We’ve ridden the backside out of our shorts testing these
We’ve assembled over a dozen of the best saddles and ridden the backside out of our shorts to test their performance. Are you sitting comfortably?
An uncomfortable saddle is literally a pain in the bum, and has the potential to wreck a big day out or expensive riding trip by causing discomfort, chafing or numbness. And, just as importantly, a badly chosen saddle can also inhibit movement when you need to perform a make-or-break manoeuvre or trail challenge.
Thankfully, finding a perch that won’t cramp your style, or wear down morale on a long ride, doesn’t cost big money. Indeed, with that in mind, we’ve assembled a dozen of the best saddles between £25 and £85, and ridden the backside out of our shorts to test their performance.
The products featured have been chosen because we know they’re good quality and are an excellent offer at the price we’ve included (at the time of writing). Our team have unrivalled expertise and years of experience testing new products, so you can trust our recommendations – and we also know what represents a good deal.
With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Never is it more important to realise that all riders are physiologically different than when it comes to your saddle choice. Your ischeal tuberosity (sit-bone) width dictates the saddle width an individual requires for proper support and comfort. Many brands offer their saddles in different widths. Most brands also provide some sort of measuring service either through their dealer network or online.
The right level of padding is dependent on several factors. Riders who always use padded shorts can get away with saddles with less padding for the same comfort levels. Those that prefer riding unencumbered might need more. Also, softer doesn’t always mean better with padding. A firmer level of padding might seem counterintuitive but will actually support your weight within the padding without compressing too much over the length of a ride.
Most saddles utilise a pair of rails to clamp it to the seatpost. Rail materials can vary from metals such as steel or titanium through to carbon. Each has its merits with steel being good value, titanium is great for vibration dampening and carbon fibre provides minimal weight. Be aware that some rails, especially some carbon ones, can be oval rather than round profile so check that your seatpost is compatible.
Saddle length can enable significant positional and weight shifts from front to rear, especially useful when climbing. Longer-nosed saddles should be comfortable enough to wriggle onto, but they can inhibit side-to-side movement across the top tube, which is worth bearing in mind if you’re a more dynamic rider.
If you have an issue getting your seat high or low enough in your frame, especially when using a dropper post, it’s worth measuring saddle depth. There can be up to 1cm difference between saddle profiles.
An often-overlooked aspect of comfort is flex within the chassis of the saddle. This is frequently more important than a squishy, deeply padded top.
Basically, if the frame of the saddle has good shock absorption properties, there’s less need for thick cushioning. A firmer saddle chassis also plays a role in efficiency during powerful, seated cranking.
How we test
Our test saddles clocked up the miles attached to various test bikes, drawing on the feedback of the mbr staff and experienced test riders. This gave us a broad spread of opinions on comfort for, let’s face it, what can be quite a subjective component.
As always, our tests are built on years of riding experience, but we backed this up by rating each individual saddle on the same bike with consistent tyre pressures and suspension settings, while wearing the same liner shorts to single out the subtle differences between individual brands in terms of comfort and cushioning.
You will notice that beneath each review summary is both a link to the full version of the review and a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on one of these links then mbr may receive a small amount of money from the retailer should you go to purchase the product from them. Don’t worry, this does not affect the amount you pay.
Ergon SMA3-M saddle
The Ergon SMA3-M Comp provides a slightly different alternative to the grooved and ergonomic approach. It’s way flatter than a lot of other saddles along its length. So if you are a rider that prefers a neutral feeling position this should be high on the list.
UK Buy Now: Ergon SMA3-M saddle at Wiggle from £84.99
USA buy now: Ergon SMA3-M saddle at Evo for $99.95
DMR Stage 1 saddle
DMR’s Stage 1 saddle comes with a RideSaver strap that bolts onto the bottom of the shell and secures an inner tube. The Stage 1 does taper quite a bit towards the nose, and has a slightly convex profile, but the stress-relieving channel reduces pressure and improves comfort.
USA buy now: DMR Stage 1 saddle at ProBikeKit for £43.49
Fizik Monte saddle
With its new shape, the Monet is one of the best trail saddles we’ve ridden from the Fizik stable, but because it shares a similar shape, there’s an obvious comparison to the Fabric Scoop, and the latter is just a tad more comfortable, cleaner underneath, and, crucially, half the price.
USA buy now: DMR Stage 1 saddle at ProBikeKit for $43.49
SDG Bel Air 2.0 saddle
The SDG Bel Air 2.0 carries on where the original left off. Supremely comfortable, light and robust; there are few saddles to top it. The raised tail and droopy nose makes it a perfect saddle shape for just about any form of riding. Sliding backwards really ‘locks in’ your legs for great support when climbing. And the dropped nose makes perching a pleasure.
USA buy n0w: SDG Bel Air 2.0 saddle at JensonUSA for $44.99
PRO Turnix Offroad saddle
The Pro Turnix Offroad takes a different, old-school approach with a more rounded profile. Making it super easy to shift body weight around. To further enhance its appeal Pro also offer all their saddles with a thirty-day money back guarantee, helping take the guesswork out of the choosing process.
USA buy now: PRO Turnix MTB saddle at ProBikeKit
Ergon SME3-M saddle
The relatively long, broad nose is noticeably comfortable when leaning against inner thighs for stability on aggressive off-cambers, too. It’s one of the cheaper Ergon saddles, but the SME3-M is still at the upper end of this test, and we noted the finish did get a little more scruffy and abraded than the other saddles.
USA buy now: Ergon SME3-M saddle at Evo for $79.95
Fabric Scoop Radius Elite saddle
Fabric’s sleek, beautifully packaged Scoop is something of a benchmark perch.
The smooth, minimal finish is the result of a three-part bonding process that melds the waterproof cover to a coloured base, uninterrupted by any stitching or staples, which makes it a cinch to keep clean.
Fizik Gobi M5 saddle
Manganese rails save weight, but it has a more rounded crown and more aggressive tail trim than most broader, flatter-backed saddles here. For efficient, unrestricted pedalling, and ease of movement off the back on technical descents, the Gobi is very highly rated.
Joystick Builder saddle
Joystick is shaping into a brand with some well-thought-out gear for real mountain bikers — it’s clear a lot of rider input has gone into this seat, and that has paid off in terms of usability.
The Builder is slightly porky but the price is decent for a quality, durable all-mountain saddle.
Kore Durox SL saddle
The Durox isn’t that light, and a couple of testers reckoned it looked a bit like a roadie saddle, but perhaps this explains why it makes for a solid choice for quietly clocking up miles in a more XC vein.
Madison Flux saddle
One thing to note is, if you’re the type to flail around off the back of the bike, the cutaway shaping on the tail can snag shorts more readily. But overall, it’s tough to knock the Flux for the money — the performance is so good, most riders in search of a comfy trail saddle need look no further.
USA buy now: Madison Flux saddle at J E James cycles for $23.82
Nukeproof Vector AM Comp saddle
Firm but fair, the Vector feels quite racey overall, which matches the brand’s enduro and downhill image.
It’s very easy to clean and great quality for the money, but definitely not for those riders looking for a saddle to isolate them from trail impacts.
Pro Vulture CRMO saddle
Where outright comfort is concerned, our doubts proved unfounded, as the Vulture is flexible, soft and cushioned. It’s likely that having the widest under-chassis cut-out helps it bend inwards, and thicker gel padding also aids in this regard.
USA buy now: PRO Vulture CRMO saddle for $33.82
Ritchey Trail Comp saddle
For the money, it gets features you’d expect from more expensive saddles, such as a carbon-fibre injected base material, abrasion-resistant side panel shoulders and a patented vector wind housing at the rear of the saddle rails that aims to more evenly suspend and spread rider weight.
SDG Circuit saddle
We like how the SDG has a coarse, textured material that acts as a gripper to stop muddy shorts slipping around. The titanium-alloy rails, low weight and excellent performance easily justify the SDG’s higher-end price. Just don’t expect super-plush padding as well.
USA buy now: SDG Circuit saddle at Backcountry for $99
Specialized Henge Comp saddle
We’ve had plenty of saddle time on the flat-topped Henge over the years while testing Specialized bikes. Slightly shorter than average in length, it’s very unobtrusive and prompted frequent rider feedback about how comfortable and invisible it feels while riding.
WTB Volt Race saddle
WTB’s well-priced Volt Race happened to come stock on one of our longterm test bikes, and as such we’ve pedalled hundreds of miles on it with zero complaints.
Immediately accommodating and comfy, it’s a fit-and-forget product thanks to the deep and luxurious foam padding and a deep central depression that reduces pressure.
Saddle group test verdict
Never is there a more polarising component choice than a saddle. As a contact point most of us can cope with a slightly imperfect grip or pedal choice, but the wrong saddle can be literally be a right pain in the backside.
When it comes to pampering your backside, fortunately there are a lot of companies out right now that have spent a lot of time and research creating a range of perches that are heading in the right direction.
Specialized were one of the first to develop a range of products based around rider comfort. With the help of Dr Andy Pruitt, the renowned sports physiologist, their Body Geometry branded range made all other saddle brands sit up and think. The Specialized Henge continues the legacy with a channelled shape designed to reduce nerve damage and pressure ‘downstairs’. Specialized also paved the way in offering saddles in various widths to suit the wide range of rider’s sit-bone widths. The Henge’s stubby shape is really comfortable on long travel bikes but the heavier weight and wrinkly cover hold it back.
The WTB Volt follows the same principles as the Henge with a similar shape and spec but at a lower price point. It’s also a tad lighter and the cover is way more durable. Curiously, the lower specced Volt we tested recently ends up being infinitely more comfortable than this Pro version thanks to its softer standard padding. So we would definitely opt for the lower version.
The Ergon SMA3 provides a slightly different alternative to the grooved and ergonomic approach. It’s way flatter than all of the other saddles along its length so if you are a rider that prefers a neutral feeling position this should be high on the list.
Shimano’s component brand Pro has been producing some very comfortable saddles as well. The Pro Turnix Offroad takes a different approach with a more rounded profile, making it super easy to shift body weight around. Pro also offer all their saddles with a thirty-day money back guarantee to aid the choosing process.
The Fabric Scoop offered a sublime level of comfort independent of riding conditions and style of bike. It has a more rounded profile, relying on it’s padding and flexible base to supply the comfort. It’s easy to navigate quickly when needed and the fact that the different price points do little to impact on the comfort is a bonus.
The SDG Bel Air 2.0 sneaks the overall win though, predominately down to its flatter shape. It offers a little more support in all riding conditions and the perforated cover locks you in place when needed. The fact it’s also available in a huge range of colours and has a whiff of old school nostalgia helps a touch too.
These two last saddles were incredibly hard to fault and incredibly hard to separate, both scoring the perfect ten.