Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Road Bike Saddles

Wednesday June 9, 2021
We spent time tinkering with each saddle to find the optimum seat...
We spent time tinkering with each saddle to find the optimum seat position.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Searching for the right road bike saddle in today's marketplace can be quite a confusing task. Making sense of which shape, size, material, or anatomic relief channel is right for you can be a real challenge. Even within the same manufacturer's product line, it can be hard to tell the difference between different models with a similar style or even the same name. Finding the right saddle for your body type and riding style is extremely important since getting it wrong can have painful consequences. Lucky for you, this is where we come in. Our team spent several months researching and selecting the best saddles on the market and then hit the road with them to figure out which styles suit which types of riders, to help you find the one that's right for you. We break down our testing process below and describe each rating metric that we used.

Related: Buying Advice for Road Bike Saddles

Comfort


Comfort is perhaps the most subjective rating metric for a bike saddle since it is so dependent on individual rider size, shape, anatomy, and riding style. The perfect, most comfortable seat for one rider could be incredibly uncomfortable or painful for the next rider. To create the most objective ratings possible, we researched manufacturer design information, reviewed user feedback online, and gained hands-on field test data from our different testers as we hit the road with each saddle. After identifying trends across all of these areas, we were able to get a good understanding of which saddles were consistently comfortable for certain types of riders or riding styles.

A supremely comfortable saddle for one rider could be torture for...
A supremely comfortable saddle for one rider could be torture for another rider.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Performance


To test the performance of each bike saddle, we pushed them to the limit in a variety of riding positions and riding scenarios. From aggressive sprinting while down in the drops to long, steady climbs in a more upright position to fast curvy descents where balance and control are crucial, we searched for the best seat for transferring power to the pedals and maintaining control and handling of the bike. We found that the highest performing saddles have an ideal blend of stiffness and padding, providing a strong and stable platform to optimize power transfer without wasting energy or compromising efficiency.

The Dimension is ideally suited for more aggressive road riding in a...
The Dimension is ideally suited for more aggressive road riding in a forward-leaning riding position.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Versatility


In our versatility testing, we focused on some of the different scenarios where most road riders will find themselves in the saddle. While we didn't jump into any formal century rides or races during the testing period, we simulated the riding styles, speeds, and body positions most riders will experience across different cycling disciplines and in a variety of circumstances. We commuted to work, cruised along on long full-day rides, blasted shorter rides to simulate race speeds, and pushed ourselves up some grueling climbs and down some blazing descents. The saddles that performed well across most of these scenarios earned the highest scores in our versatility ratings.

The Speed saddle from WTB is a versatile option for fitness rides...
The Speed saddle from WTB is a versatile option for fitness rides, mountain biking, or cruising around town.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Durability


To test our lineup of saddles for durability, we used and abused them in ways that are hopefully worse than what they'll experience with their new owner. Testing took place during every season and in the worst conditions possible. We attempted to simulate every form of abuse you will likely submit your saddle to. We left them on top of our cars in the rain and sun for weeks at a time. We laid heavy bookcases against them (don't you do that to your saddle…?) for weeks. We poked, prodded, picked, scraped, and even dragged them across roads and brick walls. Our testing crew took no shortcuts in creating the most taxing saddle review possible, from epic hilly hundreds to brutal cobblestone crits and rainy group rides to freezing base miles. Luckily, we didn't manage to cause any major damage or destruction past the point of no return and were able to collect some great feedback.

The Cambium C15 Carved (right) has a similar shape as other modern...
The Cambium C15 Carved (right) has a similar shape as other modern racing saddles, but its heavy materials make it almost double the weight.
Photo: Nick Bruckbauer

Weight


There are many different ways to rate the quality and performance of these saddles, but weight is perhaps the most objective category and the easiest to compare. Like every product we review here at OutdoorGearLab, we weighed each saddle ourselves at home with a digital scale. Most of the measurements were within a reasonable range of the manufacturer's claimed weights, and we are confident we got the most accurate real-world comparison of each saddle.

The Aliante Gamma Kium comes in at a modest 252 g.
The Aliante Gamma Kium comes in at a modest 252 g.
Photo: Crystal Huffman