Among the components of a bicycle, the saddle is undeniably one of the vital factors that influences riding comfort. It is believed that a comfortable ride would equate to quality and efficiency in performance. That being said, saddle comfort is considered highly subjective as it varies from person to person. That is why there are a myriad of options available in the market. While it gives you an opportunity to find the right bike saddle from the variety of choices, it also leaves you confused as to which one to have.
a. Road Bike Saddle: Factors To Consider
- 1. Cover Material
- 2. Rails
- 3. Shape and Width
- 4. Style Variations
b. Road Bike Saddle: Top 6 Selection
- 1. Ergon SR Pro Women
- 2. Tioga Undercover Stratum
- 3. Fizik Aliante R1 Open
- 4. Scicon Elan
- 5. Fizik Luce R5
- 6. Prologo Scratch M5
Road Bike Saddle: Factors To Consider
Bike seats are composed of two broad categories– cushioning saddles and performance saddles. Cushioning saddles often tend to be wide with springs and plush padding to minimize and absorb road shock. On the other hand, performance saddles usually appear to be light, long, and narrow with minimal padding. It is designed to allow minimal chafing and maximum power performance. Road cycling saddles fall under this category. Fundamentally, there are specific components in a bike saddle that you need to assess upon selection.
There are three commonly used saddle covers namely cotton, leather, and synthetic.
Cotton Cotton covers are known for its slightly tensile properties. This means that the material can quite stretch while you are cycling. As such, it provides excellent control and comfort.
Leather Pure leather material as saddle covers can be expensive. However, if you prioritize longevity and comfort, then this is a considerable choice. Leather saddles may feel uncomfortable during the initial period, but after it’s break-in phase, the material will mold and fit to the rider’s shape and weight. The end result will be an adaptable or appropriate fit.
Further, leather is also recognized as an ideal material for its breathable nature. It allows enough porousness to keep you cool during hot weather conditions. Its drawback is that it is not waterproof. So, application of leather conditioner may be required to safeguard against moisture and prevent the drying of material due to UV exposure.
Note: Before using a waterproofer or conditioner on a leather saddle, please check the care labels as some brands would advise against it.
Synthetic Majority of the saddles today are made from synthetic materials. Synthetic covers are known to be low maintenance and lightweight. Adding to that, they also would not require a break-in period. As such, they are a popular option amongst many riders.
The saddle rails are basically the attachment points to a bicycle. They are bars underneath the saddle that seatpost clamps onto. The rails allow adjustments for fore-aft saddle positioning. Rails can be made from various materials including carbon fiber, aluminum, titanium, manganese, steel, etc. Variations of material can impact the rails with factors like cost, weight, flexibility, and strength.
Shape and Width
Saddles come in a variety of shapes. That is because a particular shape cannot fit every rider. This is also the reason why saddle shapes are the most distinguishing element of a road saddle. Since it is the part of the saddle that contributes greatly to road riding comfort. Substantially, personal preference takes a big role in deciding the saddle shape.
The width of the saddle must be correlational with your sit bones. If the saddle is too narrow, the bones that are supposed to take the brunt of the weight will end up hanging off. A saddle that is too wide can also result in thigh chafing. Flat and narrow saddles are appropriate for those who often ride lower to handle aggressive posture. For upright riders, a wide and curved saddle will be ideal. In essence, riding style and anatomy variations can best identify the right saddle shape and width for you.
One factor of the saddle shape that can influence comfort is the style variations. All these variations in shape’s style can offer potential changes that alleviate discomfort on your ride.
Split Seats Commonly referred to as noseless saddles, they are composed of two separate pads designed to alleviate pressure particularly in male riders.
In general, women have wider pelvic bones and hips compared to men at about 1cm. This difference can cause issues for female riders. As most performance saddles are aimed for men cyclists. For women, these saddles can result in an increased pressure on their soft tissue. Thus, it is advised to look for women specific saddles. These types of saddles are shorter and wider, often with pronounced cutaways at the side and a large hole/ cut-out in the center of the seat.
Cut-outs and Relief Channels These are ideal for those who have found their ideal shape, yet still isn’t comfortable. It is likely because the pressure is located on more sensitive areas. With the use of Ideal Saddle Modification (ISM) that are often designed in these saddles, such issues may be relieved.
Top 6 Road Bike Saddle (Best Picks)
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Road Bike Saddle: Top 6 Selection
To find the ideal saddle for you, important factors that contribute to comfort and quality are considered. In this article, six best road bike saddles are listed.
1. Ergon SR Pro Women
Designed specifically for women, this Sr Pro Women from Ergon adapted the female anatomy in bent racing position. Its well thought out design delivers pressure-relieving solutions on sensitive problem zones and prevents numbness or other sitting issues. As such, it allows a fast and comfortable riding.
Equipped with Orthopedic AirCell Foam with Orthocell Pads, it offers optimum pressure distribution in the genital and sitting area. According to Ergon, this innovative OrthoCell® material is lighter and more durable compared to gel versions. With less weight and maximum restoring force, comfort and durability are features you can expect in the saddle’s padding.
Used on most of Ergon’s saddles, it is made by an Australia-based factory– the world’s sole TiNox manufacturing facility. TiNox is a combination of vanadium stainless steel alloy and titanium. Overall, the material is lighter and solid compared to titanium.
- Cover: Microfiber
- Shell: Nylon Composite
- Rails: TiNox
- Padding: Orthopedic AirCell Foam with OrthoCell Pads
- Gender: Women specific
- Use: Road race
- Weight: Approx. 200 grams (S), 210 grams (M)
- Size: 9-12 cm sit bone width (S); 12-16 cm sit bone width (M)
- Keeps sensitive areas comfortable even in a racing-related riding postures
- Adapted to the women’s anatomy
- Proper pressure distribution on sitting bones
- Lightweight for the price 5. Accommodates various riding styles
- Minimal padding; isn’t ideal for everybody
- Fairly expensive
This racy road bike seat is female specific, designed to alleviate saddle soreness and provide comfort. In that area, it does its job very well. It may not be a sought-after choice for multiple long rides as it has minimal padding. It is also quite expensive, making it not ideal for everyone. However, there are not many women specific saddles that offer quality and comfort that Ergon Sr Pro offers. If you are in need of a saddle with racy design suitable for shorter and faster rides, this is a considerable option.
2. Tioga Undercover Stratum
The Undercover Stratum boasts plushness that is noteworthy for a performance saddle. With a unique base structure, weighing at about 145 grams, it is incredibly light and comfortable. You can ride it fast for long hours without having to worry about discomfort.
Incorporating a carbonite Spyderweb base structure, it integrates suspension functions with a cushioning system that complements and adapts to natural anatomical movements. Its spring-like structure helps in absorbing the bumps on the road efficiently, more so than foam pads alone. It is also supported with the unique cut-out design that compresses upon impact, providing continuous road shock absorption. The SpyderWeb base is developed from proprietary material designed to have impact resistance and high resiliency. This finely tuned suspension offers optimum plushness with minimal padding.
A padding system designed to complement the natural riding positions of riders, benefiting some areas with extra cushioning and less in others. Tioga believed that minimal padding is ideal for our sit bones. Since it is mostly covered with muscles and fats, the sit bones are capable of handling full body weight when in a seating position. As such, thick padding that covers the sit bones will only add pressure, pushing up against the sensitive areas. With the
unique sculpting of the padding’s shape, extra cushioning is provided in the mid-section that insulates the sensitive areas better.
- Rail: Full carbon
- Gender: Unisex
- Padding: Bio X-Pad SL
- Use: Road and gravel, road race
- Weight: Approx. 145 grams Rider
- Weight Limit: Approx. 200 lbs.
- Dimensions: 285mm x 140mm
- Colours: White, black
- Very light at about 145 grams
- Unique suspended feel
- Road shock absorption for maximum comfort
- No tail protection
Tioga has managed to produce a lightweight race-focused saddle with a combination of comfort, versatility, and performance. The Undercover Stratum is hugely distinct from the other Tioga’s webbed models. The most obvious difference is it’s more practical. The padding and its extra length allows sitting back on the tail or up on the nose with less obstruction. If you are looking for a saddle with minimal weight that allows a fast and comfortable long ride, then the Tioga Undercover Stratum is a remarkable option.
3. Fizik Aliante R1 Open
With advanced technology components, the Aliante R1 Open from Fizik is one of the leading road saddles for riders that prefers a pressure relief channel and waved saddle profile.
Especially developed for less flexible riders, the shape of the saddle is modeled from Fizik’s spine concept. The brand is known for offering various saddle shapes to cater the different range of spine flexibility amongst riders. For this model, the “Bull” shape is designed for those with a rigid spine and high pelvic rotation. With this, you can ride comfortably and efficiently.
The Aliante R1 Open saddle incorporates a Microtex cover with enhanced comfort channel. It evenly distributes and supports the rider’s weight over the saddle. This helps in relieving pressure on the sensitive soft tissue of the rider.
- Rails: Carbon
- Shell: Nylon with carbon reinforcements
- Cover: Synthetic, Microtex
- Gender: Men, Unisex
- Use: Road, off-road, triathlon
- Saddle Style: Open central cutaway
- Color: Black Dimensions: 276 x 141mm
- Weight: Approx. 199g
- Comfortable for riders with limited flexibility
- Lightweight and stiff
- Easy to install
- Pressure relieving
- Appealing shape design
1. Size and shape may not be compatible with some riders
The Open model is an updated version to the popular Fizik’s Aliante series. Its target market is aimed at a small niche, particularly for riders who feel the standard Aliante saddles are intrusive around sensitive zones yet wanted the relief channel features. This version was able to keep and improve the classic Aliante shape. At about 199 grams, this saddle is reasonably lightweight which makes it a good addition to any race bikes.
4. Scicon Elan
The new Elan saddle is the Scicon’s first venture into the saddle category, adding to its jam-packed repertoire. It is an immense development in the brand’s well-established heritage and innovation in the world of cycling. This is a move made possible through esteemed expertise in sport science and saddle design. The Scicon Elan is aimed at bridging the gap between comfort and performance for different riding styles, whether it’s a relaxed or aggressive riding position. Fundamentally, the brand is exercising one of its mottos, and that is to “challenge the norm”.
Power Ergo Design (PED)
Compared to other road racing saddles, the Scicon Elan adapts a short-nose model and ergonomic design that features a wider area and waved seat profile. Combined with the central cut-out and short nose design to avoid the pressure in the soft tissue, the Elan saddle enables sufficient hip rotation and increased blood flow. As such, it improves riding comfort in varied seating positions and long periods. This also heightens muscular efficiency which would contribute to better performance.
Unidirectional Carbon Rails
Incorporating a unidirectional braided carbon fiber material on rails, it ensures maximum longitudinal tensile strength. Further, it is backed up with a carbon fiber reinforced polymer shell for optimum stiffness. The saddle is also reasonably lightweight at about 199 grams. Such qualities and features made up to better riding comfort.
The compression level of the saddle’s padding must be monitored periodically, as advised by the manufacturer. If it went below the middle point, it could lessen the ergonomic advantages.
- Rails: Carbon fiber
- Shell: Carbon fiber reinforced polymer
- Use: MTB and road cycling
- Gender: Unisex
- Saddle style: Central cut-away
- Dimensions: 240x144mm
- Weight: Approx. 199 grams
- Dual discipline use– mountain and road riding
- Saddle shape supports various types of riding
- Soft and stretchy surface texture
- Comfortable padding
- Limited width options
- Low-grade finish on the underside
Despite being the brand’s first racing saddle, the Elan is up for a great start. With exceptional balance of stiffness and comfort, this saddle has achieved its objective. That is to deliver a performance saddle that can cater to the cyclist’s need of a lightweight saddle that doesn’t compromise ride comfort. The saddle design makes it well-suited for mountain bike riders and road cyclists, men and women.
This saddle from Scicon is modeled with the short-nose design. Thus, it enables a wide range of riders to use it on different riding styles. The saddle’s luxurious padding with its large cut-out and deep centre channel helps in eliminating pressure points for optimum plushness.
5. Fizik Luce R5
The Luce R5 is especially developed after a series of extensive research in order to cater the demands of female riders. Light, firm, and comfortable, this saddle is worth a try for female riders doing some long rides per week.
Designed with flexible thermoplastic wings, it allows the riders to move in sync with the sit bones while pedaling. This, in turn, increases efficiency and provides consistent comfort during long rides.
The saddle features a friction-free and seamless nose construction with about a centimeter wide central cut-out, referred to as the IschialFlex technology. It maintains structural stability and provides flexible support for the sit bones, alleviating pressure on the soft tissues and contributing to riding comfort.
- Rail: S-alloy rail
- Shell: Carbon reinforced nylon
- Cover: IschialFlex, synthetic
- Saddle Style: Relief/ cut-out
- Use: On-road riding
- Color: Black
- Weight: Approx. 230 grams Length: 281mm Width: Regular, 144 mm; Large, 155mm
- Comfortable to ride in long distances
- Female-specific design 3. Narrow nose and flexible wings Cons 1. Can be too firm for some
The Fizik Luce R5 is a lightweight yet solid performance saddle. It is comfortable and rideable for women, may it be a beginner or experienced racers. It is also high-performing which makes it convenient for long rides.
6. Prologo Scratch M5
Launched as Prologo’s new line of saddles that incorporates 4.0 technologies, it delivers innovation in terms of ergonomics, size, and shape. The Scratch M5 line is a range-topping saddle suitable for multiple uses and disciplines. This includes its capacity to be utilized in the road, off road and triathlons. The saddle is modeled based on a growing trend– wider, shorter, and universal fit. Basically, this new saddle from Prologo is an attempt to incorporate the idea of “one design fits all”. The aim is to ideally provide a comfort saddle that fits many riders in most situations. True enough, the Scratch M5 is an all-rounded and short saddle that provides comfort for a range of riders.
With the use of a T-shape design, positioning options are more varied compared to V-shaped saddles. Whether cycling on the nose or farther back, ascending and descending is more at ease. That is because it is designed particularly for riders that spend medium to long riding periods. Substantially, the available options of different seating positions leaves a big impact to comfort.
The unique segmented foam is not just an aesthetic cue, it is also a performance feature. Developed in joint effort with Politecnico of Milano, the multisector system (MSS) divides the segments of the saddle into different densities and independent zones. Each of the areas holds a determined level of foam density. This, then, enables tailored support relative to the pressure that have been mapped through different riding positions. It is further supported with a long-fiber carbon shell underneath to yield a stiff and durable structure. As such, it allows consistent performance and avoids sag overtime. So, the foam can continue to carry out what it’s supposed to do.
- Cover: Synthetic
- Rails: Steel Alloy, 7mm
- Color: Black, white Cushioning: Segmented foam
- Saddle Style: Standard, cut-outs
- Gender: Unisex
- Use: On-off road, trekking
- Dimensions: 250 x 140mm
- Weight: Approx. 185g
- Moderates vibrations
- Versatile and well-rounded
- Can be used in different disciplines
- Wide distribution of body weight over the saddle
1. Heavier than advertised
Introduced as part of the brand’s 2020 line, the Scratch M5 saddle emulates the trend of short nose bike seats. While it primarily serves as a road saddle, its objective is beyond just road riding. The design and shape of Scratch M5 allows the ability to be used in other disciplines such as triathlons and off-road activities.It is also made available in both cut-out and standard versions. Its versatility makes it a well-rounded saddle.
Whether its versatile profile comes from the shape design or in combination with the segmented foam padding, the result is a comfortable saddle ideal for a range of riding style and periods.
Due to the overwhelming variety of road bike saddles and amount of information, finding what’s best for you may be confusing and difficult. That’s why this article has been prepared to provide a narrow list of options. However, even if you may have found the ideal saddle on paper, it may not be the same on practicality. That’s why it is equally important to try and check various saddles that would fit you like a glove. Some sellers would offer return provisions/ policy where you are given a certain period to change the purchased product. When it comes to the price, generally, it correlates with the quality. As the price becomes elevated, the quality of the components will improve and the weight will likely drop. So, if your budget permits, paying out more for the right saddle may do you good in the long run.