Over the course of several months, our team of testers swapped between our selection of saddles regularly on rides of various lengths and types. These saddles were used on short backyard laps, epic all day suffer-fests, even some road, and gravel rides. Each saddle was used for over a hundred miles of real-world mountain bike riding, and they were switched out daily, sometimes between laps mid-ride for side by side comparison. We carefully analyzed each model and scored them on five predetermined rating metrics: Comfort, Performance, Versatility, Durability, and Weight. Each of these metrics is described in greater detail below.
Since we feel that comfort is the most important aspect of a saddle, it is our most heavily weighted metric at 30% of the overall score. As a rule, comfort is subjective, and what is comfortable for one person may not work at all for another. Getting a properly fitting saddle, yes they come in different sizes, is probably the most important thing you can do when buying one.
To test the comfort of these saddles, we rode with them, a lot. While riding, we adjusted them to find the most comfortable position and then we rode some more. We focused on the comfort of each model, taking note of sit bone comfort, pressure points, padding, and saddle shape. We scrutinized each saddle's design and construction and how that related to our comfort while using the saddle. It doesn't take long to figure out which saddles are more comfortable than others, and the cream of the crop quickly rose to the top.
You might be thinking, don't all mountain bike saddles offer roughly the same level of performance? Well, yes, mountain bike saddles all perform the same basic task, but some are designed in such a way that they perform better out on the trail. Factors such as the saddle's shape, seat cover material, shell stiffness, and padding may all affect its performance on the trail.
Probably the most significant consideration in the performance of a mountain bike saddle is the shape. Each saddle we tested has a different shape, be it length, width, tip to tail profile, side to side profile, or taper toward the tail. Testers noted how easy it was to move around the saddle, on and off, fore and aft, while going through the regular body movements of mountain biking, and noted how each saddle's shape played a role. Padding and shell stiffness were also noted as it can affect not only your comfort but your pedaling efficiency and power transfer as well. The best saddles are padded just enough for all-day comfort, but not so much that it detracts from your power.
Most bike saddles can be used for virtually any type of cycling, mountain, road, gravel, you name it. Some saddles are better suited to certain cycling disciplines than others due to their comfort, shape, weight, etc. To test this, we did XC rides, shuttle runs, and small backyard enduro style laps. We even mounted these saddles on the gravel bike and took them for longer road and gravel grinds. Some saddles are very comfortable for extended periods of seated pedaling. Typically these models will be good for most mountain bike disciplines, as well as road and gravel biking. Other models are less comfortable but have good shapes that make them better suited to gravity style riding where you spend less time in the saddle. Since you can technically use any saddle for any type of riding, we rated this metric less than others, but feel that it is worth covering.
The durability of a saddle is largely dependent on how much you crash, or how often it makes contact with the ground or trailside obstacles. Assuming you never crash a saddle should last you for several seasons at least. Other factors like the saddle's construction, quality of craftsmanship, and materials also play a role in the longevity of any given model. Some saddles have no seams or stitching to wear out, and others have abrasion-resistant panels in impact-prone areas for added protection. To test this, we carefully examined each saddle's construction and materials when they were brand new, and again at the end of our test period. We also kept our ears open for any creaking or noises coming from the saddle rails and their connection points. The highest scoring saddles in this rating metric have quality construction, no exposed stitching, and abrasion resistant reinforcements in key areas.
To determine the weight of each model we tested, we weighed them all on our trusty digital kitchen scale. We tried to weigh each model when it was brand new to avoid having mud or debris on the saddle that could affect the weight. A couple of the saddles that arrived later in the test period missed out on the initial weigh-in and ended up getting used before their weight was recorded. In the case of these two saddles, we cleaned and dried them thoroughly before weighing them.
We put these saddles through the wringer during our test period. We hope our in-depth reviews and comparative analysis helps you find the best model to suit your needs and budget.