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Take a seat

18 April, 2011

To properly test a range of saddles, we rode on them for a day each on the 2010 RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride. Simon Vincett reports.

Choosing a saddle is scary – you can do without pain in that part of your anatomy. Then there are the suggestions that the wrong saddle can cause genital damage of one form or another. This is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Fortunately bike shops understand and will take pains to help you find the saddle for you. Manufactures offer many models each to cater for all our different body shapes and sizes. Take a few likely models for a test ride before you buy.

We approached a range of manufactures to take part in this unique test opportunity. Some opted not to be involved.

Saddle basics

An effective saddle provides a stable and sufficiently cushioned platform for your sit bones. Conventionally there is also a nose pointing forward, which may aid you staying centred on the saddle.

The type of bike you ride – more precisely, the position you ride in – determines what saddle you’ll find comfortable. Some saddles are broader and softer to suit the upright position of path-riding, hybrid bikes where more weight is set on the seat. Other saddles are narrower to suit the aero position of riding a road bike where there is more bend at the waist. In this position a larger proportion of the rider’s weight is shared by the hands and also the feet, making seat cushioning less crucial.


Interestingly, despite great difference in overall sizes the average distance between the sit bones only varies by 15mm, meaning a large person has sit bones only 15mm further apart than a small person.


Since the introduction of the cut-out this style has become popular, with some brands reporting these are now 60 per cent of sales. Some means of reducing the material beneath the perineum aims to minimise the uncomfortable numbness that can result from pressure restricting blood flow. However, some people prefer a flat saddle to provide a large variety of sitting positions.


Ample cushioning seems desireable in a saddle but it usually isn’t. A greater contact area means more friction and less freedom of movement for the legs. The more upright you sit the more cushioning you’ll want. A gel cover can provide helpful cushioning providing it doesn’t make the saddle to large.


More expensive saddles have lighter-weight, hollow rails in titanium. Chromoly steel is a more affordable quality material. Nylon is a superior base to plastic and the lightest saddles will have a carbon fibre component. The surface must be smooth and will sometimes be leather or lycra but most often a synthetic fabric.

Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow


One size: 239 grams, 130W x 285L

Unisex road and mountain bike saddle

Leather surface, gel cushioning, hollow titanium rails, nylon and carbon fibre composite base

This is a popular model in Australia for this brand.

Test comments: “Firm but very comfortable, particularly when riding in an aero position. Reasonable value for the comfort it provides.”

More info

For retailers contact Cassons (02) 9684 1210

Charge Spoon


One size: 287 grams, 145W x 280L

Unisex utility commuting, touring and mountain biking saddle

Synthetic surface, foam cushioning, hollow chromoly rails, nylon base

Test comments: “Excellent value for money. Firm but fine cushioning. Shape is more comfortable when sitting more upright rather than an aero road bike position.”

More info

For retailers

Serfas Carma


One size: 303 grams, 155W x 270L

Serfas’ top women’s performance saddle for road and mountain biking

Synthetic surface, gel cushioning, hollow chromoly rails, nylon base

Abrasion-resistant edge at all extremities

90-day return period

Test comments: “Seemed narrow but in fact shape and cushioning are good. Worth the money.”

More info

For retailers

Sportourer Zoo Gel Flow


One size: 312 grams, 160W x 280L

Economical women’s recreational saddle by Selle Italia

Synthetic surface, gel cushioning, alloy rails, nylon base

Test comments: “Bulky. The cushioning is soft but ends up feeling hard.”

More info

For retailers contact Cassons (02) 9684 1210

Allay Racing 1.1


Two sizes: medium and large

Medium size: 272 grams, 142W x 292L

Unisex road bike saddle

Synthetic surface, foam and air chamber cushioning, hollow titanium rails, nylon base

Pump secured to seat post inflates AirSpan chamber mid-way along saddle. Air chamber and pump are also removeable.

Test comments: “Complicated. Tricky to settle on correct pressure.”

For more

For retailers contact Cassons (02) 9684 1210

Brooks B17 Imperial  


Mens and ladies version

Mens: 550 grams, 175W x 285L

Traditional leather touring saddle

Handmade in England

Leather surface, no cushioning, chromed steel rails, no base

Imperial range with “registered cutting” first found in the Brooks 1890 catalogue, described as “a sure preventive to all perineal pressure”.

Test comments: “Hard but good shape. Cut out is effective but not as much as modern designs, even with anticipating softening. I’m concerned about it getting wet and sagging. A bit heavy.”

For more

For retailers

Thanks very much to Human Powered Cycles for the saddle for this review.

Selle SMP Dynamic 2011


One size: 279 grams, 140W x 275L

Unisex road bike saddle

Leather surface, foamed elastomer cushioning, stainless steel rails, nylon and carbon fibre composite base

Handmade in Italy

Test comments: “Too much cut-out to provide enough material for support. Too much weight left on sit bones on quite firm cushioning.”

For more and for retailers

Throne Old Boy


One size: 219 grams, 132W x 292L

Unisex road bike throne

Six designs to dress up your machine

Conceived and tested in Melbourne as a genuine club racing contender

Synthetic surface, foam cushioning, hollow titanium rails, nylon and carbon fibre composite base

Test comments: “Very flat. Very firm cushioning. More comfortable in an aero road bike position.”

For more and for retailers

Ergo the Seat Ultimate

$89.95 + $12 postage

One size: 400 grams, 230W x 150L

Unisex utility commuting and touring saddle

Lycra surface, gel cushioning, nylon base

Test comments: “I’m getting to an age when you have to think about options for riding after a prostate operation. At first it felt odd but it’s the ideal way to take all the pressure away from the scrotum region. Being a gel seat it is very comfortable. I personally am a converted person.”

For more and to buy

Thanks to the testers Dietmar Dinges, Fran Bartholemew, Russell Edwards and Tony Penz who put their bums on the line for this test.

Thanks also to the saddle brands for supplying one model from their range to give a sense of what they offer. Customers are encouraged to explore the range to find the best saddle for their comfort.

Another saddle to consider is the Adamo Road noseless, reviewed in the Dec 2010 – Jan 2011 issue of Ride On.

ISM Adamo Road


As a true test of comfort, I first rode this saddle 210km on Around the Bay. And it was good. The subtle ‘give’ of the gel was perfect for me and the breadth of the platform nicely accommodated my sit bones.

I prefer cut out saddles and this is a fine example. Though noseless, the length is adequate to provide lateral stability. This also allows good length in the chromoly rails for plenty of adjustability.

I’d make it slightly narrower but the smooth shape created no little discomfort. I’d also have the sit bones platform slightly higher than the nose for further pressure reduction. Finally, I’d include bumper panels on the outer edge to save abrasion from resting on café walls (or crashing!).

It’s a little pricey (though priceless for the right rider) but it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll find it comfortable.

For more

For where to buy contact BNG Sports on or 1800 610 289

Review by Simon Vincett


Well designed and made – a safe bet for comfort

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