When choosing a saddle there are so many things to consider regarding fit and suitability. The shape and profile is extremely important. Male and female saddles differ quite substantially. Women's saddles are adapted from men's designs but with specifically placed padding to account for the different body shape and parts. The smallest changes in size can make the world of difference and, if you get it wrong, a whole world of pain. Therefore it is crucial to choose correctly. Just because it is comfortable to sit on doesn't mean it will be comfortable to ride on.
There are many variables, for each discipline road and off road, gender specific, and body shape. There are saddles with features to enhance performance such as anatomical cut outs, wide and narrow structure with long or short noses. Some include gel inserts designed for comfort. Many come with a choice of seat top covers, colours and finish. When considering your saddle, consider the amount of time you will be on the saddle and whether you are going to be wearing padded shorts or tights as this will certainly make a considerable difference. So what saddle is right for you and your bike? Here are some saddle guides:
Road recommendations: For aggressive riding positions your saddle will need to have a flat profile, which allows you to shift your body during riding and attacking.
For more relaxed riding positions as found on most sportive bikes your saddle will be more curved with a wider padded rear.
Off-road recommendations: Mountain biking promotes a slightly upright position and your saddle may have pressure-relieving channels or a flexible wing system to absorb and move upon impact.
Commuter/touring recommendations: For daily commuting or maybe touring your saddle should be designed for an upright position, in order to support your posture whilst riding. The design may have a wider shape with deeper padding at the rear and a shorter nose.
Structure - Make sure the nose of the saddle doesn't catch your chamois or shorts as this can affect you when standing up in the saddle, or when sitting back down.
Material - If possible try to make sure it feels comfortable to sit on and that the material doesn't cause any chafing or slipping.
Padding - How much padding do you need? Padding is great but less is more, excess padding can increase heat, which will lead to further discomfort whilst riding.
Cutout/groove - The benefits of a cutout/groove can improve the comfort of your riding and reduce any pressure on the perineum and genitals.
Compatibility - Saddlebag/lights. Many of today's saddles are compatible with seat packs, saddle bags and lights, but it's always a good idea to check the style of the saddle and the possibilities for fitting bags and/or lights.