MTB Buyers Guide – Mountain Bike Saddles

by Robb Sutton

Picking the correct saddle for your mountain bike can be one of the most important decisions you make. A mountain bike saddle is one of the essential 3 contact points between you and the mountain bike. The wrong saddle choice can equal ruined rides out on your favorite singletrack. Unfortunately, many riders make due with the saddle that was included with the initial bike purchase without giving this component any real thought. This results in soreness and uncomfortable riding that can ruin the sport for a rider that does not know any differently. The saddle that was included with your particular build kit may not be the right choice for you and your riding style. Take a look over this guide to help you pick out your next mountain bike saddle.

1st Step

What Features Are You Looking For In A Saddle?

The first step with any mountain bike component purchase is sitting down and spelling out your requirements in that component. Are you looking for a lightweight race saddle that shaves off those precious grams, or a big cushy couch to take you through all day spins? Here are some saddle characteristics to ponder and get you started.

  • Weight – If weight is an issue, you are probably looking at a saddle with ti rails and a lower profile. Keep in mind, you are going to pay a premium for the ti rails over steel, but a saddle is one of the components that shaves a lot of grams at once. If weight is not your worry, a saddle with steel rails should work out perfectly.
  • Durability – Different saddles have different features when it comes to durability. Generally, lighter xc based saddles are all leather to save on weight. As you go towards the heavier units, you will find features like kevlar corners and different materials to help with scratches during wrecks and general use. If you are really hard on saddles, I would recommend looking into a saddle with these types of features.
  • Color – Looking to match your saddle to the rest of your bike? Many manufacturers offer different color combinations on the same model to fit your needs.
  • Overall Design – There are different saddles depending upon intended use. Freeride and downhill oriented saddles normally have larger noses and cross country saddles are narrower in profile. Cross country styled mountain bike saddles are narrower in profile because much of the riders weight is supported by the legs and arms while in the attack position at speed and the geometry of the bike leans more towards positioning the rider with more weight biased towards the front of the bike. With all mountain, freeride and downhill saddles, the shape and padding wider and more centered towards the rear of the saddle providing support when the rider is in more of an upright pedaling position. On longer travel bikes, the weight is biased more towards the center and rear of the bike which puts more pressure on that area of the saddle.
  • Price – Saddles come in a very broad price range. You will see everything from 30 dollars all the way up to several hundred. Get a price range that you are comfortable with and weight the characteristics you are looking for against that price.

2nd Step – Not Every Ass Is The Same

WTB Mountain Bike SaddleFunny…but true. If every ass was the same…we would only need a few different saddles! Since everyone’s riding style and body type is different, it is always best to try out as many saddles as you can before purchasing. There are a lot of brands to try on the market, but I have found the saddles from Selle Italia WTB SDG to be the most comfortable and have the greatest variety.

Ideally, you want your primary sitting bones centered and supported by the rear pads. If you sit on a saddle for a short period and examine it immediately after standing up, sometimes you can see the indentions that you made. They should be centered on each side of the rear padding if the saddle fits your particular rear end.

Finding the correct nose shape or center cut on a saddle is completely up to trial and preference.

Companies like WTB provide bike shops with a test set of saddles that you can try out on your bike…on your trail. If you have a local bike shop that has a test set of saddles, I highly recommend that you try out your style before purchasing. Since most shapes have different models available based on weight and material, you can test the specific saddle shape you are looking at purchasing.

When you have decided on which shape best fits your riding style and rear…you can narrow down the available features and purchase a saddle that best fits all of your needs.

A Note For Women

Obviously, the anatomy of a woman is much different than that of a man. There are woman specific saddles on the market that are designed specifically for you guys. If you have had issues finding comfortable saddles for your mountain bike in the past, try out one of the woman specific mountain biking saddles. I have heard a lot of women that find the women specific saddles from Terry extremely comfortable.

For great deals on mountain bike saddles, check out JensonUSA.com.

5 comments

5 comments

Saipan Island RIder March 19, 2011 - 6:47 am

Hahaha, in the car business they say “There’s an ass for every seat”.

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MARK HOEY March 16, 2009 - 9:22 am

I AM TALL 6 FOOT 4 (240LBS) AND HAVE WIDE HIPS I JUST GOT BACK INTO MOUNTAIN BIKING AND THE SEAT SUPPLIED WITH MY NEW BIKE IS LIKE SITTING ON A RAZOR BLADE. DO SOME GUYS USE LADIES SADDLES OR ARE THEIR ONES AVAILABLE FOR THE LARGER BONED OF US

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198 March 16, 2009 - 9:32 am

@Mark

I would try one of these saddles from WTB as a starting point. A lot of people with your body type love them.

WTB Laser V Pro Saddle Nicro Rails Black
WTB Laser V Team IS Black Saddle
WTB Laser V Team Saddle
WTB Pure V Race Saddle

Reply
198 January 19, 2009 - 1:21 pm

Ken…I have seen that measure your rear saddle. Interesting concept and if the feedback from riders I know that have used it is correct…it works really well.

-198

Reply
Ken Hurd January 19, 2009 - 1:09 pm

I’ve found that the Specialized ‘Body Geometry’ seats work well also – the bike shop will essentially measure your ‘ass-indentations’ and coordinate the appropriate fit based off those measurements.

Ken Hurds last blog post..iBike Power Measurement

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