Are you looking for a new mountain bike saddle? Your saddle is one of three spots that your body makes contact with your bike, and arguably the most important. There are hundreds of options to choose from, and finding the right one can be difficult. To find the best mountain bike saddle, we researched the top models on the market before choosing a selection of nine to test and compare side by side. Over the course of several months, we pedaled hundreds of miles while using each one of these saddles. We spent countless hours on the bike feeling out the subtle differences between each model, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses to not only find out which is the best, but how they compare to each other. We hope our detailed comparative analysis helps you find the best mountain bike saddle for your needs and budget; read on to find the right one for you.
The Best Mountain Bike Saddles of 2018
This spring we chose a selection of nine of the best mountain bike saddles on the market to test and compare side by side. Unlike previous OutdoorGearLab bike saddle tests which included models for all cycling disciplines, this test was more focused on saddles designed with mountain biking in mind. Out of our test selection of nine saddles, we ended up with four new award winners, including the Specialized Phenom Comp which was our best overall saddle and winner of our Editors' Choice Award. We also gave out two Top Pick Awards, the Tioga Spyder Outland for its light weight, and the WTB Koda Team for comfort. Our Best Buy Award Winner, the WTB Volt Race also impressed our testers and was the fourth highest scoring saddle in the test - at a very reasonable price.
Best Overall Mountain Bike Saddle
Specialized Phenom Comp
The Specialized Phenom Comp wowed our testers with its excellent combination of comfort and performance. This is one of those special mountain bike saddles that you put on your bike and completely forget about; we see it as the ultimate interface between you and your machine. This saddle's comfort is highlighted by its medium width, supportive medium density padding, and full-length anatomical cutout. From short rides to all day pedal fests, this saddle delivered fantastic comfort while maintaining pedaling efficiency. On the trail, this saddle performed flawlessly, with a well-designed shape that allowed for excellent freedom of movement and snag free riding. Testers also praised its versatility, as this saddle is well suited to all disciplines of mountain biking and would be equally at home pounding out the miles on a road or gravel bike.
Our only gripe with the Phenom Comp, and it's a small one, is the weight. At 243g in the 143mm width we tested, its far from the lightest in the bunch. That said, it's not unusually heavy either, and Specialized does make lighter weight versions for people willing to spend a little more money. For the price, this saddle is a great value, especially considering the comfort and performance it delivers.
Read review: Specialized Phenom Comp
Best Bang for the Buck
WTB Volt Race
The Volt Race has been a staple in WTB's saddle range for many years. It isn't the least expensive model we tested, but at a retail price of $60, it's an incredible value considering the level of comfort and performance it delivers, and we've awarded it our Best Buy Award. Not only is the Volt Race a good value, but its also very comfortable, with a classic design that has stood the test of time. A slightly cradled shape that rises gently toward the tail provides a comfortable and supportive platform, with medium density padding and shallow anatomical groove and "Comfort Zone" cutout in the shell to reduce pressure in the center. At 239g for the 135mm width we tested, the Volt Race is also lightweight considering the price. Testers found this saddle to offer exceptional versatility, with applications ranging from all disciplines of mountain biking to road riding.
The Volt Race is offered in three widths, 135mm (tested), 142mm, and 150mm, to accommodate a range of sit bone widths. We were really impressed with the price to comfort and performance ratio the Volt Race has to offer, and we think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better value in a mountain bike saddle.
Read review: WTB Volt Race
Top Pick for Comfort
WTB Koda Team
The WTB Koda Team was initially designed with the female rider in mind, but our testers found this comfortable saddle to be well-suited for male riders as well. This saddle impressed us most with its unbeatable comfort, and it took home our Top Pick for Comfort Award. WTB has employed their classic slightly cradled saddle shape on the Koda Team, a design that keeps the rider in the sweet spot and provides a little support as it rises gently towards the tail. An anatomical channel on the top of the saddle and a "Comfort Zone" cutout in the shell help to reduce pressure on the more sensitive areas. This saddle has softer padding than our other top performing saddles, which could reduce pedaling efficiency slightly, although we were too comfortable to notice. The Koda Team also impressed us with its weight, at 203g, it was the 2nd lightest saddle in our test selection.
If we had to find fault with the Koda Team, it's that it is only available in medium to wider widths, 142mm (tested) and 150mm. Riders with narrow sit bones or who prefer a narrower saddle will probably want to look elsewhere. For everyone else, we think the Koda Team is the most comfortable saddle out there and worthy of a look whether you are a male or female rider.
Read review: WTB Koda Team
Top Pick for Light Weight
Tioga Spyder Outland
The Tioga Spyder Outland is an attention-grabbing and unique looking mountain bike saddle. The design of this saddle is intended to reduce weight while also distributing the rider's weight over a flexible web of material that is suspended over a carbonite skeleton of sorts. The result of this innovative design is the lightest saddle in our test, within in at 202g with the included anti-slip pads, and a featherlight 178g when used without. While it looks like it might not be all that comfortable, the Spyder Outland's flexible web seat cover surprised our testers with a comfortable and suspended feel, different from any other saddle we tested. On the trail, this saddle performed well, with a narrow width and tapered tail that provided excellent freedom of movement.
The Spyder Outland is only offered in one width, and at 125mm it is the narrowest saddle we tested. This width won't work for everyone, but if you have narrow sit bones or prefer a narrower saddle, then this could be a good option for you. The Tioga Spyder Outland may scare some people off with its distinctive looks and unorthodox design, but this saddle delivers an impressively lightweight and surprisingly comfortable package assuming you need or want a narrower saddle.
Read review:Tioga Spyder Outland
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of several months, our team of testers pedaled their hearts out while testing the various saddles in our test selection. The wealth of trails in the greater Lake Tahoe area, as well as some time spent in the desert southwest, provided a diverse assortment of trail types and conditions to put these saddles through their paces. Fickle mountain weather also provided an array of weather conditions, from spring rains to hot sunny days and everything in between.
Our gear obsessed testers thoroughly used and abused each saddle, putting a hundred+ miles on each one, often switching between them mid-ride for comparison. Every aspect of each saddle's performance was scrutinized to find their strengths and weaknesses, and each model was rated on five predetermined metrics, comfort, performance, versatility, durability, and weight. The scores from these ratings were combined to determine our overall winners and top performing mountain bike saddles. Read on to find out how these saddles compared to each other, and to find the best one to suit your needs.
At OutdoorGearLab it is our goal to find the best and highest performing products in any given test. We feel that it is a bonus when those products are also a good value. To help you compare the overall performance to price ratio of the mountain bike saddles in our test, we've created a handy chart for visual comparison. The blue dots represent our award-winning saddles and the further to the right they are on the graph the better the performance, while the lower on the graph they are, the less expensive they are. Simply hover your cursor over the dots to view the model and compare them to each other. Hands down the best value to performance ratio in our test is the WTB Volt Race, with our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Specialized Phenom Comp, not far behind by falling around the median price with the highest performance score.
Your hindquarters and underside will be making contact with your saddle for extended periods of time, so ensuring that the one you choose is comfortable is of the utmost importance. A variety of factors play into the comfort of a mountain bike saddle, including width, length, padding, shape, and anatomical cutout (or lack thereof). Comfort is subjective, of course, but we did our very best to determine which saddles are the most comfortable and why. One important factor in the overall comfort of any saddle is the fit, so be sure to get the appropriate width for your sit bones, seriously.
In the end, the most comfortable saddle in our test was, not surprisingly, our Top Pick for Comfort Award winner, the WTB Koda Team. The Koda Team was actually designed for women, but it turns out that it's great for men as well. Its short length, medium width, softer padding, slightly cradled shape, and anatomical depression made it a tester favorite, a saddle that everyone wanted to keep. Our next favorite saddle for comfort was our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Specialized Phenom Comp, which also had a shorter length, medium width, but had a full-length anatomical cutout, stiffer padding, a tapered tail, and a rounder profile. The Phenom Comp impressed our testers with its out of the box comfort that was great for any type or length of ride.
During testing, we also discovered that a comfortable saddle doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, our Best Buy Award winner, the WTB Volt Race, was no slouch in the comfort department and costs less than half as much as most of its competition. The Volt Race's slightly cradled shape, medium width, and anatomical groove proved to be quite agreeable, especially for extended periods of seated pedaling.
Most saddles perform their duties in a relatively similar way, but in the performance metric, we rate them on a combination of factors including their shape, padding, and general level of comfort out on the trail. The more comfortable a saddle is the better, but only as long as that comfort doesn't hinder your pedaling ability and your freedom to move about on the bike as needed when climbing and descending. Some saddle shapes are designed to allow the rider to move back and forth more freely and prevent snag on baggy shorts, and believe it or not, some perform better than others out on the trail.
Not surprisingly, our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Specialized Phenom Comp was one of our top performers in this metric. Not only was it impressively comfortable, but its shorter length and tapered tail made it easy to move around on the bike to get your body in front or behind it when cornering or descending steep sections of trail.
Another of our top saddles in the performance metric is the WTB Volt Race, a long-standing model in their saddle range. The Volt Race has a great classic shape that is especially comfortable when seated, with a medium length and width that allows for plenty of freedom of movement. One of the best things about WTB saddles is that they also age well, and seemingly only get more comfortable over time. The Volt Race is the kind of saddle that you mount on your bike and never think about again, and that's about as good as it gets.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Tioga Spyder Outland. This unique looking saddle seems like it could be some kind of torture device, but overwhelming it delivered out on the trail with its impressively light weight, excellent comfort (for people with narrower sit bones), and a great shape that never conflicted with any of our testers shorts. It's easy to judge a book by its cover, but the Spyder Outland was a pleasant surprise.
Mountain bike saddles are generally made for one purpose, and that is mountain biking. Some saddles proved themselves to be more versatile than others, however, and are much more than one trick ponies. Certain models are better for enduro, shuttles, or downhilling, while others are great for absolutely everything. Testers wouldn't hesitate to mount a few of the saddles in our test selection on every bike in their fleet, the road bike, gravel bike, trail bike, shuttle rig. Those select few competitors scored much higher in this metric due to their overall comfort, and better all-around performance.
We might be sounding a bit like a broken record here, but our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Specialized Phenom Comp took top honors again in this metric. There is seemingly no cycling application where this saddle wouldn't be a great fit. Our testers said they'd be happy to get several of these and put one on each of their bikes. From 10 mile after work shreds in the backyard to 65 mile punishing gravel grinds, this saddle did it all and never left us wanting.
The Ergon SME3 Comp proved itself to be a versatile performer. It didn't blow our hats off in other aspects of its performance, but testers agreed that it was a well-rounded saddle that would be at home in virtually all riding situations. It was reasonably comfortable for long days in the saddle, with a nice shape that is well suited to all mountain biking disciplines.
Other saddles in our test selection like the Race Face Aeffect and the SDG Circuit Ti Alloy are also fine mountain bike saddles, but they lost a little ground in this metric to the competition for a couple of reasons. Both models have moderate widths and tapered tails that allows for tremendous and easy freedom of movement, but have flatter profiles and tend to put a little more pressure on the underside than testers would have liked. We felt these saddles would be well suited to riders who don't spend lots of time seated while pedaling or grinding up climbs but possibly ride chairlifts, shuttle, or who just happen to like a stiffer or less contoured seat.
The durability of mountain bike saddles varies slightly between models. In general, most models offer a similar level of durability assuming you never crash. Since crashes can and do happen, many manufacturers of mountain bike saddles have tried to negate the impacts of said crashes by incorporating abrasion resistant materials in key places. The most common places for your bike saddle to impact the ground in the event of a crash is on either side of the tail, and the highest scoring saddles in our durability metric have abrasion resistant materials sewn in to protect them from potential damage. Another element of durability is stitching, as exposed stitches are prone to wear over time, even from the friction of your shorts while pedaling.
One of our highest rated saddles for durability is the Tioga Spyder Outland. This unique saddle is constructed from a carbonite skeleton that is covered in a softer webbed material. This saddle has no seat cover to rip and seems less prone to damage in the event of a crash.
Both of the WTB saddles in our test selection, the Volt Race and the Koda Team, have the same microfiber seat material with a protective layer of abrasion resistant material stitched on the outer parts of the tail on both sides. This material has taken its share of hits, and one of our testers has a two season old Volt Race that has seen plenty of hard crashes and has held up impressively well.
The SDG Circuit Ti-Alloy also scored well for durability due to its microfiber top and kevlar reinforced sides that wrap from the tail of the saddle almost to the nose on both sides.
The weight of a saddle is the least subjective of all the metrics we rated for mountain bike saddles. In cycling, everything is subject to weight scrutiny, and saddles are no exception; in general, lighter is considered better. A mountain bike is the sum of its parts, and saving a few grams anywhere you can help to keep that overall weight down. A saddle is an easy, and often a less expensive place to make that weight savings. To measure this, we simply weighed each saddle on our trusty digital scale to determine the item's weight. Please bear in mind that these weights represent only the model tested. Most of the saddles we tested come in a range of constructions and corresponding price points that may affect their weight. For example, the Specialized Phenom Comp also comes in an Expert and Pro version, both of which weigh significantly less and cost significantly more. Be sure to check the "Other Versions" at the end of each saddle's individual review to find out more about the various options.
In the end, our Top Pick for Comfort Award winner, the WTB Koda Comp, and our Top Pick for Light Weight Award winner, the Tioga Spyder Outland, basically tied for top honors in the Weight metric at 203g and 202g respectively. The Tioga Spyder Outland edges out the WTB Koda Comp, however, because it can be used bare bones without the addition of the Anti-Slip padding at a shockingly low weight of 178g.
In contrast, our Best Buy Award winner, the SDG Bel Air Steel is the heaviest saddle in our test selection at 330g. In this case, the saddle that costs less than half of the competition weighs almost double that of our lightest model.
From a comfort standpoint, a mountain bike saddle is one of the most important pieces of equipment on your bike and can dramatically improve your everyday riding experience. Getting one that fits you right, performs well and meets your budget is significant. Our team of mountain bike testers put in lots of time on the trail riding with these saddles, and we hope our detailed reviews and comparative analysis will help you in your quest to find the best mountain bike saddle for you.
— Jeremy Benson
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.