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.
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A slight shift in your optimum position, particularly over a long-course tri, and some of that power could be lost; and if you stick with an uncomfortable position out of grit and determination, this can lead to numbness and painful saddle sores.
It might seem that a hefty saddle with plenty of gel in the nose might serve you best for longer distances, but this is at odds with the latest tri/TT-specific saddle designs, as it’s the density of the padding, not the size, that makes it comfortable.
Firm padding is less likely to deform over time so, while it might seem uncomfortable, your sit bones will thank you for the pressure relief.
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.
Coming with standard 7mm round stainless rails, a fair amount of clearance and a cut-out, the 191g Pro Aerofuel is the easiest of the saddles to install. The perch is designed to encourage an aggressive and aerodynamic position. The stiff carbon-reinforced base is short and there is additional EVA padding at the nose – measuring 40mm the nose is fairly wide. The anatomic recess and cut-out aim to improve blood flow and to reduce discomfort and the saddle’s flat side-on profile meant, in addition to a full-on tri set-up, it didn’t feel out of place on a road bike or when being ridden in a more upright position. To promote a stable riding position the saddle’s cover has anti-slip strips, but the upper of the Fizik Mistica is far more effective. The Aerofuel is a sleek-looking seat, although a hook at the rear for racking, or the option for a rear bottle cage for Ironman, would be advantageous.
Verdict: we’d like more tri-specifity, but an impressive saddle at a decent price 80%
Buy from www.vanillabikes.com
This budget saddle is a beast compared to anything else on test, at a whopping 446g. It lacks any tri add-ons but then, at £30, we wouldn’t expect them. It mimics some of the features of far more expensive saddles here, such as a pressure relief channel, but the padding surrounding it isn’t very firm at all and it’s a very wide platform, which is plush for short rides but will position your legs too far apart for extended faster efforts in a TT position. If you’re looking to tackle your first tri or sportive and want something relaxed and extremely well-padded, this will do the job. But if you’re racing for any length of time and putting serious miles in, then that squidgy padding is likely to lose its shape.
Verdict: Heavily padded but will appeal to beginners 68%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
The Shortfit Carbon FX Wide is Selle San Marco’s latest ergonomic style of saddle, which means a short nose and a large cut-out. The wide and sloping rear of the saddle offers ample support, while the large cut-out aims to prevent numbness. The seat has a noticeable ‘wave’ side-on profile, with a central depression in excess of 5mm, which is intended to aide pelvic rotation and will appeal to riders that prefer a fixed, or have a more relaxed, riding position.
Thanks to pairing a carbon reinforced base with oval carbon rails, the Carbon FX is the lightest saddle on test at 140g. And yet, despite the substantial cut-out, the oval rails and the saddle’s low profile make installation a little more challenging. Although not as multisport-focused as the Mistica, the Carbon FX allows a forward riding position as well as being suitable for longer, relaxed days in the saddle.
Verdict: a Light, short-nosed and versatile saddle with carbon rails 75%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
Continue reading our guide to this year's best tri saddles (2/3)