Condensed Answer: The differences between male and female bike saddles aren’t substantial enough to make women’s saddles completely unusable by men.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether a saddle is designed for a male or a female as long as it’s comfortable.
That said, the short nose of a women’s saddle can be quite uncomfortable for a male rider.
The Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Bike Saddles
One of the main differences between male and female saddles is width.
Female saddles have extra width to them because women have wider hips necessary for child-bearing.
In the ideal scenario, the saddle supports the sit bones of the rider.
The anatomical term for sit bones is ischial tuberosity and refers to the lower part of the pelvis which supports the body when we seat.
When we stand, the glutes are contracted and cover the area, but in a seated position the sit bones become exposed. The easiest way to find your sit bones is to place one of your palms under yourself and gently sit on it.
The distance between the centers of the sit bones is of crucial importance because it determines the width of the saddle that you need.
If a woman with very wide sit bones uses a narrow male saddle, she will feel uncomfortable because a lot of stress will be transmitted to the soft tissues in the area.
To reflect that problem, female saddles are made wider.
If a man uses a female saddle, it will result in unnecessary friction during pedaling, but at least the sit bones of the rider will be among the support points.
Or in other words, it’s better to have a saddle that’s wider than necessary than one that’s too narrow.
Upright Posture = Wider Saddle
A vertical back angle benefits from a wider saddle because more of the rider’s glutes come in contact with the bike. Hence why city bikes have “pillow” saddles.
Conversely, racing bikes that put the rider in an aggressive aero position benefit from a narrow saddle because the contact area is reduced. Thus, it makes sense to have a small, lighter saddle reducing friction during pedaling.
Since many women ride city bikes designed for commuting or leisure cycling, manufacturers often equip those models with fairly wide saddles.
Women’s saddles have a shorter nose than male saddles. The purpose of this design is to reduce the stress on the soft tissues that occurs when a female cyclist leans forward.
If a woman rides a bike with an aggressive road geometry, the back angle will be flatter (less upright). This forward lean moves the pelvis closer to the saddle. If the saddle is longer, the nose of the saddle will be in contact with the genitalia of the cyclist and create discomfort within the delicate soft tissues.
This is one of the reasons why many women tilt their saddles forward. Tilting is only a partial solution. The angled position of the saddle may alleviate the stress coming from the nose, but it will reduce the support that the saddle offers. Subsequently, the rider’s entire bike fit will suffer.
In general, it’s recommended to have the saddle horizontal to the ground.
Conversely, male saddles are longer to support the rider’s penis and testes. If a male gets on a very short female saddle without wearing tight compression clothing, his genitalia would hang from the saddle.
In some cases, the nose of the saddle may even dig into the area behind the rider’s testes and cause extreme discomfort.
Many female saddles have mid-cutouts designed to reduce the stress on the genital area. Some male saddles have that feature too, but it’s less common.
What Are The Advantages of Using a Women’s Saddle as a Man?
- Potentially More Comfortable
In some cases, male riders may find the extra width of a women’s saddle surprisingly comfortable. This outcome is more likely for men who have wider hips and ride upright bicycles.
- Less Stress on the Genitalia
Some men find moderately short women’s saddles more comfortable than long “male” saddles due to the reduced pressure on the genitalia.
What Are The Disadvantages of Using a Women’s Saddle as a Man?
The wider the saddle, the more likely it is to experience extensive friction between the thighs and the saddle. The effect amplifies with every extra degree of forward lean. This is one of the reasons why race saddles are so narrow and slim.
- Stress on the Genitalia
In some cases, the short nose of the saddle will dig into the underside of the rider’s genitalia and cause notable discomfort.
- Lost Style Points
Truth be told, many people don’t like the look of female saddles on male bicycles. Therefore, a male who rides a women’s saddle may be ridiculed. Whether this is important depends on how much the cyclist values external opinions.
Summary: What You Need To Know
- Women’s saddles are wider and shorter to accommodate the hips of a woman and reduce stress on the genitalia.
- A man can use a women’s saddle but only if it feels comfortable. This could be the case for men with wider hips riding upright bicycles.
- For best results, it’s recommended to get a bike saddle fit when choosing a saddle.