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
Problems due to the wrong bicycle 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):
On the basis of these data, Bontrager (and similarly other companies), opted for different widths, curvature, and sizes of the different bicycle seats.
The size of the transition:
The curvature of the profile:
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.
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.
Height and position of the saddle
Stiffness of the bike seat
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
Which touring bicycle saddle do you use? Let us know in the comments below!
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!