Are you sitting comfortably? We’ve assembled all of the best mountain bike saddles and ridden the backside out of our shorts to test their performance.
Most of us can cope with imperfect grips or pedals choice, but uncomfortable mountain bike saddles can be literally be a right pain in the backside.
Before the widespread adoption of the dropper post, the saddle was a relatively static component, but these days your saddle moves up and down numerous times every ride and, depending on whether you’re rolling along the flat, cruising up a gradual climb, or tackling a steep ascent your weight can be positioned over different parts of it. This means gauging comfort is a little bit harder, especially since we don’t all have the same width sit bones or, obviously, anatomy.
The saddle is also used to control the bike, especially when it’s dropped down and you’re descending. Introduce e-bikes into the mix, which encourage you to sit down and pedal more of the time, and you have a component that subtley switches roles multiple times during a ride.
Modern mountain bike saddles have to be all things to all riders too, because each have specific requirements when it comes to shape and fit, but ultimately we’re looking for the same thing – an armchair ride with a bar stool build.
The best mountain bike saddles
1. SDG Bel Air 3.0
Classic saddle reboot is lightweight, comfortable and looks great
Weight: 238g | Size: 255mm x 142mm
Pros: Best shape
Pros: Best support
Cons: Nothing really
The saddle feels solid when seated climbing, yet with the rails being suspended slightly on the base, there’s plenty of flex for taking the sting out of those bigger impacts on the rough, pedally sections.
There are no exposed seams, no glue or staples showing or rough edges – this saddle just looks incredibly sleek and polished. On the back is a sonic-welded rear bumper, which stops wear and doesn’t collect mud like a Kevlar strip.
We thought cutting away material would make the Bel Air 3.0 feel flimsy, but it’s still a substantial seat. There’s loads of comfort and support in this saddle. Where the Bel Air 3.0 real shines though, is in the sleek construction and the fact that it’s dead easy to keep clean. The SDG Bel Air 3.0 is a definite step up, and easily deserves top marks.
2. Fabric Scoop
A tough, affordable and almost perfect product
Weight: 206g | Size: 278mm x 142mm
Pros: Comfy padding and flexible base
Pros: Fits a broad range of riders
Cons: Can be a bit slippery when wet
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.
For £40, the Elite, cro-mo-railed model comes in a trio of profiles, with progressively deeper curves, suitable for everything from XC to downhill.
The three shapes are a matter of taste. Leant-forward for endurance or XC riding, the flattest (and lightest) shape matches a more rotated hip and pelvis, while the curvier Radius is more trail riding-friendly, with extra padding and deeper-dished geometry.
Over rough ground, all three shapes share an extremely cushioned feel, and feature a flexible chassis that has a lot of inherent give, without being too twangy when pedalling hard.
3. WTB Volt
This is a plush perch that’s great value
Weight: 316g | Size: 245mm x 145mm
Pros: Great for all-day riding
Pros: Plenty of width options
Cons: On the heavier side
The version of the WTB Volt has medium weight CroMo steel rails, a hardwearing microfibre cover, comfy flex-tuned shell and regular padding with a gel insert. We say regular, as it’s actually pretty thick and makes the Volt the most comfortable when grinding forward on a hard climb. When you kick back there’s a lot of cushioning there too, and we never had to work hard to hit the sweet spot, it just feels inherently comfortable.
Finish quality underneath is excellent. Everything is neat and tidy and all the glued edges are covered with a plastic bumper. The rail length is about 20mm but they do have gradients along to make repeat positioning easier. With its high tail and slightly shallow shoulders it definitely scores highly in the comfort stakes.
4. PRO Turnix Offroad
Old fashioned appearance belies a seriously comfortable saddle
Weight: 234g | Size: 281mm x 142mm
Pros: Neutral shape makes it easy to move around
Pros: Cutaway in base enhances comfort significantly
Cons: Slippery cover material
The PRO Turnix Offroad flies in the face of most modern saddle convention, offering a shape some would deem old school. There’s only the merest hint of a channel and no extreme shape to be seen. But this doesn’t stop it from being a really comfortable saddle. Just like with an iceberg, the magic happens below the surface.
PRO use a carbon reinforced base with a large central cut out to encourage the saddle to conform to the body and disperse pressure. On top of that, the rails are suspended within the base itself to create a leaf spring effect; furthering its comfort even more. Pro also offer the Turnix in two different widths to broaden the saddle’s appeal, although be aware that we measured the 142mm model as being closer to 138mm. Worth knowing if you have a reasonably wide sit-bone measurement.
5. Ergon SM Enduro Comp
Truly excellent pressure relief properties
Weight: 232g | Size: 245mm x 145mm
Pros: Great choice for long rides
Pros: Raised tail aids climbing stability
Cons: Finish is a bit rough underneath
The first thing you’ll notice is the pressure-relieving cutaway down the centre. Underneath the cover, either side of this channel, are inlays made from a special type of foam that’s very supportive.
The SM Enduro Comp is a lot flatter and there’s more to sit on, again improving the support. This saddle doesn’t have deep shoulders, which you normally push against when climbing but Ergon gets round this by kicking the saddle up at the tail – this keeps your sit bones in the right place.
The saddle is comfortable and feels that way even after three to four hours of hard shredding. There’s more padding under the sit bones and it has a better overall profile.
6. Madison Flux
The best budget saddle bar none
Weight: 280g | Size: 280mm x 142mm
Pros: Classically curvy shape just plain works
Pros: Impressive weight for the price
Cons: Nothing at this price
Rather than offer a super-sleek construction philosophy, the Flux uses a more traditional method, with stitching and stapling underneath. This means it costs less to produce, which allows it to clock in at the incredible price of £25.
We’re well-acquainted with the Flux at mbr, and it has consistently performed across multiple seasons and different bikes, always proving comfortable for a variety of rider shapes and sizes.
To keep you smiling, the padding is some of the deepest and squishiest on test, but the cut of the sides and thinner nose ensure the Flux is unobtrusive when pedalling long distances. Despite all this stuffing, the weight is very reasonable for such a cheap saddle.
Durability is excellent too, both on the cover and rails.
What to look out for in mountain bike saddles
This is often a synthetic leather, which is hardwearing, breathable and long lasting. To add greater abrasion resistance and grip, Kevlar sections are often used at high-wear areas such as the corners and rear of the saddle.
Underneath the cover is a layer of EVA foam. It’s lightweight and has good shock absorption properties. On some saddles you also get a supplementary gel or elastomer pad under the forward areas. This reduces stress on delicate parts and improves overall comfort.
Most manufacturers now produce saddles in different widths to match a narrower range of sit bones. However, this is not the only thing that affects comfort – the overall shape, length and even the angle you’re sitting at, all play a part. Getting the correct width is a good starting point, but don’t be afraid to try a narrower or wider saddle (you may have to switch brands) if the one you have isn’t particularly comfortable.
Saddles have different heights between the rails and the seat, and low-profile saddles let you run longer dropper posts. Some low-profile saddles are also cut away at the tail to provide extra tyre clearance when the saddle is dropped – useful for long travel 29ers with slack seat angles.
This is made from an injection moulded plastic. To add comfort and alleviate pressure some manufacturers cut holes or channels into the base. Offsetting the rails on the base, or mounting them on small elastomer bumpers, also introduces greater flexibility and comfort.
The cheapest saddles have solid steel rails and they obviously weigh the most, but you can save weight with hollow steel, titanium or composite rails. Be aware that manufacturers do mix other elements into the steel and give it a flashy name, but essentially, it’s the same stuff. Regardless of material, most saddles have 7mm rails and will fit most seatposts on the market, it’s one of the few industry standards that hasn’t been mucked about with.