The Best Bike Saddle
Looking for the best bike saddle? In our effort to determine the answer, we put 17 contenders through the paces to find out. We tested each saddle, measuring their performance in a variety of metrics to discover which one offered the most comfort, performance, and a competitive weight – without compromise. We rode on these contenders in all conditions and for long distances, from muddy mountain bike races, 100-plus mile road races, to rainy morning commutes. They were rated on comfort, performance, versatility, and weight in order to carefully choose our award winning selection. This review will aid you in your quest to find the best perch from which to experience your next ride.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
If we had to put the same saddle on every bike we own, this would be it. It is comfortable, lightweight, and extremely durable. We had no idea a saddle could be this comfortable and still offer such a high level of performance. The Specialized Phenom Expert is a race-oriented saddle, but offers a level of comfort that you would expect from a touring saddle designed for 12-hour rides. Specialized has engineered the perfect amount of shell flex combined with minimal firm padding, the result is a consistent feel mile after mile. The shape of the saddle provides enough support for riders who prefer a more upright position, but is still able to accommodate an aggressive low position for optimal power output. Many mountain bike saddles tend to be shorter in length, but the Phenom sits right in the sweet spot at 270mm, long enough to move around on, but short enough to not be in the way for technical descending. With the added versatility of being both an excellent mountain bike and road saddle it is easy to see why the Phenom is the winner of our coveted Editors' Choice Award. With a price of $130 you can't go wrong.
Narrowly missing out on the Editors' Choice Award, the Fabric Scoop Flat Pro is an excellent saddle. It received our highest ranking for performance and was also the lightest saddle in our review at 176g. It fits a wide range of riders, but lacks the versatility of the Phenom. It is a great choice for road racing, and can be used for mountain biking, and cyclocross. The Scoop lacks a full cutout, but it does have a shallow pressure relief channel at the tail of the saddle which gets the job done when down in the drops. The overall construction of the Scoop is flawless. Its attributes favor the rider whose greatest concerns are performance and light weight, but is also competitive when it comes to comfort. If you are looking for a high performance race saddle for your road bike, the Scoop should be at the top of your list.
The Fizik Monte Manganese is not the most svelte saddle we have tested, but it was not designed to be. It is a durable workhorse with a competitive price. Designed for the demanding sport of enduro racing, it makes some concessions when it comes to weight to increase durability. Manganese rails are used for strength, and Cordura scuff guards protect the corners of the saddle from the inevitable impact with terra firma. The Monte has more padding than the Specialized Phenom Expert, and it is shorter in length. It is well suited to all forms of mountain biking and it is also an excellent saddle for the rigors of cyclocross racing. Comfortable with excellent power transfer, this saddle is an excellent choice for the vast majority of mountain bikers. The Monte won't break the bank and certainly won't leave you stranded on a long ride. The Monte is a true mountain bikers saddle and the winner of our Top Pick Award.
WTB claims it is their best selling saddle, and we are not surprised. With an MSRP of $40, it is a great buy. The WTB Speed Comp is standard equipment on many new bikes as OE equipment. It offers a classic shape, with a very slight rise at the tail, and an anatomical groove to relieve pressure on sensitive areas. Our testers found it to offer a high level of comfort, and its middle of the road dimensions seem to fit nearly everyone. It is quite versatile, and at home on virtually any type of bike. The synthetic cover is durable, and a tough rubberized scuff guard at the rear of the saddle further enhances longevity. It may not win over the gram counters at 362g, but you will be hard pressed to find a better saddle in this price range. Many saddles in this price range lack durability and quality, but the Speed V bucks that trend. If you are looking to replace a worn out saddle, or replace your stock seat with something more comfortable, the Speed is an excellent affordable option.
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Lets face it; comfort is far and away the most important attribute. If you cannot spend a reasonable amount of time on a saddle in comfort, its weight and durability are of little consequence. While a bike saddle's comfort can be somewhat subjective and variable from person to person, we sought out consensus amongst our testers. The Specialized Phenom, and Fabric Scoop scored highest, followed by the Fizik Aliante, and the Specialized Power Expert. Brooks England B-17 surprised us with its high level of comfort achieved using tensioned leather and no padding. But, it could not quite compare to some of the modern shapes and materials used by Specialized, Fizik, and Fabric.
The level of performance a bike saddle can offer is largely dependent on its shape, padding and shell stiffness. A high performance saddle must provide a platform from which the rider can achieve optimal position to apply power to the pedals. The right balance of padding and firmness must be achieved. Too much padding and energy will be wasted through the pedal stroke, too little and the saddle will not offer enough comfort for extended use. The shape of the saddle also impacts performance.
Traditional thinking would be that a relatively flat saddle with a long nose offers the best power transfer. New saddles such as the Specialized Power buck that trend, with a short chopped nose, wider tail and a deep cutout. The Fizik Antares and the Specialized Power Expert scored highest with drastically differing designs.
The Specialized Phenom, and the Fabric Scoop Pro followed them closely. The Phenom and Antares are both firm with a flat profile, and with a long, wide nose to provide optimum position for power transfer to a wide variety of body types. The Specialized Power also has a flat overall shape, but has a dramatically short nose and deep cutout to provide greater comfort when the rider is in a low aggressive position.
Many cyclists own multiple bikes and participate in several cycling disciplines. In a perfect world we would use the same saddle on every bike, eliminating the need to acclimate to a new saddle when we swap the road bike for mountain bike. The more versatile a saddle is, the more likely you will be happy using it for multiple disciplines.
We found the Specialized Phenom and the Fabric Scoop Flat Pro to be the most versatile saddles in the test group. Both offer excellent power transfer and comfort, in both a forward performance road racing position and a more upright mountain bike position. Our testers also love both on the cyclocross bike, but generally we would not choose a saddle with a cutout for cyclocross due to mud slinging issues. (A well-placed piece of tape on the underside of the saddle cured this issue.) The Fizik Aliante and the Fizik Antares were also found to be very versatile by our testers – comfortable and well suited to road, mountain, and cyclocross.
Our testers put the review saddles through the ringer. The bike saddles were tested in some of the worst conditions possible. Dirt, mud, rain, and snow; you name it, we rode in it. The saddles baked in the sun on the roofs of our cars, and made unintentional contact with the pavement and trail more than a few times and we did not manage to break the rails or shells on any of our test saddles. The differences in durability we encountered were primarily related to the cover material. The Specialized Phenom achieved our highest accolades for durability. It utilizes a very durable synthetic cover material Specialized calls Micromatrix. The only issue we had with Phenom was related to dirt build up in the micro perforated cover, but this can be remedied with a soft brush when washing.
The plastic shell on the Phenom extends past the cover at the rear of the saddle to protect the most vulnerable points from abrasion in the event of a crash or accidental drop. The Monte is another standout for durability with tough manganese rails and Cordura scuff guards to ward of abrasion and tears.Fizik Arione was given slightly lower marks than the other Fizik Saddles in the review due to increased wear on exposed seams. The Wilderness Trail Bikes saddles all use a similar synthetic cover that we found to be quite tough and resistant to abrasion, landing them a close second to the top offerings from Fizik.
For racers, overall bike weight makes a big difference. A few hundred grams on a climb can be the difference between first and second. For the rest of us, weight can affect handling, as well as our motivation at the end of a long day in the saddle as we face that final climb. All of our test saddles were weighed in house; some came out under manufacturer claimed weight and some over. As a rule of thumb, as the weight of a saddle goes down, the price goes up. The lightest saddle in our test group was the Fabric Scoop Flat Pro, weighing in at a paltry 176g.
This is impressively low weight is achieved by using carbon rails. It is possible to drop even more weight from other saddles we tested by selecting the carbon rail version. The Phenom for example is available with carbon rails and shell in the S-Works version boasting a manufacturers claimed weight of 153g. Also coming in on the low end of the weight spectrum is the Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow Saddle at 229g. On the other end of the spectrum, the Serfas E-Gel Cruiser Saddle came in at 774g. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the intended use of the Serfas saddle is not racing, its design is focused on comfort for short, non-aggressive rides, and thus makes concessions in the area of weight. Each rider must balance the importance of weight with comfort, cost, and intended use.
Saddlebags are a great place to carry spare tubes and flat repair kits. We recommend the Fizik ICS Saddle PA:K and the Planet Bike Big Buddy. Specialized also makes saddlebags as part of their SWAT (Storage Water Air Tools) line. The Specialized Mountain Bandit would be a nice addition to the Phenom Expert saddle.
Selecting a saddle for your bicycle can be a daunting process. The range of saddle styles and intended design is vast and confusing. We have taken 17 of the best, most popular saddles available and tested them head to head on multiple bikes and in a broad range of conditions. We hope that our hard earned knowledge can help guide you to the perfect saddle for your needs. For all the details on every saddle we tested, see the full product reviews, and check out our Buying Advice Article for a step-by-step selection process.
— Curtis Smith
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