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
Another saddle recommended for a wide range of different riding styles is the 149g Nack, which continues the trend for short and wide, and has a small cut-out for pressure relief. The nose is curved downwards, while the carbon rails join together at the front to provide extra stiffness when you’re perched in an aggressive position. It worked great on a tri bike, while the extra-wide rear section gave a comfy platform for more relaxed riding. Slamming it back on the rails meant we were positioned on the nose for TT riding, and moving forward enabled us to hit the sweet spot on a road bike.
Verdict: A stiff, wide-fitting saddle for many distances, 85%
Buy from www.bikeinn.com
This mid-range Fabric saddle has titanium rails, and weighs 232g without the rear bottle mount attached. A hook is provided for bike racking, giving it all the bells and whistles needed for tri at a reasonable price. The waterproof microfiber cover is bonded onto the base, which enables Fabric to use a lighter foam, and it’s also grippy to keep you in position without sliding. The channel is solid plastic rather than open, which some riders could find irritating, but we’ve never experienced any comfort issues. The light PU foam is also just the right mix of firmness and padding.
Verdict: Very hard to fault for tri, and excellent value 93%
Buy from www.merlincycles.com
Packaged with its own presentation box and plenty of add-ons, the Transiro Mistica is equipped to take on any tri. The tacky cover has a super-grippy surface to keep your bottom stable; a wide shape at the nose provides support in the aero position; while the lip underneath is handy for racking your bike in transition. There’s also a detachable carriage kit that can hold two bottle cages, a CO2 cartridge and a spare tube, which is great for Ironman. This model with Fizik’s K:ium mixed-alloy rails is £65 cheaper than the carbon version, and only 25g heavier at 235g, representing a smarter purchase.
Verdict: Very grippy and ideal for long-course triathlon 92%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
The latest Sitero measures 160mm at its widest point and 13.5mm at the nose. This top-of-the-range Pro version with carbon rails weighs 203g, and comes with a mount for attaching a rear
bottle cage – always handy. The saddle’s dense PU padding remains comfortable for hours, while being firm enough not to deform.
The surface is also nice and grippy, to ensure that you stay fixed in position. The oval-shaped carbon rails provide strength and stiffness, but we’ve found that the Expert version with titanium rails provides the same levels of comfort for £70 less.
Verdict: Premium performance at a premium price 86%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
The back of the lengthy and technical 230g LT saddle has two distinctive raised sections that Rido say give you a lift to take pressure off the perineum – this shape should also serve to stop you from slipping back and forth. Although the LT isn’t stubby like many tri saddles, Rido recommends it for tri. Though we found it a little narrow at the front for true comfort in the TT position, the fair price and regular round rails make it a sound purchase for those who find that Rido’s saddle profile reduces pressure and enables them to stay in place in various positions. Other colours are
Verdict: Narrow for us, but some will love the shape, 79%
Buy from www.rido-cycling.com
The carbon-railed version of the Aerofuel is favoured by many pro cyclists and triathletes. Our more affordable test model comes with hollow carbon rails and weighs an impressive 193g. It’s 142mm at its widest point, and a non-slip cover prevents the pad from sliding around. The EVA padding underneath is designed to be stiff and rigid without losing its form over time, and we’ve had no problems churning out huge mileage atop the Aerofuel’s flat profile. The central cut-out is also well placed for pressure relief, to cap a superior ride in the TT position for all tri distances.
Verdict: Comfy and impressively light tri-specific saddle 88%
Buy from www.bikeinn.com
The 136g Shortfit Carbon FX comes in narrow and regular widths, with a short nose and cut-out to alleviate pressure. It’s meant for road riders with an aggressive position, but could work for tri if you don’t like your saddle nose too wide. At the back, it slopes sharply into the centre, providing ample support, but we found it difficult to stay in a fixed position. The idea is that the waved profile assists pelvic rotation for longer distances, but we struggled on rides over 2hrs. Like saddles with oval carbon rails, it’s worth checking if it’ll be compatible with your seatpost.
Verdict: innovative, but we struggled with the slope 75%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
The overall verdict
With prices ranging from just under £60 up to a lofty £184, the saddles on test span more basic road-orientated options with steel rails, through carbon-infused models that are designed specifically for tri.
We’d classify the Rido LT, the Selle San Marco Carbon FX and the Bontrager Aeolus as saddles that would serve most of us better on a road bike, and it’s the latter that comes out with the highest marks. The Aeolus has a well-placed cut-out, comes in different widths and won’t hurt your wallet. Rido’s offering is a little narrow for us, but we appreciate that the design is backed up by science. We love the versatility of the Prologo Dimension.
Of the tri-specific offerings, high marks are awarded to Fizik’s feature-packed Mistica and the luxurious Specialized Sitero Pro. Yet, at less than half the price, with all of the comfort and for a very minimal weight penalty, the Fabric Tri takes our Best On Test award. Many will appreciate the wide central channel, and the extra accessories make the price even more appealing. With the carbon-railed version costing £60 extra for a 50g weight saving, the titanium-railed Tri is hard to beat.