Last updated on December 9th, 2018
One chief reason why people give up exercising on a bicycle is seat pain. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to fix that. I was looking for the best exercise bike seat for my Schwinn 170, and after trying a few models here’s the best one I found – the Serfas Rx Exerciser EX-RXL. If you’re looking for an upgraded gel seat for your stationary bike, you’ll definitely want to give this model some consideration.
Note – As far as installation and nuances, this review mainly focuses on the Schwinn 170 Upright Exercise bike. If nothing else because that’s the one I own and use. Of course, the vast majority still applies regardless of what stationary bicycle you have. And there are tips for other bike styles, too.
Best Exercise Bike Seat – Serfas EX-RXL Gel Bicycle Saddle
While the Schwinn 170 is an excellent upright exercising bike, the seat sucks. It’s among its number one complaints in reviews. After a few weeks of sore rear ends, I decided to upgrade it. After spending about 2 months comparing seats, I found that the best one is the Serfas RX EX-RXL Saddle. I haven’t regretted it for a second.
After researching comfortable gel seats, Serfas repeatedly came up as the saddles with the best compromise between price and quality. I ended up ordering a few and picking out the best. Really, I don’t care for Serfas – it’s simply that their models are apparently the most recommended options at the 50$ price point.
There were a few main features I was looking for: a gel insert, around 50 bucks, and with quality justifying the effort of upgrading. The EX-RXL fit all those specifications, including being a substantial improvement over the stock seat. If you’re looking for a better seat for your Schwinn 170 upright bike, or any other fitness exerciser machine for that matter, give the Serfas Rx EX-RXL a try. It’s the best seat I found and I’m sure you won’t regret it.
If Ebay’s more your thing, you can also find the seat there, with free return shipping to boot. It’s retail price is around 70$, but you’re likely to find it a fair bit cheaper than that.
Upgraded seat benefits
There are a few things that make this seat stand out compared to the other models I tried:
- It’s made for exerciser bikes – Given how it doesn’t have to make compromises in the name of weight savings, it can be more comfortable without downsides. Plus it’s designed for upright bike’s wider frames.
- It has a gel layer – I’ve done over 1000 miles in 24 hours on a motorcycle, so I know what a sore butt is like. And for increased comfort (custom seats aside) there’s nothing better than gel. Thankfully the same applies to bicycle seats and it isn’t that expensive. This saddle integrates it.
- Easy to clean and breathable – The Lycra it has is more breathable than the stock vinyl, and it’s still relatively easy to clean. Plus it wicks moisture which I’m sure helps avoid bad aesthetics.
- Split design for pressure relief – With bike seats, it’s all about pressure points. One key way to avoid soreness is to avoid pressuring the coccyx tailbone. The split design here is certainly one way to achieve that. Not to mention increased ventilation.
All in all, after testing this and a few more models, I’m pretty confident this is one of the best upright bike seats available at this price-point.
Note – For other upright spinning bikes, make sure you don’t need an adapter
If you’re looking for an upgraded gel seat for a different stationary bike, make sure it’s compatible. Some have a non-standard seat base. Just take a look under the seat and verify that your bike has either a standard 7/8″ post (roughly 22mm) or accepts typical parallel seat rails. If that isn’t the case, then chances are that all you need is a Universal Stationary Bike Seat Adapter. It bolts right on, so it’s just a minor setback if that’s the case.
Installing the aftermarket gel bike seat
Now that we’ve decided what model of bike seat you want, let’s put it on the exercise bike!
Thankfully, installation couldn’t be either. First remove the original seat by loosening the nuts on both sides of the seat clamp. Then pull the saddle upwards to remove it.
Completely removing the post clamp from the original seat isn’t necessary. Another benefit of this saddle is that the Serfas RX-RXL comes with the seat post clamp included and already installed. Plus, it’s a lot beefier than the flimsy stock post clamp.
Now install the aftermarket saddle. You can use the tool your Schwinn 170 originally came with to tighten the clamp. But ideally a ratchet is going to do a better job at not rounding the nut or scratching the frame.
It’s only necessary to tighten the seat as much as needed to keep it from rotating or moving. Tighten both sides only slightly, adjust the pitch of the seat, and then tighten it more until it no longer rotates. Also make sure the seat is pointing straight forward.
And that’s it! Enjoy your new upgraded seat!
Note – Keep in mind that it might take the seat post clamp a few days to settle. Keep the wrench at hand in case you need to tighten it later.
Other seat options
Resist the temptation – Don’t get a regular bike seat
If you come from the MTB world, then you’re probably tempted to get the same style of seat you’re already used to – I know I was. By that I mean a sleek, narrow, high-quality saddle made for real-world cycling. The fact that exerciser seats are huge and pretty darn ugly doesn’t help, either.
Sadly, you should avoid standard bicycle seats. At least for the Schwinn 170 or similar upright spinning bikes. The thing is, an exerciser bike is much wider than a normal bike. Mainly due to resistance mechanism and flywheel. Plus, it’s generally designed with adjustability in mind to better fit a large variety of users. That results in a saddle that’s wider by design than your regular bike seat.
I tried installing a coupe of bike seats, including the Serfas DDM-CT seen above. At the beginning it seemed fine, until I noticed my inner thighs rubbing on the adjustable platform that moves the seat front and back – a poor engineering choice, no doubt. With certain upright exercise bikes using the same design, it might be wise to avoid narrow bike seats.
How about suspension bike seats?
Given how an exercise bike is completely rigid, you might be curious about a suspension seat for minor comfort reasons. After trying the Serfas FS-243 Full Suspension Seat, and I don’t find the suspension feature to provide any real world value. Obviously you don’t want one for road-irregularity purposes, but there are still a few benefits it can theoretically tout. The suspension can make getting on and off the bike softer, as well as smooth out minor vibrations from your pedaling cadence. Especially if you like interval training routines involving bursts of effort.
The downside is that it’s bulkier under the seat and might interfere with some bike’s mounting mechanism. But what I disliked most is that on the Schwinn 170, it negates the possibility of hanging my microfiber towel under the seat. That may be meaningless to you, but it’s my favorite place to stash my towel when I’m not using it.
All in all, it wont make your experience worse, but it’s unlikely to make it better. Unless it’s cheaper than the regular seat you had in mind, I’d avoid suspension seats.
Are seat or saddle gel covers any good?
Truly, the best thing that can be said about saddle covers is “meh”. Sure, it might be a cheap way to improve the comfort in the short-term, but there are simply better options. It can slide and slip with your movements if it isn’t well fitted. That gets old, fast. More so considering that a mediocre seat cover can cost more than half of what a complete quality exercise bike seat does. It just isn’t worth it. Get a quality seat instead.
More upgrades & accessories for the Schwinn 170 Upright Bike
If this is your first exercise bike, and you’re excited about it, you might be wondering what other things you can do to it. Specially if you’re the DIYing type that doesn’t know how to stay still! Here are a few other upgrades I found useful for my indoor cycling exercise bike, should you find them interesting.
Wireless Heart Rate Monitor
One cool thing about the Schwinn 170 is that it works with third-party un-coded heart rate monitors. Given that they aren’t too expensive, a wireless heart rate monitor is worth having if you like seeing that information on the dash or recorded in the Schwinn app. And it’s way more convenient and comfortable then using the hand grip sensors.
I went with the Sigma 93811 Chest Strap. The only other popular model compatible with this exercise bike is the Polar T31 – but I wouldn’t recommend it because it has a non-replaceable battery (unlike the Sigma). In either case, you don’t have to program anything, just strap it on and you’ll see your heart rate on the screen.
One caveat, however. The heart rate sensor is near the upper left corner of the top screen. You can see it in the Schwinn 170’s User Manual on page 16. If you routinely place a tablet or phone on the media tray, it is likely to over-power the weak signal of the heart rate monitor. Just keep that in mind since, if you do, there will be intervals of your training when the signal isn’t received properly. Schwinn really should improve that.
Depending on where you put your spinning bike, you might be worried about the long-term effects of exercising in the same spot. Be it the bike damaging the floor, like wood or marble; or the floor damaging the bike’s base, like rough cement. Not to mention your sweat dripping over and over in the same spots.
Regardless, the best solution for that is a sturdy exercise mat. It’s basically just cheap insurance to keep everything in good condition. The fact that it’ll help reduce noise and vibrations are just bonuses.
For reference, you can expect your upright exercise bike’s base to be around 3ft by 2ft. That’s 1m by 60cm, more or less. You’ll want a rubber matt bigger than that to catch-all the sweat. Remember you can always trim a mat if it’s too large, but one too small is a deal breaker.
Spare bottle holder/cage
If you wanna go over the top, consider adding a second bottle holder. That way you always have a fixed place for both your water bottle and sanitizing spray. To be honest, besides the seat this was my favorite upgrade. I find this especially useful to not have to leave my extra bottle on the floor when exercising. When I do, I always end up bumping into it…
In my case, since I love the aesthetics, I also replaced both with Genuine Carbon Fiber Bottle Cages. It definitely looks nicer than the cheap plastic one included with the bike.
It only takes a minute or two to install the second bottle holder. Just hold the cage up the bike’s frame where you want it and mark the holes. Then use a kit like this Metric Tap Set to drill holes with a 4.2mm bit and screw in the 5mm tap to make the thread. If you want to see how to thread holes in more detail, you can check out this other project.
Disinfectant and cleaning spray
If you’ve ever had a gym membership, you’ll be familiar with the routine of wiping down your machine after exercising. If you consider not having to clean off your upright bike after cycling a benefit of owning it, disregard this. But if hygiene and cleanliness concerns you at all, you’re going to want to keep up the good habit. Here are few good options, including homemade mixes:
- Easy Option – You can go with the commercial solution. It’s relatively inexpensive and you don’t need much. If you value time and convenience above all, it’s the best choice.
- Natural Option – Another method is making your own. There are a few formulas, but one standard recipe is to mix 1 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and 2 cups of hot water into a spray bottle. Mix it up and you’re good to go.
- DIY Option – As far as homemade but more effective options go, I went with a different formula: Distilled water, the Concentrated glass cleaner I use for automotive and home cleaning, plus half a Steramine Quaternary Sanitizing Tablet. The last item is what’s used for commercial kitchen disinfection, so it’s perfect for germs and sweat. Plus it’s safe to spray on most surfaces without damage. I mix it in the Chemical-Resistant Spray bottle seen above, which fits perfectly into the bike’s bottle holder when not in use. It makes an excellent and effective cheap solution.
Regardless of the cleaning product chosen, remember to always spray on to the cleaning cloth as opposed to spraying the machine directly. It isn’t good for the electronics.
Exercising with a stationary bike is one of the most convenient ways to stay in shape – Especially if you do so in the comfort of your living room. But if a sore rear end is keeping you from reaching your goals, you’ll definitely want to look at the best exercise bike seat I’ve found so far, the Serfas Rx EX-RXL.
Anyway, thanks for reading! Hopefully you’ve found this helpful. If you’re interested in seeing what other projects or reviews I’ve been up to lately, checkout the homepage. Have a good one!