This article was updated on 10/7/19: Saddles are a very personal connection point to our bicycles. Finding the right one takes a bit of time and trial. But with a little effort, you’ll be comfortable for hours of pedaling on your favorite trails or exploring new ones. We compiled a list of some of our favorite saddles on the market to help give you some recommendations as you seek out the saddle that best fits your body type and riding style.
Many shops and manufacturers offer some type of saddle demo program, because of the personal nature of saddle fit, demoing will help give you an idea of how it fits your body.
Recently, we’ve seen many saddle manufacturers better defining saddle fit characteristics based around your sit bone measurements as most of your body weight should be supported by your skeletal structure for optimal comfort and support.
Below you’ll find our updated guide of our favorite saddles and who they are suited best towards.
How to Choose the Best Mountain Bike Saddle
The most obvious way to choose the best mountain bike saddle is to test it. But that’s tricky. Mounting a saddle can be time consuming, as getting it positioned just right often takes a fair bit of trial and error. And then you have to test it to make sure it’s the right one for you. In other words, fitting a mountain bike saddle is not like choosing helmets or shorts where it’s easy to try several in quick succession.
To remedy this conundrum, many manufacturers offer elaborate fitting tools that measure your sit bones and register your length and width preferences. These come in particularly handy if you’re shopping online, which is often the case because bike shops typically only stock a few options.
Dialing fit starts with finding the right width, which is typically done through measuring the distance between your sit bones. Because everyone’s different, saddle makers offer a variety of choices. For a guide to sit-bone measurement, check out this video:
Fitting tools are a good starting point but are not foolproof. I tried some out as a test and the success rate was around 60 percent in recommending the right saddle for me. Though for some, fit was not the issue — the saddle design itself didn’t work for me.
Another strategy for finding the best mountain bike saddle is to test ride your friends’. This again is problematic, dependent on bike size and saddle setup. If nothing else, you’ll immediately learn how one rider’s meat is another’s poison. But you will get an idea of the range of options.
Yet another approach is to go to a mountain bike demo day and make a mental note of the saddle(s) you really like.
Finally, check your local bike shop. Some shops offer try-before-you-buy demo programs. Typically they charge for the privilege but allow you to deduct the payment from the price of a new saddle. Just be prepared to suffer through a couple of misses before you find a hit that you like. That’s just how life works in the mountain bike saddle world.
Understanding Saddle Design
Basically there are two approaches to saddle design: flared or dropped wings. Flared spreads out the surface area to provide additional sit platform, while dropped minimizes it in favor of a narrower profile. Which one is better for you depends on how each feels when you sit on it.
You also need to figure out how much cushion you prefer. Whether too soft or too hard, the feedback to watch for is numbness in the nether region. The right saddle enables long rides (at least an hour) without pain or numbness.
You’ll need to decide whether you want a saddle with a center cutout, which is a channel dividing the saddle lengthwise. The idea is to relieve pressure on the perineum, otherwise known as the “taint.” Because it ain’t… well, you know. Some people are sensitive there, others not so much. Again, you’ll know pretty quick if the saddle isn’t working.
Also consider reinforcement of the side edges. This part of the bike saddle takes the most abuse in the event of a crash. Most saddles offer some sort of protection or beefed up fabric such as Kevlar. But fabric can sometimes drag on shorts momentarily, so some manufacturers have gone to slick sides. And the reality is that when you crash hard enough to noticeably damage the wings, your whole saddle may be trashed, too. For this reason, mountain bike saddle life isn’t the greatest no matter how burly the construction.
Then there’s rail material choice, which affects saddle weight. Carbon rails are the lightest, with titanium, vanadium and aluminum close behind. Steel rails are heaviest, but also can lower saddle price significantly. Metal rails also can mean a harsher ride, whereas carbon soaks up trail chatter better.
With all that in mind, here’s Mtbr’s list of some of the best mountain bike saddles available today.
Bontrager Montrose Elite
Bontrager pioneered the narrow-profile, hex-angled tail for mountain bike saddles, which some riders love and others hate. Today, the angles are less pronounced, but most Bontrager saddles still feature distinctive narrow wings. The Montrose Elite is a versatile performer, offering hollow titanium rails, a middle cutout, carbon reinforced shell, and abrasion-resistant edging. It’s happy on both mountain and road bikes.
Who’s it for? Riders looking for a narrower saddle designed to be light and simple. XC racers, weight weenies, and roadies.
More info: www.trekbikes.com
Brooks Cambium C15 All Weather
Brooks built its legendary reputation by making virtually indestructible leather road saddles whose major nemesis was moisture. The Cambium All Weather fixes that with a weatherproof nylon cover, yet still maintains Brooks’ renowned comfort with vulcanized natural rubber padding. Brooks backs it up with a two-year warranty, extendable to an impressive 10 years with registration (carbon-railed saddles excluded). All that durability comes with a weight penalty (405 grams for steel-railed version, though a lighter carbon is available). But for diehard Brooks fans this is a good compromise when the weather turns ugly.
Who’s it for? Brooks lovers looking for a more rugged option to the traditional leather Brooks saddles.
Ergon SM-Men and SM-Women
As its name implies, Ergon is big on ergonomics. The company that pioneered biomechanics in grips has put a lot of thought into this mountain bike saddle, focusing on a flat seat for consistent fit, tapered rear for on-off movement, and wide nose for varying seat position and for guiding the bike with help from the saddle. The new line of SM saddles are designed around fit and function specific to mountain biking with the integration of gender-specific fit characteristics to accomodate the variation between male and female pelvic bones and hip flexibility in addition to accommodating sensitive organs.
Who’s it for? Riders looking for ergonomically designed saddles to alleviate common saddle issues.
Fabric Scoop Sport Flat
Fabric’s twist on saddle fit is to offer three profiles aimed at different styles of riding: shallow, radius, and flat. The latter, featuring the flattest rear section and lowest amount of padding in an aggressive riding design, is preferable for the demands of mountain biking. But all three offer a waterproof microfiber cover and flexible base with a comfortable foam support. There’s no gimmicks with Fabric — just reliable performance in an affordable package.
Who’s it for? Budget minded riders looking for a simple yet comfortable saddle designed around a “scoop” style saddle.
Fizik Terra Alpaca X5
The soon-to-launch Terra Alpaca X5 is designed for the all-mountain and enduro MTB segment. Designed in partnership with the Santa Cruz-Syndicate MTB team, it offers a gradual transition from nose to wings encourages constant fore and aft position changes, while a slightly waved tail discreetly supports the lower back. The nose is wide and flat, offering a solid platform to push against when tackling steep climbs from the nose of the saddle.
For ergonomics an indent minimizes soft tissue pressure without interfering with baggy riding shorts. Alpaca saddles are designed to feel right whether the dropper post is extended for pedaling or dropped for descents. Terra Alpaca X5 is 248mm long and 145mm wide, and weighs in at 238g.
Who’s it for? Riders not afraid of spending the money on a light, comfortable saddle. Many Fizik riders know they like Fizik saddles and they seem to be an acquired taste like Brooks.
SDG Circuit MTN Ti-Alloy
SDG offers a classic flared seat-wing design in a lightweight (215g) and rugged package. The sides feature Kevlar reinforcement, the center channel is closed but wide and deep, and the profile is flat with the nose sloped rather than rounded to ease on-offs. The nose also extends further than most, for riders who like the extra real estate. A broad range of color highlights will please the matchy-matchy crowd.
Who’s it for? Riders looking for a simple decently padded yet narrow saddle for general MTB riding.
Selle Italia Flite
Perhaps the most iconic mountain bike saddle, the Flite has been around almost since the beginning of the sport itself. It has a classic design (flared wings, slightly depressed center channel and rounded-off nose) that has stood the test of time even as radical variations have emerged. But durability isn’t its forte. I’ve personally gone through one every two or three years. But I like its weight choices. The carbon-railed SLR model runs as light as 135 grams, while even standard Flites check in at a svelte 220 grams. But Flites aren’t cheap, and you have to like their distinctive fit.
Who’s it for? Diehard Flite saddle devotees, riders looking for a light and minimalist saddle with not much padding or flex.
Specialized Phenom Comp
A good all-around saddle, the Phenom Comp checks all the boxes for comfort and durability. The side wings are more contoured than most, offering pluses in anti-snag and durability. The center channel is open and continues in padding all the way from the nose to the rear. A flexible carbon shell adds to the comfort factor. Nothing about the Phenom reaches out and grabs you by the lapels, but its reliable form and function are typical Specialized.
Who’s it for? Riders looking for tailored sizing and have good access to demoing Specialized saddles at a local shop. Give one a try, it may be just what your body needs.
More info: www.specialized.com
SQlab 611 Ergowave
This saddle is far easier to ride than to say, but no one with the possible exception of Ergon has focused as much technology on mountain-bike-specific saddles. SQlab’s trademark Ergowave spec is aimed at maximizing comfort by enabling the saddle to move with the rider throughout the pedal motion, from stomping a climb to railing a berm. The saddle nose is elongated and slightly widened for perching on the steeps, while an extremely flat profile makes positioning predictable and comfortable. The center channel isn’t open, but is deep and rounded in a lollipop configuration aimed at greater comfort for all sizes. SQlab is not as high profile as mainstream saddle makers, but fans are almost evangelical about the brand and their products.
Who’s it for? Riders looking for an ergonomically designed yet minimalist saddle designed specifically around MTB riding and are not worried about price.
WTB Volt Comp
In the mountain bike saddle universe, WTB is as close as it comes to ubiquitous. Their saddles, including the Volt Comp, are attractively priced and rugged. No wonder they are spec’d on some many bikes and a bike shop staple. The Volt’s distinctive seat profile — raised wings and dropped nose — comes with a wide range of sizing as well as rail and weight options. In terms of bang for the buck, the Volt is hard to beat.
Who’s it for? Riders who are adaptable and are happy with most any saddle they’ve tried. The Volt is a comfortable saddle with a mid-range fit, comfortable padding and attractive price.
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