Saddle choice can make or break your ride (and your rear); Laura Bailey sits in judgement on half a dozen
Womens mountain bike saddles have specific requirements, but ultimately we’re looking for an armchair ride with a bar stool build.
Words: Laura Bailey
Womens mountain bike saddles tested
- Specialized Power Comp Mimic, £84.00 – WINNER
- Ergon SMC Sport Womens, £79.99
- Fizik Luna X5, £89.99
- Selle Italia SLR Boost Lady, £189.99
- Syncros Savona V, £89.99
- WTB Koda, £109.99
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Specialized Power Comp Mimic, £84.00
Weight: 219g, Length: 240mm, Widths: 143/155/168mm
Specialized broke the mould in all senses when it brought out the Power Mimic range back in 2018. A launch campaign that openly talked about labia pressure and highlighted the sad truth that saddle discomfort can, and has, caused women to stop riding altogether. It wasn’t afraid to try something new in its approach to the Mimic saddle range. Designed to mimic (hence the name) the female body’s response to pressure, the most noticeable feature is the variation in padding across key contact points.
It’s a visually striking saddle, with a wide, tapered, winged rear deck covered in medium density foam padding, offering comfortable yet firm support. With three sizes at 143mm, 155mm and 168mm there’s a great choice on offer to match any width of sit bones. The wings give a good level of flexibility and, although more angular than others on test, they never got in the way when riding and moving around on the trails due to their sloping design.
It’s at the front of the saddle that things get interesting. Specialized has moved away from using a cut-out channel to alleviate pressure, discovering through its research that labial tissue can actually poke through a cut out and cause additional swelling. Instead the central channel in the structure of the saddle is filled with memory foam to give an almost hammock-like effect. The truncated nose is coated in a different memory foam. If you tend to shift forward for tougher ascents, the change in padding density is noticeable and provides a great mix of comfort without compromising support. The slight dip in design and length of the nose means there’s no chance of getting your shorts caught when descending either.
Design details include very subtle dotted perforations that give additional grip on wetter days, some silver fabric and subtle branding that combines to make an attractive saddle. With SWAT compatible mounts, it also offers a practical advantage, allowing you to mount spares under your seat.
Specialized boasted on the launch of the Mimic that ‘your vagina will thank you’ and, from where I’m sitting it was absolutely right. A great combination of aesthetics, durability, price and, above all, comfort.
Ergon SMC Sport Gel, £79.99
Weight: 312g, Length: 265mm, Widths: 149/164mm
Ergon saddles are designed based on anatomical research and, according to Ergon, a thorough examination of the female pelvis – hmmm. As a mountain bike specific offering, on paper it looks set to meet the needs of your lady parts for a day’s trail riding.
This is the largest saddle reviewed, not only equalling the width of the Specialized and Fizik but delivering literally more saddle for your money with a sizeable rear deck. The gently sloping wings start to spread out from the mid section of the nose and quickly widen. It’s worth taking time to ensure you set the CroMo rails to the right spot to prevent any thigh pressure when pedalling. It took me a couple of mid-ride tweaks to get it perfect in testing. The tip-to-tail profile is generally flat with a raised rear edge which holds the pelvis in a good position and offers a supportive brace when pedalling uphill.
This range topping model has gel cushioning on top of orthopaedic comfort foam which runs across the entire contact area. This means wherever your sit bones land, you are softly supported, yet it doesn’t feel overly squidgy with solid support underneath. There are two size options offered, giving flexibility in sizing.
A wide central cut-out and tapered channel runs along the length of the nose of the saddle and ensures there I experienced no pressure or soreness on labial tissue during all day rides. This really is an easy saddle to forget when you’re riding; supportive and pressure relieving.
Simple and clean design is delivered with a microfibre covering with very shallow perforations giving good grip but preventing dirt build-up gathering in the indents.
The only downside is the weight, coming in at over 100g more than the performance focussed Selle Italia and the heaviest by a comfy margin in the group. However if you’re not racing and looking for weight savings and want to spend long days riding in comfort, this is a solid offering and being the cheapest on test makes it a smart choice based on value too.
Syncros Savona V 1.5 Cut Out, £89.99
Weight: 240g, Length: 245mm, Widths: 145mm
Whilst most other saddles on test offer various size options, the Savona comes in a single width. Instead Syncros has opted for a solution based on two factos: your flexibility through your pelvic and lumbar region, and pressure sensitivty around the labia. The Regular range caters for mosts riders with typical flexibility who sit in a more upright position, it offers the V Concept range. All of Syncros’s women’s saddles designs are available in both R and V versions. To add even more personal choice to the mix, you can opt for either a central channel or a full cut-out. And then there are differernt levels and price points – rangin gfrom £54.99 to £129.99 – depending on the construction and rail materials. Our test model fits roughly in the middle at £89.99.
Of all the saddles on test, the Syncros offers probably the most minimal level of padding atop its carbon reinfornced nylon base, and gets an almost flat profile. A deep central cut-out runs along the centre of the saddle. It has a mid-length and mid-width nose that offers a great level of support shuld you need to shift forward, yet didn’t feel bulky between my thighs. The wings taper quite abruptly and, although the width is advertised as 145mm, it is nearer 180mm if you take this into account. At first glance, it may look as though it won’t give you the support you might want for your sit bones, but in reality this saddle just works. Some may be put off by how hard it feels under your thumb, but don’t be fooled that more padding means more comfort – the Savona is proof that isn’t this case.
On the underside, hiddne under rubber Syncros detailiing are screw mounts for a range of direct mount products, including a fender, saddle bag and Go Pro mount. The rubber cap means the holes won’t fill with mud if you choose not to make use of it. Branding is subtle and overall it’s an understated and classy looking bi tof kit.
Fizik Luna X5, £89.99
Weight: 267g, Length: 280mm, Widths: 141/153mm
The Fizik Luna, along with the Ergon, are the only two saddles in this test designed specifically for women mountain bikers. All the others are general-use women’s saddles.
While the Luna is a middle-of-the-road offering in terms of weight and price, it’s the longest saddle on test, some 40mm longer than the stunted Specialized Power Mimic. It also feels noticeably longer than the others when riding, but not uncomfortably so, and that extra real estate makes it easy to apply pressure to activate your dropper post. The long, slender nose – which takes up half of the total length of the saddle – gives a good level of unrestricted movement when pedaling.
Offered up in two widths, regular (141mm) and large (153mm) it is built around a carbon reinforced nylon shell. One notable design feature are its angular elastomer ‘wings’ that are designed to flex freely. The idea being that you can kiss goodbye to rubbing, although make sure you get the right width or your sit bones can end up supported by the flexible wings. There is a downside to the level of movement though; if you are hitting technical climbs on a full-suspension bike, the bike’s pedal bob can combine with the bending and rebounding of the flaps to give an overwhelmingly bouncy ride that makes maintaining a steady rhythm very difficult.
The wings are covered with a hard wearing, reinforced Microtex material with a lighter Microtex covering over the rest of the saddle. Like they do on the WTB saddle, the reinforced edges are a nice touch in terms of durability, but unlike the Koda, the mesh edging is a mud trap, and within one or two mildly damp rides dirt has become deeply embedded in the weave and is hard to remove, even with scrubbing. A lack of grip points on the main platform also makes this one of the more slippery saddles when you’re riding in the wet.
This is a comfortable saddle with no pressure points, chafing or soreness, but sadly those technical features that should set it apart, actually hold it back slightly.
Selle Italia SLR Boost Lady Superflow, £189.99
Weight: 201g, Length: 250mm, Widths: 145mm
Selle Italia has had a strong presence in the women’s saddle market with the Selle Italia Diva Gel – a long standing favourite for many women riders. The SLR Boost Lady Superflow is not marketed as an MTB saddle, but with no female offering for its SLR Boost X Cross off-road saddle, we opted to try this female-specific saddle instead.
There is no disputing this is a performance offering. This is the lightest saddle in the test by a long way, although that is reflected in the high asking price. Almost flat in profile, as well being the slimmest saddle certainly helps the weight, but it doesn’t scream comfort at first glance. But this is a perfect example why you shouldn’t judge something on first impressions – it’s a surprisingly comfortable ride.
The SLR Boost Lady Superflow is dominated by a very large central cut out measuring 165mm by 35mm at its widest. Even at the rear of the saddle, the cut-out narrows only slightly, so the only part where there is any contact on your soft tissue is the very tip of the nose. The size of the cut-out removes all pressure from the labia, and where it is so much wider than most, it seems to alleviate the problem of trapped soft tissue identified by Specialized. However, although you gain benefits from decreased pressure, you also lose support, and it takes some time to get used to the sense of having so little saddle beneath you.
The smaller overall dimensions combined with the large channel doesn’t allow for huge amounts of movement when you are seated for pedalling, which is not so good if you are prone to a mid-ride fidget. This probably wouldn’t be a problem if using the saddle on a road bike, where you spend more time in a prolonged fixed position, but mountain biking is a far more dynamic activity and this aspect doesn’t transfer across as well. It would be great to see some of the performance design of this saddle adopted by a women’s specific Selle Italia MTB offering.
WTB Koda, £109.99
Weight: 220g Length: 255mm Widths: 143/150mm
The WTB Koda boasts two years of development, and it’s great to see brands putting time and effort into understanding women’s needs for our lady parts. It’s also interesting to see how differing research can produce such contrasting end products.
This is a visually graceful saddle with a mid-length nose gently transitioning through to a teardrop shape with a medium-width rear platform. When pedalling it doesn’t inhibit your stroke and is pleasantly discreet. As you start hitting descents, it’s easy to get behind with a dropped nose and smooth edges – nothing to catch loose clothing on.
Available in two widths of 143mm and 150mm to cater for sit bones up to 160mm, it’s layered with DNA padding of a medium density feel. These dimensions are towards the wider end of the advertised range and it left some tenderness and hot spots on longer rides, although it wasn’t noticeable on shorter ventures.
An anatomical channel runs from the rear of the saddle most of the way down the nose. If it’s designed to remove pressure on labial tissue then it doesn’t fulfil the brief. When climbing in a seated position with any forward rotation in the pelvis, the front of the channel actually leads to increased pressure at the point where it ends. There’s a ‘Comfort Zone’ marked on the underside of the saddle, which doesn’t correlate with the channel on the saddle’s surface and didn’t seem to bring any noticeable benefit.
Nice touches on the design include a hard wearing fabric edging running from the side of the wings to the rear of the saddle. If you are a fan of resting your bike against walls or prone to an odd mid-ride tumble, then it’s a nice feature that will prevent you from scuffing the edges and increase durability. Perforations run diagonally across the saddle. giving good grip, but they are deeper than those on other saddles on test and prone to clogging with mud
Best womens mountain bike saddles: verdict
Winner: Specialized Power Comp Mimic
We were largely impressed by the performance of the women’s saddles. In fact the only real disappointment was the Selle Italia SLR Boost Lady Superflow, and not only because the term Superflow sounds like a sanitary product. It was actually pretty comfortable as long as you remained still, but mountain biking demands a more dynamic style and the Selle Italia just lacked support. It’s also very expensive and the large cutout ensures a soggy arse in wet weather.
We didn’t get on with the WTB Koda, finding it produced some pressure points that caused discomfort. Of course this could just be a personal thing, and the fact that many male testers swear by the Volt saddle shows that WTB knows how to make a comfortable perch. The innovative Fizik Luna X5 offers some unique features, such as its flexy wings and elongated shape. On the whole, it’s a good choice, although if you’re of a queasy disposition, the movement of the wings might make you seasick. The best seats in the house are claimed by Syncros, Ergon and Specialized. The novel approach of the Syncros Savona pares back padding but still delivers in terms of comfort and support. Ergon has also done a great job with its SMC Sport – no gimmicks, just a well-designed product that works on long days in the saddle.
Finally there’s the radical Specialized Power Comp Mimic. It’s truncated design goes for broke, but the gamble pays off in big way with the perfect blend of comfort and support.