There are very few accessory component companies that focus most of their efforts to the off road bicycle market. Ergon is one of those companies. They specialize in grips and saddles, and have some great designs. When it comes to the best mountain bike seat, it was an easy decision to look to the Ergon SM3 saddle.
Ergon offers a variety of saddles, but the SM3 model offers a number of great features that set it apart. First it comes in 3 widths that are easy to understand: small, medium, and large. Other brands measure by millimeters and that can be difficult to choose.
Ergon also has a few shapes to best match your body. This is important since not everyone can be comfortable on the same shape. It is similar to guitars, they all sound different, and bike seats do the same.
Top Pick – Ergon SM3
Saddles with the features of the Ergon SM3 can easily top out at $500 USD. Not many saddles in this price range offer such a low weight of 210 grams. Most are over 300 grams, which has its place on certain bikes and riding types.
Ergon uses special AirCell foam padding, and tough covers. Some manufacturers use the same cover throughout. Ergon adjusts the corners to have tougher materials, since mountain bikes crash at times, and the edge of the saddle gets chewed up.
This particular saddle has a carbon shell and rails. However, there is good flex to the system, so it is easy to get comfortable. However, if you are much over 200 pounds you may want to think of an Ergon saddle without carbon rails. Ergon also has women’s versions of their seats as well.
Best High End Saddle
For a high end saddle I would easily go to my favorite which is Fizik. Fizik offers dozens of designs of saddles that differ in shape, length, flex and cover design. The Fizik Gobi VS Kium is one of the saddles that I choose.
While I have ridden the carbon version of this seat, I prefer the K:ium rails. One of the reasons is adjustability. The metal rails are easier for me to work with. The carbon can be difficult, and sometimes require a special seat post. I also hate breaking carbon rails when it matters in races.
The Fizik Gobi is nice since it features wing flex edges where your hip bones sit. This allows for a slightly wider perch to sit on, but flexes slightly when your thighs come in contact. This particular saddle does not have a groove down the middle, which some prefer as it can take the pressure off the area where your blood supply is for the groin area.
Most Affordable Saddle
WTB has been making MTB seats for decades now. They are an OEM supplier for almost every manufacturer out there. For a good quality saddle that is shaped well and is tough look to the WTB Speed V.
This WTB saddle is super comfortable and heavy. That means it can take some abuse, and handle heavier riders easily. The shape is fairly traditional, but provides a wide enough section to make most riders happy, and good padding on the nose. They also offer ladies versions of their saddles.
Best Alternative Saddle
There has been much written about bike seats causing reproductive issues. With that has come dozens of alternate designs all with the hope of maintaining good blood flow as sitting wrong can create pressure on the blood vessels.
A reasonable design, at a good price is the BaseCamp Mountain bike cutout saddle. The goal here is to remove structure of the seat where pressure is created. So you get this huge cut out hole in the middle.
Other manufacturers have different shapes and padding choices where the pressure is the most. However, there are many seats like the BaseCamp model. You may have to try a few to find one that is comfortable for your given body type.
Choosing the Right Saddle
As stated before, choosing the best mountain bike seat, is a personal thing. We are all different, we want our hips at different angles, and there are a host of other factors that can change your buddies saddle into the most uncomfortable thing on earth.
Everyone thinks, just go ask the bike shop guy, they must know the best seat. We dont! Others try to buy the biggest seat with the most padding. That doesnt make it comfortable. And women’s saddles have somewhat different needs.
Our flexibility varies so much from person to person. Why does that matter? Well, it changes how we sit on the saddle. More flexible riders, will pronate their hips more, which also allows them to put more power to the pedals. It also changes the kind of saddle they like, as well as the adjustment.
There are about 100 different shapes of seats available on the market. There are seats without a nose that you might find on a triathlon bike. Others flare madly at the back to get wide in a hurry. Some are narrow the whole way.
I get asked frequently, how can you ride for hours on such a narrow seat? I couldnt imagine riding 5 hours on a cruiser seat! Shape is important in that our hips and pelvises vary quite a bit. Also, our riding position will partially dictate the shape as well.
If the seat is too wide, every time you are pedaling, the back of your thighs is pushing you forward off the saddle. Some saddles are too flat, which makes it harder to have even pressure on your 3 sit points – the front of your pelvis and your two hip bones.
A seat is made to allow you to move around, backward and forward depending on the terrain, and how you are pedaling. You move backward to apply more power, or forward to pedal faster. It changes how close you are to the pedals, just enough to make a difference. A good saddle will compliment how you move on your bike.
Yes, bike saddles come in different lengths and widths. Generally ladies saddles are shorter. Due to their structure, the average woman rider does not want excessive pressure on the nose of the saddle. Pro riders are a different story, and they know how to adjust for that.
The whole goal with the length of the saddle is to give a fore and aft adjustment while riding. As we want to pedal faster, we move forward, with shortens the distance to the pedals, allowing your legs to move more freely.
If we have the improper length saddle, we cant redistribute the weight of our bodies on the bike to make it perform right. Cornering, climbing and other technical handling characteristics are affected by how and where we sit on the seat.
Most good saddles come in at least 3 widths, and perhaps more. The widths are set to best support your hip sockets. Dont just assume that you need the maximum width. That can hurt you in the end by putting excess pressure on the insides of your thighs.
If you can test a given saddle, make sure that you have your height set first, and approximate angle you prefer. You will have to fine tune the angle later.
What you are looking for, is can you sit on the sweet spot of the saddle comfortably. If the seat is too wide, you have more pressure in the middle, and will create an uncomfortable pressure point between your hip bones. If it is too narrow, you will have almost all the pressure on your pelvis, and not much on your hip bones.
Construction covers far more than the material and padding. How a saddle flexes is very important. If the shell is too rigid, all the padding you can find will not make it comfortable. And vice versa, if it flexes too much, you cant achieve even pressure on your three contact points.
Turn a saddle over, look at how the shell is constructed. You may see curves, cut outs and other features. The Fizik saddle I prefer has no cut outs or grooves, but has an indention in the shell that allows for slightly more padding in the middle.
Also, the rails are important as well. There is steel, aluminum, specialty metals and carbon just to name a few of the types of rails. If you are heavier, carbon may not be for you as these rails fatigue and damage a bit easier. Steel works ok, but bends. Ideally, we want a rail that is strong enough for our weight, but has flex so that it can absorb energy. It isnt necessary to have a spring, when the rail can work as an equivalent.
Most covers are synthetic. If you live in a sunny area, be careful of lycra covers as they will deteriorate in UV rays easily. Covers should be tough but pliable. If the cover is too soft, it will bunch and wrinkle. Those wrinkles create pressure spots, and will chafe you as you ride. That is also the reason why seasoned riders where cycling shorts so that their clothing doesnt bunch and chafe the skin. Cotton against the skin acts like sandpaper when wet. Avoid abrasive materials on saddles if you can.
As you can see from the pictures alone there are so many shapes, sizes and designs of seats that it can be confusing. One of the best things is to try them out, ride a friends bike, or order up a saddle from Amazon to try out. Our best mountain bike seat choice is from Ergon, which makes a number of different designs.
While there are many seat choices out there, I prefer using one company exclusively amongst my various bikes. I use Fizik, as the saddles last for years, and I can match the shape and design on multiple bikes quite easily.