padded shorts ladies
Okay, so technically this isn’t a bike seat cover as advertised, but stay with us. These bike shorts by Muddyfox are totally affordable and comfortable. They may not be the most stylish piece of sportswear we own – we’d still choose a pair of leggings or yoga pants any day – but you can’t argue with the quality.
Offering a super-secure fit, thanks to the elasticated waistband and internal drawstring, and a large padded seat – which stretches from front to back – our whole derriere felt completely protected during even the most hardcore rides. For safety-conscious street riders, these shorts come with reflective detailing as well, so you know you’ll be seen as you cycle at night. Plus, they come in a range of sizes (from UK six to 20) and fit true, with fabric that felt soft against our skin and didn’t bunch up like some cycling shorts can do.
Overall, our whole ride – both in a spin class and on the road – was much smoother and we felt like we could really focus rather than having to pause to give our bum a break. We didn’t ache in the days that followed either – no bruising was a total bonus in our book! They were also easy to wash and we love that there’s the option to wear them and still use one of the other covers in this list – riding has never been so comfortable.
BioFlex gelflo anatomic saddle cover
This was very much like Halfords’s urban saddle (£10, Halfords.com) and we found it’d be best suited to mountain- or road-bike saddles. The adjustable toggle and extra fabric meant that the cover adapted easily and quickly to the seat and it didn’t move an inch.
In terms of comfort, it once again uses a type of gel that was comfortable but not as thick as some others we tried. Even still, we found it cushioned all the important parts of our behind – particularly the base of our bum where the padding was thicker – and it made all the difference to our ride. We’d recommend this for those who are either training often or who enjoy longer rides. It’s a supportive seat and won’t add much height to your saddle, so there won’t be a need to adjust your seatpost. Simply add on and go!
Halfords leisure saddle cover
Halford’s second offering was pretty similar to its first, the main difference being the size. Like its narrower counterpart, it’s made from memory foam, which gives a comfy ride. But thanks to its wider size, we found that we had more wiggle room to get it in the perfect position, and could feel the padding protecting our behind brilliantly, especially in comparison to a bare saddle.
While it wasn’t as thick as others we tested, if we found ourselves needing a lighter-weight model to slip in our gym bag, this would be a great go-to. Plus, as the padding continues at the same thickness level towards the front as well as down the sides, we can rest assured knowing there’ll be no accidental knocks and bumps on the inner thighs and groin area. It’s great for new cyclists and those on a budget.
The verdict: Cushioned bike seats
Bike covers can all look the same, making it hard to know what’s right for you. But if, like us, you’re more in it for leisure and the occasional spin session, then you’re going to want something that’s easy to use and going to make those 30 minutes pain-free. That’s why the Lushforest bike seat cushion is our best buy. For us, it was one of the most comfortable and still didn’t break the bank.
We’d also recommend investing in the Daway bike cover, which was ideal for home cycling, and the Muddyfox cycling shorts, as they really took our ride to the next level. In fact, we’d probably pair either of these saddles with our shorts simply to make our cycle a breeze.
Should you run into trouble while out and about, make sure you have one of these multitools with you, for quick fixes while cycling
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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