It’s time for a fresh MTB saddle roundup to show off the latest places to rest your butt while pedaling. We recently took a look at four new bike saddles to share what’s unique about each of them and how they feel with the post up and down.
Though our bodies haven’t changed extensively, saddles have. As modern mountain bike frames continue to stretch further between the bottom bracket and the bars in the name of stability, seat tubes have moved forward to keep us from stretching out like sleepy cats. Those steeper seat post angles mean we no longer need cutouts at the back of the saddle to mitigate tire rub, and saddles can be shorter since we’re using less of them in an upright position and want them to disappear when the dropper slams.
If you’re in the market for a new saddle, testing a few from your local bike shop is by far the best way to determine proper fit. While we can share our personal experience with these components, we have no clue how they will feel when you sit on them with your own unique bum. If you live in a rural area, away from major bike shops, borrowing saddles from friends and neighbors can be a good way to gauge your fit.
Fi’zi:k Gravita Alpaca MTB Saddle
Why not name a saddle after an adorably furry spitting animal from South America? The Fizik Gravita Alpaca X5 comes in one color, size, and shape, and retails for $99 (€79). There’s also a Terra Alpaca version, said to be a more all-mountain/enduro focused saddle than the Gravita’s further DH-aligned intentions.
The Gravita Alpaca is flatter still. You might say it’s Netherlands-flat. The cover material looks and feels like the seats in a luxury car, and somehow it has handily endured a number of slides across the trail. The smooth skin is tougher than it looks for sure. Under that layer, the widest points are designed to flex on impact, making for a comfortably cush sensation on rough trails.
The 130mm-wide saddle has a stubby nose, cutting the total length to 251mm. The useable area stays a little wider as you slide forward which allows for additional climbing positions when the trail tilts up. Given this maneuverability, I was able to run the Gravita Alpaca a little further back on the rails and select my position based on the trail’s pitch. If you dig a flat platform to push against, and plenty of places to put your sit-bones on the way uphill, this MTB saddle is worth a try.
Most mountain bike saddles have two separate rails molded into the plastic or fiberglass body at either end. The “S-Alloy” rails on this new model from Fizik are shaped similarly to a large staple, connected at the back side to increase strength and distribution of the load. As a result, I expect this saddle to be less likely to start creaking over time.
SDG Bel-Air V3 Saddle
Like others in this saddle roundup, the third generation SDG Bel-Air has been updated to reflect progressive mountain bike geometry with a shorter overall length and the same slight rear rise for support when it’s time to lay down the watts. Designed for comfort with a descent-friendly shape, SDG recommends the Bel-Air MTB saddle for everything from XC to enduro.
The Bel-Air V3 saddle features a hidden cutout and an average amount of padding that most riders should find more than adequate. The base is made of a nylon material that offers great support while still providing a decent amount of flex. At 140mm wide, the saddle should fit most riders’ sit bones while in a neutral mountain biking position. That is, it might not be the most comfortable for pedaling in an aggressive XC racing position or for sitting completely upright like on a cruiser bike, but for most applications and for many riders, it’ll be just right.
Buyers can choose from a number of Bel-Air V3 models featuring steel, alloy, or carbon rails and in multiple colors and finishes. The “Lux-Alloy” rails (tested) provide a good ride feel without being crazy expensive.
With mountain bike reaches stretching longer and seat posts heading toward vertical, SDG was able to hack 10mm off the overall length of the latest Bel-Air MTB saddle to an even 260mm. With the nose pointing toward the ground and the rear facing skyward, the slightly raised rear is topographically similar to Florida: flat, but slightly higher at the north end. All the lines on this saddle are smooth, giving it an almost pill-like appearance.
SQLab 612 Ergowave Bike Saddle
Glance at the SQLab 612 Ergowave R from the side, and it’s obvious this is the North Carolina of mountain bike saddles. SQLab is serious about putting riders on the right saddle, and they offer most models in multiple widths. Not everyone knows their saddle size, so fortunately SQLab has excellent instructions for measuring oneself at home. Looking at the sizing info, it’s clear that sizing depends not just on sit bone width but also riding posture.
There are two 612 Ergowave lines, and the “R” designation is clearly more race-oriented than the regular 612. There’s very minimal padding for a sleek, lightweight package that provides support only where it’s needed. At 252mm long, the 612 Ergowave is on the short end of the MTB saddle spectrum which helps it stay out of the way when the trail drops and the seat post does likewise.
The nose of the SQLab 612 Ergowave appears elongated, but really the saddle doesn’t flare out toward the back as quickly as others on the market. This narrow mid-section is said to aid in pedaling comfort, and based on our tests, it does the job.
It’s a little odd to see the Rod of Asclepius, a medical symbol, on a bike saddle. SQLab says the medical specialists on staff “place a strong emphasis when developing products on the need for ergonomics and health aspects in cycling.” Clearly a lot of thought has gone into creating the 612 Ergowave, from design to materials. SQLab even markets chamois liners, like the SQ-Short ONE10 we tested, designed to interface with their saddles. Pairing a SQLab chamois with a SQLab saddle does seem to provide more comfort than wearing another short or liner with the saddle.
Overall the construction appears robust and has remained creak-free throughout testing.
SQLab offers an incredibly diverse array of saddles for all types of riders and riding, including “e-bike ready” saddles with extra padding and a unique rocker base that allows the saddle to tilt slightly side-to-side as the rider pedals.
- Price: €150
- Weight: 164.5g
- Available online from Amazon
Velo Senso Wilson MTB Saddle
The Senso Wilson is Velo’s first-ever, dedicated mountain bike saddle. The saddle measures 242mm in length and 135mm in width. There are no other options for size and this one uses chromoly rails. Velo designed this saddle with inspiration from roadies and TT riders that would saw the nose off their saddles for less soft tissue pressure when the riders were in an aero position, and slowly, it’s caught on.
Velo suggests that riders set the rear of this saddle to align with where they’d run a saddle normally, rather than trying to accommodate for the shorter width.
The Senso Wilson’s narrow width and stubby length might not work for everyone, but it feels like it does what it says it’s supposed to do. The Wilson keeps padding minimal for a firm feel and is designed with a flat profile, although not quite as plank-like as some of the other saddles featured. The back of the saddle is also designed to open up clearance for bigger tires.
It feels like the saddle has some flex to it, like the Velo Angel Fly we tested last year, allowing it to conform to the rider’s sit bones. The shorter nose does seem to work and we haven’t encountered any numbing with the saddle yet, even after long pedals. The shallow relief channel in the center likely helps with this. On the rear, textured rubber helps keep butts right where they’re supposed to stay.
- Price: $65
- Weight: 227g
- Available online from Velo.