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10 best Touring Bicycle Saddles

One of the components capable of making the difference when riding for many hours is the touring bike saddle: choosing the right one can change your comfort during long excursions or short trips. These last years I've seen a lot of people with many types of touring bicycle seats, and I had the possibility to try most of them. Unfortunately, as usually happens, there isn't a universally perfect saddle for every one of us. There are some factors influencing our comfort, so the choice must be made carefully. Following you will find some advice in order to understand which factors to consider when choosing your seat, then a list of the best touring bike saddles.

The best touring bicycle saddle doesn't exist

This article's title is obviously clickbait. As usually happens, when thinking about the bicycle, there isn't the perfect solution that fits for everyone. This is valid especially for a fundamental bicycle component like the touring bike saddle. Each one has different physical traits, which influence our comfort on the saddle. Each one has his/her own flexibility, a different position on the pedals, a different sit bones width. At the end of these lines you will find the list with the 10 best touring bike seats, approved by many bicycle tourists, but first of all, let's see how to choose the best touring bicycle saddle for you. 

Problems due to the wrong bicycle saddle

The most common problems due to an incorrect position or the wrong saddle are connected to the presence of nerves and arteries in the perineal area. During the cycling activity, they are compressed, reducing the bloodstream and consequently the oxygen supply to the near tissues. This compression may cause tingling, numbness or stong aches in the genital area, and if not corrected, can cause some undesired chronic pathologies. In general, the pressure on the anterior perineum is stronger for a road bike and chronometer bike and in women more than in men (source: Comfort on bicycles and the validity of a commercial bicycle fitting system, by Henri H.C.M.Christiaans - Angus Bremner).
uomo donna
Another frequent issue among cyclists is the formation of sores in the pubic area, due to the continuous friction between the skin and the saddle. In order to reduce this problem, you might have to change the positioning on the seat, use cycling shorts and buy the right bicycle touring saddle. 

Saddle position and type of activity

Your activity with the bike influences your position on the saddle and consequently the area of contact. The aim of a touring bicycle seat is to minimize the compression area and so, depending on your activity, there are different shapes, curves and dimensions. In these pictures by Bontrager you can easily understand the contact areas depending on the bicycle activity (and consequently posture):

bontrager biodynamic saddle posture comparisons

On the basis of these data, Bontrager (and similarly other companies), opted for different widths, curvature, and sizes of the different bicycle seats.

bontrager biodynamic saddle posture curvature 600x158

The size of the transition:

bontrager biodynamic saddle posture transition 600x149

The curvature of the profile:

bontrager biodynamic saddle posture profile 600x148

Finally, as you can understand from the pictures above, a more comfortable and straight position requires a larger seat with a more flat profile, while an aerodynamic position requires a narrower and curved seat, in order to guarantee less pressure on the ischium. 

Sit bones width

As I said before, the studies about the position and the type of activity are valid, but everyone has his/her own physiognomy and should consider it while buying a bicycle touring seat. One of the factors to consider is the sit bones width. The bike saddle will have to be 15-20mm wider than our pelvis size. In the following picture (this time by Specialized) you have an example on how to evaluate the touring bike seat based on the sit bones width.Sella Ossa Ischiatriche

As you can notice, in this case, we can differentiate three positions, from the most aerodynamic to the most comfortable, and the more you keep an upright position the more the saddle will have to be wide. In order to understand your position on the bike, you can take a side picture of yourself sitting on your bike, while in order to measure your width you can ask your bicycle retailer, who should a have a specific instrument, or use an easy (but maybe approximative) domestic method. Place some wet blotting paper on a stiff seat (a wall or a flat chair) and put a piece of paper (A4) on it, then undress and sit on the paper, legs slightly up like in the above picture, pressing vigorously, in order to create a cast with your ischium. Now with a pen draw the two dots on the cast and measure the distance between them: the value obtained will indicate the pelvis width.

Flexibility

Our body's flexibility is another fundamental element to be considered and investigated, even more frequently, during our "cycling life". More flexibility, shortly, means a better ability to use the ischium and a minor pressure on nerves and arteries. Viceversa, minor flexibility will cause a forward movement of the pelvis and so more pressure on the pelvic area. In order to reduce the pressure, you can consider raising the handlebar and choose a saddle more suitable for your body. 

Height and position of the saddle

I've not mentioned it yet, but these are fundamental elements for your comfort on a bike. The correct position of the seat, in height and related to the pedals and the handlebar is part of the basics in order not to suffer from lumbar problems. You might buy the best touring bicycle saddle, but if your position is wrong, you will not reach the comfort you're looking for. A good biomechanic will surely help you find the right measurements, but if you don't think to invest this money, you might take a look at these pieces of advice in order to understand how to adjust the position on the bike.

Stiffness of the bike seat

When one starts cycling, he/she thinks straight away about the softest saddle: I think this is the biggest mistake for a bicycle traveller. The more you stay on the saddle, the less you have to cause friction to the pelvic area. Consequently, a soft saddle allowing many movements could be dangerous... way better it would be a stiff or semi-rigid saddle. I have personally always travelled with plastic saddles or with a little padding or gel and I never had problems of any sort, tingling or pain.

How is a touring bicycle saddle made?

A touring bicycle saddle is made of different parts, making every piece different from one another.

  • The saddle frame is the support to be attached to the seatpost. It could be steel, carbon fiber or more rarely titanium alloy. The parts being connected to the seatpost are called rails, they can be of different lengths.
  • The shell or saddle shape. It can be made of plastic, carbon fiber or other materials able to absorb the vibrations and the stress. Through the shell you unload the cyclist's weight to the bicycle saddle frame. 
  • The paddling guarantees comfort to the cyclist. Often realized in polyurethane foam or neoprene foam, it has to absorb the stress caused by the ride.
  • The cover is the most external part of the touring bicycle saddle. It is made of non-slip material, waterproof and breathable.
pedalando verso capranica controvento

Best touring bicycle saddles

Here is the list of the ten touring bicycle seats I chose based on my personal experience and their distribution in the bicycle touring market:

Saddle

Weight

Material

Cost

Brooks B17 Classic
520 g
Leather
Brooks Cambium C17 Carved
446 g
Rubber and Nylon
Prologo Dimension NDR
218 g
Microfiber
Fizik Aliante R3
215 g
Heat-sealed Microtex
Sportourer FLX Gel
422 g
Silkfeel Plus
San Marco Era
275 g
Microfiber
Bontrager Sport Bike
301 g
Microfiber
Fabric Scoop Elite
266 g
Microfiber
Rivet Independence
N.D.
Leather
WTB Rocket Cromoly
320 g
Synthetic

Brooks B17 Classic

The most common among bicycle travellers. Brooks B17 is for sure one of the most loved by travellers, for its shape, quality and - why not - aesthetics. The legend tells that for the first 300km, the time necessary to shape the leather - you'll be suffering from hard pain. Vero mounted it on her Trek 920, one of the new 2021 touring bicycles by Trek, she seems very satisfied. For what I know, she didn't suffer from any initial pain! This touring bicycle saddle weighs 460 g and it's available in black, brown, dark brown and honey. It requires a minimum of maintenance and conservation.

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b17 standard brooks

Brooks Cambium C17 Carved

Brooks C17 Cambium isn't made of leather like its sister, but of nylon, so it doesn't require any cure like the most classic by Brooks. The weight is similar to the leather version, but the design is more catchy. Some say it's not as comfortable as the "original" model, but this touring bicycle saddle is and will be one of the favourite ones in the bicycle touring and bikepacking field.

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c17brooks cmabium carved

Prologo Sattel NDR

This Prologo Sattel NDR model, dedicated to trekking and bicycle touring, is very competitive in terms of weight. You can find it in two colours (black-anthracite like the picture and black&white) and it was realized shorter than other models in order to avoid tingling: 143 mm x 245 mm.

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prologo dimension ndr t4

Fizik Aliante R3

Aliante R3 by Fizik is the largest model from this brand (Royal Saddles): its Kium fork is very much appreciated. It is maybe not so much used in bicycle touring. it weighs 215 g. Size: 142 mm x 265 mm.

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fizik aliante r3

Sportourer FLX Gel

This trekking saddle Sportourer FLX Gel, sold in lady version, is produced by Selle Italia and it's one of the cheapest models in this list of bicycle touring saddles. Its frame is made of FeC Aluminum, while the cover is of Soft Touch High gel. Size: 160 mm x 270 mm.

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sportourer flx man gel

Selle San Marco Era

Era by the Venetian company San Marco is for bicycle touring but not only. With a generous paddling, the silkfeel cover, the Manganese frame and the central hole, it can be used in every discipline of cycling. The only "problem" might be its weight, 384 g. Low budget! 

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San Marco Era

Bontrager Sport Bike

On the market with the female and male versions, the touring bicycle saddle Bontrager Sport Bike has a water-repellent cover and, thanks to its long groove, it avoids tingling. Comfort is one of the most important aspects of this brand. Size: 163 mm x 275 mm.

Bontrager Sport Bike

Fabric Scoop Elite Shallow

This Taiwanese brand, among many models, produces this Fabric Scoop Elite Shallow with a waterproof cover and 7 mm chromed rails. Medium paddling, it fits most of long world tours. It's available only in black and weighs 266 g. Size: 142 mm x 282 mm.

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fabric scoop shallow elite saddle black black

Rivet Independence

Not long time ago I started using this American brand, and it was love at first sight. Rivet Independence is a leather touring bike saddle available in 5 different colours, with or without the central carving, with Titanium or Steel rails... they really tried to find a solution for everyone! The saddle weighs 485 g with Chromoly steel rails (360 g in Titanium) and aesthetically it looks great! It costs more than the average price, but comfort is guaranteed. Size: 160 mm x 280 mm.

rivet independence

WTB Rocket Cromoly

This Rocket saddle by WTB is available in different versions, the steel one too. Its ergonomic shape avoids tingling and rubbing during long rides, so this saddle is suggested for gravel and bikepacking experiences, but also in enduro. Size: 142/150 mm x 265 mm (in the picture below with Titanium rails).

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wtb rocket v comb

Which touring bicycle saddle do you use? Let us know in the comments below!

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Francesco - Life in Travel

ITA - Ho 31 anni e sono piemontese, anche se da qualche anno vivo e lavoro in Lombardia. Dopo un inizio da totale inesperto in questo campo, mi sono avvicinato al mondo dei cicloviaggi e della bicicletta sempre più. Oggi posso definirmi "cicloviaggiatore", e assieme all'altra mia passione - il videomaking - non mi fermerei mai! Cyclo ergo sum, pedalo quindi sono, per cercare di capire perché andare in bici sia così bello, terapeutico, ricco... E ogni volta che provo a capirlo, non ce la faccio, e sono costretto a ripartire sui pedali!

ENG - I'm from Piedmont and I'm 31 years old, I have been living and working in Lombardy for a few years. After a start without any competence in this field, I then approached the bicycle world more and more. Today I can call myself a bicycle traveller and videomaker who would never ever stop. Cyclo ergo sum, I cycle therefore I am. I ride my bike trying to understand why it is so beautiful, rich, therapeutic. And every time I try, I do not understand it. So I must leave again...

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