Riding comfort and economy is a product of overall posture and the way our bodies contact the bike. The contact point that bears the most weight is the saddle, so it's no surprise that it's also commonly the least comfortable. While there has been a strong trend among fit-systems to develop "objective" measures to inform saddle choice, these measures don't have a track record superior to good ol' trial and error. Normally, changing and adjusting a saddle is time consuming. During the fitting process we use the SwitchIt (see video) to quickly change out a variety of saddles to find an ideal fit.Flat Platform vs. Curved.
Flat Platform vs. Curved
Two of the most loved saddles of all time are pictured in their current iterations: Selle Italia Flite and Selle San Marco Concor. These are also two polarizing saddles - most riders of their respective choice swear by their preferred saddle, and swear at the other. We point this out here to demonstrate that curvature of profile varies greatly and does not necessarily indicate future preference. A rider coming from a curved saddle may find the Concor totally uncomfortable despite it's apparent curve, and they may find they love the fit of the flat Flite.
Width and Shape
Width and Shape
Width is commonly cited as the determining factor in saddle choice. However, width alone cannot convey how well a saddle will fit. For coparison, see the silhouettes of the Concor and Flite overlayed. The Flite is wider and has a pronounced outward flare at the transition from nose to sitting area. The Concor is narrower and has a steady tapered wedge shape. These differences in taper are at least as important as the saddles' widths - some wide-hipped riders will find a narrow saddle of one model is more comfortable than a wider version of another, and vice versa for narrow-hipped riders. Again, back-to-back testing is more informative than objective measures of pelvic anatomy.
This photo illustrates how a saddle's ride characteristics can be tuned through additional features. This Selle Italia Max Flite Flow has cantilevered rail attachments and uses blue rubber elastomers to dampen vibrations. We point this out to show that a saddle's shape alone does not entirely determine its feel.
A thickly padded saddle is often assumed to be a comfortable one. There are various padded seat covers sold to increase saddle plushness, and for riding a beach cruiser these may be suitable. However, soft padding on a saddle used for road riding usually is uncomfortable for a few reasons. It increases friction between the rider and the saddle, which can cause chafing. Also, soft padding conforms entirely to the rider, so it puts pressure on areas that would otherwise not come in contact with the saddle, which can lead to numbness and irritation. Another downside is that soft padding can make it difficult for a rider to quickly change position to react to changes in terrain or group ride action. This isn't to say that saddles with no padding at all are more comfortable, but instead it is to reinforce the idea that all of the traits of a saddle should be considered - and test ridden - rather than focus on a single element.