It’s one of three contact points your body makes with the bike and certainly the one that takes the most body weight, so your saddle choice is probably one of the most important decisions to make when setting up your bike. We put a few to the test. 

The Basics

A few important considerations:  a saddle is a personal choice and will highly depend on your body type, sit bone width, type of riding you do and average time spent in the saddle, riding position (prone or more upright) and there are more factors that a good bike fitter will consider. You need to test saddles!  Have your sit bones (Ischial Tuberosity) measured – this is very important and will determine the width of your saddle. Now start trying saddles – your LBS should have a number of demo saddles. Don’t make the mistake of thinking softer is better and more comfortable. There are a large number of styles, concepts and ideas around saddles out there. Taking your info into account you need to get a few options and try them.

For or review we looked at saddles suitable for a minimum of a 2-3 hour ride.

Sella Italia - NepalSelle Italia – Nepal L

Width: 143mm | Weight: 300g | Price: R 2 035 | Tester: Shayne Dowling

The Nepal is from Selle Italia’s MTB range of saddles. It has a number of features designed with MTB specifically in mind; like the rounded back end for getting off the back and on again easily, a really chunky nose so that when you are climbing you have something to sit on and at the same time a raised rear end for really long climbs. The saddle really looks good and with manganese rails, Italian styling and coming in at 300g it offers a good all-round option. I did a couple of long rides on the saddle with a mixture of jeep track, singles and tar and had to play with the position of the saddle a number of times before finding a sweet spot. The saddle width at 143mm was fine but I found myself struggling with the thicker nose and ended up dropping the nose more than usual to get comfortable. A great saddle for trail riding but not the best option for a long time in the saddle.

FabricFabric – Scoop Shallow Elite

Width: 142mm | Weight: 263g | Price: R? | Tester: Shayne Dowling

The Fabric Scoop is a new kid on the block and is a really minimalistic looking saddle. I was quite taken aback by its simplicity but having said that it does look cool!  With its nylon base and waterproof Microfiber cover the Scoop Shallow appears plain but there is clearly a bit of thought gone into the design – its damn comfortable!  Rigid without being hard and the non-slip fabric was pretty awesome particularly in the wet. I like the narrow nose, there was very little contact which meant my pedal stroke never changed to accommodate saddle width and the nose was great for those climbs that you pull into and need to get up front on the saddle. I can see myself contemplating using the Scoop on W2W this year.

Specialized – Power Saddle ExpertSpecialized Expert

Width: 143mm | Weight: 233g | Price: R1 999 | Tester: Shayne Dowling 

Looking at this saddle my first thought was “they sent us a lady’s saddle.” but as it turns out, it is not so at all. The Power Saddle is an attempt by the wizards at Specialized to combine the best of all their saddles into one unit that can be used across all disciplines, irrespective of gender. First off the saddle is short! It has a prominent centre cut-out and appears to have really wide wings – it is however a pretty normal 143mm wide. So how does it ride… well first off if you tend to shift around on the saddle a lot this is not for you – the short nose just doesn’t allow for it. But if you have the saddle perfectly positioned you probably won’t have to move much anyway. I did a nice long road and mountain session, coming back from flu not having been on the saddle for a while and was very pleasantly surprised. It is so comfortable! The nose being shorter is noticeable in another positive way – no “numb nuts” and Debbie Stopforth, our lady bike guru, has been riding the saddle for a while as well and said from a women’s perspective no chafing or numb bits either. Having a distinctive tri-style I was concerned about my more upright riding position – I needn’t have – perfect width and a nice amount of padding meant my sit bones were in the perfect position on the saddle – awesome comfort! I totally love this saddle!

WTBWTB – Volt Comp saddle

Width: 142mm | Weight: 316g | Price: R370 | Tester: Karl Ebel 

In all honesty I have recently spent some time on WTB’s Volt Race model saddle so when I was approached to test their base model Comp version I wondered just how far from the WTB ‘tree’ the Comp could’ve fallen. As I set off into the unknown my first observation was that there really was no noticeable difference between the Comp saddle I was using and the Race model I had been using. Having missed a signboard on the Cedarberg’s Kagga Kamma trails I ended up turning an advertised 30km into a 40km ride, which provided plenty time to really experience the saddle over quite a diverse range of All Mountain terrain. The design of the WTB Volt range is really conducive to high performance riding yet so comfortable that everyone should be riding with one. The dipped nose of the saddle gives you something to push against on the climbs. The whale tail rear design gives you something to grip on the descents and confidence inspiring stability for seated cornering. The groove in the top of the seat ensures unhindered blood flow through those important parts of the male anatomy whilst seated and cranking. The difference between the Comp and Race model is that the Comp has slightly heavier and not quite as robust steel saddle rails vs the Cromoly rails on the Race. Just out of interest I had my girlfriend take it for a ride and she returned immediately wanting to replace her OE saddle with a Volt. Ladies they are great for you too.

Bontrager – Montrose EliteBontrager Montrose Elite

Width: 148 | Weight: 222g | Price: Not Supplied | Tester: Richard Pieterse

My first impression of the Montrose saddle was that this was once again a great looking piece of kit from Bontrager. Not only did the looks impress me but the overall ride comfort was surprisingly good. To qualify; my initial concerned was around the saddle width as my current saddle width is 155mm while the Montrose is 148mm wide, being the widest saddle in the test range. This concern was all dispelled after my first ride, which turned out being a long ride with a combination of off- and on-road riding and a good bit of climbing; the aggressive cut-out keeps the pressure off your delicate bits and the narrower profile forces you to shift positions for climbing or flat roads – which stops one area from taking all the weight all ride long. My overall impression was that although slightly narrower than what I normally ride, the saddle was extremely comfortable and is something you could quite easily use for long days in the saddle.

How the Saddle Fit Cushion Works

Specialized have a very nifty system for determining your ideal saddle width called the Body Geometry Saddle Fit System. You simply sit on the cushion, making sure you are centred and if you’re wearing bib shorts that the padding isn’t between the cushion and your sit bones. The cushion sinks in deepest where your sit bones are at their most prominent, and the cushion is designed to retain the compressed form for long enough for the bike-fitter to measure the distance between the two deepest indentations. Using that measurement and your riding position (the more upright your position the wider the saddle needs to be) the Body Geometry trained bike-fitter can then recommend a saddle.

anatomy of a saddle with notes

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