SDG Components Bel-Air RL Steel Review
Manufacturer: SDG Components
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bel-Air RL Steel saddle we tested is still readily available. SDG Components recently released a new version of this classic saddle called the Bel-Air V3. The V3 incorporates many of the design features of the original in a streamlined, updated package. It is available in three seat rail constructions, steel, lux-alloy, and carbon, at a wide range of price points.
The SDG Bel-Air Steel is the least expensive saddle in our test selection, and we put it up against several more costly competitors for comparison. In addition to being affordable, it also proved to be quite comfortable, and testers had no complaints about sitting on this saddle for extended periods while testing. Read on to find out how this affordable saddle compared to rest of the field.
Comfort was by far the Bel-Air Steel's best attribute. This was primarily due to the saddle's rounded side to side profile, with a cradled shape from tip to tail and a pronounced rise back to the tail. This provided a very supportive and comfortable platform to rest your sit bones. It also has a generous amount of soft to medium density padding as well as a long but shallow anatomical groove for added comfort.
When viewed from the side, you can easily see the cradled shape and rise to the tail of the saddle. The sides of the saddle near the middle drop down abruptly, and as the saddle goes back towards the tail, it rises and flattens out the wings creating more of a platform.
From the nose of the saddle, you can see the rounded side to side profile, anatomical channel, and supportive tail.
The overall comfort of the Bel-Air Steel enhanced this saddle's climbing performance. Testers had no qualms about spending time seated pedaling on this saddle. The shape of the saddle provided a nice, powerful platform, and the density of the padding proved to feel quite efficient from a power transfer standpoint.
The comfortable cradle shape of this saddle is a little bit of a detriment to its trail performance, however, as the pronounced rise to the tail makes it slightly hard to get back behind it, and somewhat more challenging to get back in front of it when you do. The flatter and more tapered tail shapes of saddles like the Specialized Phenom Comp and the Tioga Undercover Stratum made moving around the saddle much easier.
The Bel-Air Steel appears to be very well made with a beefy two-piece synthetic seat cover and stout steel seat rails. We've put some serious miles on this saddle, and it looks no worse for the wear other than some mud splatters on the nylon fiber shell. Our only durability concerns with the Bel-Air Steel is that the tail of this saddle is quite pronounced and there is no abrasion resistant material around the edge. The seat cover is also more than one piece, with exposed stitching that runs down both sides from the nose to the tail. This stitching is in the place that sees the most friction from your legs/shorts during the pedal stroke and may be prone to premature wear as a result.
Testers felt the Bel-Air Steel was best suited to types of riding where you spend the majority of your time seated and pedaling. The comfortable cradle shape and tail rise keep you in the sweet spot of the saddle, and you could stay there all day. The rise to the tail of this saddle is quite pronounced, so moving around it wasn't quite as easy as on other saddles with flatter and tapered tails. That said, it could certainly be used for all types of riding, but there are better and lighter weight options out there.
At 330g, the Bel-Air Steel is the heaviest saddle we tested, and by a fair margin. For comparison, out Top Pick for Light Weight, the Tioga Spyder Outland weighs 202 grams at its heaviest, 128 grams lighter than the Bel-Air Steel. Our Best Buy Award winner, the WTB Volt Race, weighs only 239 grams, which is 91 grams lighter than the Bel-Air Steel, and it only costs $20 more at retail.
At a retail price of $40, the Bel-Air Steel is the least expensive model in our test selection. We feel this is a good value assuming you don't mind a little extra weight as this saddle is impressively comfortable.
If you're looking for an affordable and comfortable saddle, and you aren't concerned with weight, then the Bel-Air Steel is a great option. This saddle's cradled shape, generous padding, and shallow anatomical channel deliver a high level of seated comfort, no matter what type of riding you're doing. It was outclassed by the more expensive competition in the performance and weight metrics, but it is still a quality saddle at a great price.
SDG makes a full line of mountain bike saddles including several different versions of the Bel-Air RL, including the Steel reviewed here.
- Bel Air RL Cro-Mo: $60, Weight: 320g, Size: Length-270mm x Width-140mm
- Bel Air RL Ti-Alloy: $90, Weight: 260g, Size: Length-270mm x Width-140mm
- Bel Air RL SL: $90, Rails: Solid I-Beam, Weight: 185g, Size: Length-270mm x Width-140mm
— Jeremy Benson