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Every bike comes with a saddle, but it doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Saddles are an important component for several reasons, primarily comfort. Without the proper saddle, how do you expect to stay get out for long, all-day rides without screaming in pain?

Now, I’m sure not everyone out there wants to buy a bunch of saddles to try, but often, bike shops have demo programs to help. Companies like Ergon also make it easy to find your correct saddle size so that you’re not throwing money away. Finding the right saddle for your shape is also important for health. Using a saddle that’s too wide or too narrow and doesn’t match up with your sit bones can lead to nerve pinching and decreased blood flow or saddle sores.

We got in some saddle time with a wide variety of mountain bike saddles that cover nearly every riding style. While we can offer a review and our impressions of each saddle, it’s important to note that above all else, it can come down to personal preference.

Ergon SM Pro

Photo: Matt Miller

The Ergon saddle has taken me the most time to get used to. Mounting the Ergon SM (Saddle Mountain), it’s easy to tell the difference between it and saddles from any other brand. I was in between saddle sizes as Ergon splits their sizes with 9-12cm wide sit bones recommended for a size small and 12-16cm wide sit bones for the size M/L. Ergon recommends sizing up in for those right on the line, so that’s what I did.

The Ergon saddles sit very broad and wide, with a relief channel down the center. The idea with Ergon — and with other saddles — is that the rider’s sit bones should take all of the pressure from the saddle, so that the nerves around your pelvis aren’t pinched, which leads to numbing. It may not be comfortable at first, but the idea is that your sit bones will adjust to the increased pressure on them.

Photo: Matt Miller

After a few long days on the size M/L saddle, I just couldn’t get comfortable and decided to try the small size instead. The small felt much better for me than the M/L. The smaller size is still very broad, flat-feeling, and sit bone-oriented, but that is the idea. My sit bones still take the majority of the pressure, but I wasn’t as dead feeling after rides. The Ergon SM clears the legs easily for minimal chafing and easy pedaling.

I used the Ergon SM during my time at BC Bike Race, for seven days of XC riding, and I meshed very well with the Ergon saddle. Once I got used to it, it remained comfortable in any pedaling situation.

Fabric Scoop Race Radius and Race Shallow

Fabric has an extensive line-up of saddles with shapes and variations for anyone and any type of riding, whether it’s beach cruising or a mountain bike marathon. The Scoop models seemingly have the same shape, but each variation is a little different.

The Radius has the roundest profile in the rear and the most padding. This means, unlike a saddle like the Ergon that is very flat, it is less sit-bone oriented, which Fabric says makes it ideal for upright riding positions. When we’re more upright, the saddle holds the majority of our weight and calls for more padding.

The more a rider leans forward, the more they expose and compress nerves in their pelvis against a saddle, so a flatter profile is better, and weight is distributed against the handlebars more.

I’ve found Fabric’s description of the saddle is spot on. It’s very comfortable, and feels more round and cushy. On the flip side, for XC, or longer rides when I’ve been in the seated position and more forward for climbing, I’ve had some numbness. The Radius is best suited for upright riding, like casual enduro climbing positions.

The Shallow is the Radius’ flatter brother, meant for longer pedal days and extended comfort in the saddle. You can see the difference in profile in the image above. The Radius on the left rounds quite a bit more and the Shallow is much flatter.

I really like the Scoop Shallow as well. It feels similar to the Radius but better suited to more saddle time, and I experienced less numbness with rides on the Shallow.

SDG Bel Air 2.0 and Radar

SDG photos and words by Jeff Barber.

SDG Bel Air 2.0

SDG calls the Bel Air 2.0 an XC/road/endurance/CX saddle, so it’s designed to be comfortable over the long haul. I’ve been running mine on a carbon hardtail mountain bike, which has to be the worst of both worlds when it comes to saddle comfort: constant trail feedback AND lots of pedaling. Yet the Bel Air 2.0 works well for me.

The Ti-Alloy rails keep the overall weight low and smooth out the ride compared to carbon rails.  SDG designs all their saddles with a sloping nose to prevent snags, allowing the rider to move around easily. The plastic body is quite stiff to provide a firm platform, with just enough flex to make longer rides comfortable. Mounted to a dropper post, I haven’t heard a peep or creak out of the saddle yet.

SDG Radar

The Radar is designed for more aggressive trail and enduro riding, but that doesn’t mean it’s not designed for sitting. In fact, thanks to a cutout in the body on the underside of the saddle, I’ve found it’s even more comfortable than the Bel Air 2.0. As we’ve pointed out many times before, everyone’s body is different so there isn’t one saddle that works for all riders. Over the years I’ve peronally found saddles with a cutout tend to feel best, and the Radar effectively hides a cutout underneath a normal-looking cover.

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Calling the Radar a trail saddle isn’t just marketing buzz; many of the features were designed specifically for use with slacker, full suspension bikes. For example, the rear of the saddle is scooped to avoid tire buzz, while the front (nose) of the saddle is reinforced to support more weight when climbing really steep sections on a slacked out bike. Even the cover is beefed up for abrasion protection.

Velo Angel Fly

Photo: Matt Miller

While this saddle looks a bit more roadie than mountain, it’s become one of my favorite saddles for a few reasons. First of all, the looks stand out against most other saddles. It’s made not only with comfort in mind, but with aesthetics too. Fortunately, I received the black and gold colorway that matches the pattern of my own bike. The Angel Fly is available in a few different variations and each has their own unique color and pattern. There is something for everyone.

The Velo Angel mounted on a test bike. Photo: Matt Miller.

Not only is the saddle beautiful, but it just feels right. The Y-shape allows both sides of the saddle to flex and conform to sit bone movement while pedaling. It has an open channel through the middle for better airflow and for pressure relief on the perineal nerve. The Angel Fly hits the sit bones, but it is on the narrower side of saddles, so it might not be the best fit for everyone.

Photo: Matt Miller

WTB Volt Comp

A couple years ago we surveyed Singletracks readers and found the WTB Volt to be the most popular saddle. It’s fairly common to see this saddle specced on new mountain bikes so it’s no surprise many riders have experience with it. Not only is the Volt widely available, WTB offers the design in 5 different finishes and with seemingly endless color choices.

I put some time in on the Volt Comp recently piloting the Jamis Portal, and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of this $40 saddle. It looks great, keeps quiet, and the neutral size and shape makes it a safe choice for most riders. The only downside to the comp version seems to be the 300g+ weight.

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# Comments

  • Robneck1

    If you had to choose between the Ergon SM and the Fabric shallow, which would it be?

    • Matt Miller

      I’d probably say the Ergon. It felt really supportive and was right where I needed it to be.

    • BigToad

      I have them both. I’m not able to ride the Fabric without padded shorts. With padded shorts I’m fairly comfortable for hour-1/2 rides. I’ve moved the Fabric seat from my mountain bike to my commuter.

      I find the Ergon SM was not comfortable with padded shorts, but I am in heaven using this saddle all day (3+ hours) without padded shorts. The shape and cutout opening have me very comfortable and I have yet to experience any numbing sensations that I experience, eventually, with the Fabric (non cutout) .

  • m.krupp

    Thanks for the article. I have not spent a lot of time considering my saddle yet. It is something i wanted to get into but with padded biking shorts it had not made the short list of mods for my bikes. The Volt is already on one of my bikes. The Velo Angel Fly looks cool and sounds like it would be a good choice to try on my other bike.

  • hobiecat

    While I am onside with almost all of your articles, this one is somewhat meaningless.
    You summed it up in your statement that a saddle is a personal choice. There is no quick way to narrow down the field to even a few from which to choose. Finding the right one is hard work and requires the trial of many loaners over the period of months. Sit bone measurements are a good start and will guide you to the size but not the model.
    I’m writing this because I don’t believe enough has been made of the repercussions of the wrong model or size. SERIOUS and sometimes unrepairable damage can occur in the groin region from a bad saddle despite being the correct size. The models you have outlined are as good a choice as any and no better. While I’m happy that Singletracks gets a kickback from readers choosing one of these, readers should be cautioned from blindly choosing one of these instead of getting a proper and professional bike fit which will include a a seat choice. I am now suffering from chronic nut pain that is untreatable and was miss diagnosed and treated as a urinary tract infection with Cipro a dangerous industrial antibiotic which results in spontaneous tendon ruptures especially the achecillies tendon along with peripheral neurophy which is permanent nerve damage.
    In short, there is no shortcut and a much more serious downside then just a little numbness from a poor saddle choice.
    I am not a pro bike fitting technician, just an average rider.

    • Jeff Barber

      Agreed, well said. We’re certainly not claiming these are the best or most comfortable saddles. They’re just the ones we happen to be testing at the moment. It’s always worth repeating that saddle choice is unique to each rider.

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