After spending a small fortune on your dream machine, it can be all too tempting to stick with the stock saddle that comes with the bike without as much as taking a test ride. But your saddle choice is one of the most crucial elements of your ride. There are only three contact points between you and the bike: your feet, hands and, of course, your gluteus maximus, the latter being the largest part and where you generate the most power from.
No two backsides are the same, and there are many different styles of saddle to choose from, depending on variables such as the width of your sit bones and the type of riding you do. A big, comfy saddle with plenty of gel padding might feel lovely for short commutes in the city, but on longer rides it’ll deform as you sink into it, which can cause chafing and saddle sores.
A technical saddle will have minimal and strategically placed padding that works in conjunction with the chamois in your shorts to provide comfort in the areas that are planted to the seat, and pressure relief where there’s movement. For triathlon, where the rider can be perched on the end of the saddle for long periods in the aero position, designs with stubby and wide noses are popular. On road bikes, saddles are narrower at the front, with greater width towards the back to provide a sweet spot for the rider to sit in when their hands are on the drop bars.
Some bike shops offer a saddle-fitting service that includes measurement of your sit bones. This is well worth having – and we’d also suggest experimenting with different models. Ultimately, saddle choice is a personal thing. So to reach our verdicts, we considered value for money and, using feedback from fellow triathletes and cyclists, how likely it is that each saddle will work for a wide cross-section of triathletes.
Of course, saddle choice is incredibly personal, so the highest marks here have been awarded to saddles that we think will work best for the greatest number of riders, feature the greatest innovation and material construction, and are at a price that represents value for money.
ISM’s distinctive ‘noseless’ saddles have become firm favourites with triathletes, and the PN 3.1 comes with chromoly rails to bring the price down. ISM says the saddle’s tapered edges increase blood flow and reduce pressure in sensitive areas, while the slight slope towards the front provides support in the TT position. For us and many other triathletes, ISM’s unusual yet functional saddle design does the trick for long rides in the aerobar position – we’ve simply never had a bad experience with one, with the padding striking just the right balance between density and softness.upgradebikes.co.uk
Verdict: Divisive looks, but it works a treat in practice 89%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
The TGale is another very tri-specific perch, with Prologo’s ‘perennial area system (PAS)’ designed to stop numbness in the pelvic area. The stubby nose is narrower than the Fizik and ISM saddles, and we found it firmer too, but the flat top with a grippy microfibre surface should fix you in place. This mid-range version of the TGale has Tirox rails, made of a light alloy-steel material that’s highly resistant to traction and torsion, but it still weighs a fair bit more than similarly priced saddles in this test at 275g, so it isn’t our top choice of the more expensive saddles here.
Verdict: Expensive, but well designed for triathlon 78%
Buy from www.chainreactioncycles.com
This road-racing saddle has a large central cut-out and rails made out of austenite, which Trek says is lighter and stronger than hollow titanium, bringing the weight down to 222g for the larger 155mm-width version. The rails are also housed at the very front of the saddle, the idea being that this’ll allow for some flex in the shell for added compliance and conformity to the rider’s body shape. It works a treat – with the nose being wider than a normal road saddle, there’s plenty of comfort when hammering in the drops (and it should also work well on a tri bike for some).
Verdict: A fantastic wide-fit saddle with superior comfort, 90%
Buy from www.trekbikes.com
Continue reading our guide to this year's best tri saddles (2/3)